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October 11, 2011

Bigger Than God

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Boo from Monsters, Inc. tries to show her parents about the evil Randall
I don't know what age the monsters-in-the-closet fear hits most kids, but for me, it was age 8. I'd been to see, of all things, Gremlins—my first movie theater experience. It terrified me. After that time I needed at least a night light in every room, and the door needed to stay open.

It's reassuring, I think, that this phase is a common enough phenomenon among children that Pixar created an animated film about it—the delightful Monsters, Inc.—reminding us all that the things we imagine are out to get us may be our best allies, after all.

At left, the main child character, a mostly preverbal Boo, holds up a picture of the monster that she's seen, Randall, in an effort to convince her parents that there actually is a monster in her closet and it really is out to get her, justifying her nightly descent into ear drum fracturing screams. And, in this story, Boo is right. There is a monster. He is after her.

But there are other monsters that aren't out to get her, and, along with a blue, hairy monster named Sulley, Boo's journey brings her face to face with her fears so that she can be set free from them.

Boo, like us, has to trust someone bigger than her to guide her into a place she'd really rather not go. Pretty good metaphor for the spiritual life, wouldn't you say?

Five years ago, that place for me was a looming descent into depression. I could feel it coming. The signature malaise and lack of energy. The tears. Five years before that, with the help of great counselors and much prayer, I'd stepped away from a major depression that had crippled my life. With these new signs on the horizon, I was terrified of going there one more time. 

Then, a friend of mine asked me a question that I thought was sacreligious (but later came to recognize as the very voice of God): If God asked you to step into depression, would you go?

He'd never ask me that, I said. God isn't cruel. He wouldn't do that.

That's beside the point, my friend said. Would you go?

No, I thought. No, no, no, NO.

And in that answer, I knew that I had a fear that was, to me, bigger than God. It controlled me more than God did. It dictated how I acted, and how much I would trust Him.

I won't say that I went willingly to that closet door of mine. But, after some kicking and screaming, I took God's hand and walked up to the very place that frightened me the most.

And you know what? Unlike Boo's story, there was no monster in my closet. No depression waiting to consume me from the inside out. There was release, and freedom, and a realization that perfect love really does cast out all fear.