When I was two years old, my mother became a born-again Christian.
She’d made friends with a married couple in her apartment complex, who invited her to their charismatic Pentecostal church. They believed in powerful supernatural forces that were at work in people’s everyday lives.
At this church, my mother saw people speaking in strange, inhuman languages. Women became ecstatic and fainted when they prayed. Men cast out demons. They taught her that demons and the forces of darkness took human shape to persecute God’s anointed, and that His children were spiritual warriors, attended by angels, to do battle in the world in His name.
As a child, all I knew about religion was that Jesus loved me. Jesus loved everyone. The devil tempted us to do bad things, but we didn’t have to listen. We could just be good instead. The devil seemed like a weak, silly character to me at that age, like a cartoon villain, easily thwarted by children.
The first time I realized that the devil could do bad things to me even though I had Jesus, I was four years old. I was running from my bedroom down the hallway to the living room, where my mother was sitting. There was a wire clothes hanger lying on the slick tile floor, and I slipped on it. I crashed, hard, and got a goose egg on my forehead. It hurt like nothing I could remember hurting before.
“Why did that happen?” I asked my mother, after she picked me up and hugged me.
“The devil made it happen,” she said seriously.
After that, the world was a slightly more dangerous place. I realized that even the love of Jesus wouldn’t protect me from the devil all the time.