I can't help but laugh a little when adults so casually dismiss the idea of monsters.
Over the weekend, I was tuned into a certain radio station late at night (and they played this same clip two nights in a row, so perhaps you heard it, too). The DJs were talking about a recent study that says you'll sleep better if you leave one foot slipped out of the covers, and the male host admitted he'd always naturally done that but couldn't explain why. The female host was astonished that he would do this and asked, "Aren't you afraid like, I don't know, a monster will eat your foot?"
There was a quiet laughter, and the male asked incredulously, "Am I afraid a monster will eat my foot?" And the female responded, "I don't know..."
It was amusing to hear these two grown persons talk about monsters. More, I think, it was refreshing that at least one may still believe in them.
Monsters are real.
They are that ever-present threat from under the bed - the places so near to your vulnerability and yet, you never look at them. I know because every so often, I will move my bed only to discover that 1) I have shoes I have long-forgotten that I owned and 2) there's enough dog hair under there to make a new dog. Yet every night, I lay my head on my pillow and go to bed like I know everything that's going on. On one level, I do; on another, I have forgotten completely. There are monsters under my bed.
They lurk in closets, too. In all that stuff you have but never look at. In boxes with old baby shoes and high school yearbooks. In the containers that hold your life and yet, it's a life you haven't thought about in ages. They live with the relics of your past, growing unlovelier as time passes by and they remain untouched, undisturbed. Earlier this year, I went through an old statuette collection I had boxed up from my childhood years and discovered what was once a beautiful snow globe. I can't tell you what I found floating in that thing, but I promise you this - it wasn't snow. It was congealed, discolored, disgusting. Unshaken, the snow had settled and formed something new. Untouched, what once was fragile became repulsive.
The answer, maybe, is to let things sit in the darkness, in the closet, until it seems they have died. Then you have skeletons in your closet, but at least you don't have monsters. Skeletons present their own problems.... They give off an unmistakable odor. They start to break down. And when someone finds bones in your closet, it usually leads to some kind of indictment. Let your monsters become skeletons, and they will not terrify you; but they will speak against you.
All that to say this: monsters are real. They are all around us, in our darkest and yet our most vulnerable places. They are right next to the things that would draw us close to God if we would let them. For some of us, they are more real than for others. Some of us spend our lives fearing them. Some of us spend our lives searching for them. Some of us spend our lives trying to forget them. But however you interact with the monsters, they are there.
And like all good monsters, they are born in the imagination.
By the grace of God, our monsters are never so bad as we make them seem. By His incredible mercy, they are not so scary. We're afraid of the monsters because we fear what they will take from us. We fear that they will harm us. We already feel our secrets slipping away. But when you give God your broken facts, He makes them beautiful truth. The very things your monsters are guarding, the appetite on which they feast, is the very thing that will often set you free in God. We're afraid we'd be disqualified from righteousness by our monsters.
God says nothing can separate us from the love of God.
I have some monsters under my bed; there are a few in my closet. Some may even be rotting into skeletons by now. It's the nature of the fallen man. But the more I think about monsters, the more I come to understand my aversion to them. It's not that they are gruesome - that they inspire fear or horror, or that they are particularly repulsing. It's more that they are grotesque. They are incongruous with the life I am called to live in God. They are...bizarre and crude. They're hard to look at because they don't fit in. It is not that my monsters scare me; it is that they shame me.
The best way to deal with monsters is to speak truth. Name them. Name them not Mike and Sully and Randall, but name them fear and shame and doubt. Name them hurt and grief and pain. Name them arrogance and pride. Name them for what they are, and speak honestly about them. And then, bring them to light. Expose them to God. Not for their hideousness, but for their horrendousness. Not because they are gruesome, but because they are grotesque.
I'm not afraid of monsters any more, but I know that they are real.
Which is why you won't find me sleeping with my foot outside of the covers any time soon.