The Art of Abduction (And a Few Thoughts on the “Devil”)
Posted on February 25, 2014
This past Saturday I woke up remembering the day I was almost abducted. The memory came back to me so vividly, I was gripped by the details of what happened and how it related to my spirituality. I was 10-years-old and living with my mother in Maryland at the time. It was a typical Saturday filled with a checklist of morning chores. My mother assigned me the task of walking to the mall for $10 worth of quarters for our laundry.
I was a city kid fresh out of Brooklyn so my mother was never reluctant to send me on errand runs. As a single parent she relied heavily on me to be more mature than my age suggested. I did my best to meet those expectations by always following her directions. It was quite simple: I would walk to the local mall, find a vendor who would be willing to take my $10 dollar bill in exchange for a roll of quarters, and then I would immediately return home.
I laced up my sneakers while listening to my mother–whose West-Indian accent thickened to suggest the urgency of the task–repeat her instructions. I shoved the wrinkled bill into the pocket and walked toward the mall. I remember the sun being bright and the air clean. It was quiet, much quieter than the blustering blocks of Brooklyn and something about that made me feel safe. I cut through the parking lot of a department store using its entrance to get into the mall. Immediately entering the store I noticed a man standing in the aisles of clothing racks. I didn’t think of his presence as strange, but when our eyes met I felt a chill in my spine.
I made my way through the department store and up the escalators locating the mall’s entrance. As I walked I could feel someone behind me, but when I turned around all I saw were customers patronizing jewelry and fragrance counters. Finally entering the mall, I went from kiosk to kiosk kindly asking if they would be willing to give me change. “No, sweetie. We don’t have quarters to give. I’m sorry,” one vendor said. I nodded, thanking them for their time. I knew I couldn’t go home without doing as my mother told, so I kept asking and everyone so often I would look up and see the same man from the department store. At first his presence seemed coincidental but as I moved to the food court I grew even more suspicious of how often he happened to be around.
A cashier in the food court was kind enough to give me a roll of quarters. I looked around trying to take note of the man’s location; not wanting to walk back through the department store though it was the closet exit towards home. I quickened my pace, cutting in and out of large crowds. I could feel the man following me. I rushed into the department store, raced down the escalator and back across the aisle of beauty counters. I burst through the store’s exit and followed a voice in my head, which told me to run. I held the roll of quarters in my hand like a baton running as fast as my little body could carry me. I turned back and saw the man standing at the door of the department store watching as I ran home.
I never told anyone about that day–not even my mother, but this Saturday I wondered what would’ve happened if I didn’t realize I was being followed and if I hadn’t run.* Then it made me think about the idea of satan.
There is very little we know about the devil. We’re briefly introduced to him as a serpent in the third chapter of Genesis just before the fall of man. There are more vague references to his history in the book of Isaiah and the Apostle Paul warns the Church of Corinth that Satan, our enemy, has three objectives: to steal, destroy and kill. Outside of these varying references we don’t know much more.In full transparency, I’m not completely sold on the idea of there being a “devil” who sits behind a curtain wielding his evil power Wizard of Oz-style. I do, however, believe in little devils, which mask themselves as things as seemingly normal and belonging to our culture. Perhaps this is partly what the story of Eden represents.
In Eden the devil was a serpent, today our devils are alcoholism; drug-abuse; emotional and sexual promiscuity; hate; greed; gluttony; jealousy; anger; bitterness; impatience and so much more. These are things that by cultural standards appear normal. Like the serpent in the garden and the man in the department store, their presence seems anything but threatening. Yet, their primary objective is to abduct our souls and keep us from making it Home. My caution in talking about the devil is fear of giving the illusion of him too much credit while completely overlooking his tools that drive us away from God.
C.S. Lewis expresses this sentiment more eloquently in his book The Screwtape Letters saying, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” We are abducted by unassuming things. Without recognizing these vices for what they truly are–little devils–we become defenseless.
As believers we are given the promise that if we turn to God we can escape any threats of satan: “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee” (James 4:7). Looking back I believe the voice telling me to run was God calling me home. And I believe it is still His voice that leads us away from the grips of abduction and back into the safety of His loving arms.
*Of worthy note: Every 40 seconds a child is abducted in the United States.
Now it’s your turn: Have you ever felt there was something in your life pulling you away from God?
Tell me in the comments section below, or you can also shoot me an email.