In a reent post, “Wild Roses, Garlic, and Wooden Crosses,” I remarked how in Stoker’s Dracula these natural things are important weapons against vampires. The more I meditate on this use of the natural to overcome evil, the more I realize that natural things can be effective weapons against real demons and can help cure psychic vampires.
Literary biographies often talk about artists who battled their demons. If like Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath they committed suicide, critics say their demons won. I know critics are using the term demon metaphorically, but their use of the term points up how universally recognized the problem is—even materialists see demons. Whether metaphorical or literal, there are demons that like vampires suck the life from us.
I certainly believe in all the spiritual weapons God and His Word provides against the demonic, but I think we sometimes overlook the natural ones. For instance, I often find that wilderness—the wild rose—restores my soul in ways hours in prayer don’t. A long hike in the woods with all our senses open to nature can draw out the poison of self-absorption. It takes us beyond the small confines (coffins?) of our own problems and concerns. If we add to this walk a worshipful heart, we drive away the demons. Vampires hate daylight, so spend their days in darkened rooms. The common light of the day is sometimes our best weapon against the demons that haunt our nights.
If we take garlic as representative of good food and community, it is clear why garlic drives away vampires. Vampires are all about themselves—never others. Sometimes I battle a problem alone all day long, but only gain the victory when I get busy serving others or simply fellowshipping. Tolkien understood this concept when he made food-loving hobbits heroes and named the first book The Fellowship of Ring. We should recognize that church potlucks are kind of spiritual warfare (a martial art in which I am belted).
Apart from the killing of vampires, wooden stakes are often associated with commitment. During the many years that Wayne and Mary Harmon managed the church camp at Kellogg’s Springs, those making a decision to follow Christ wrote their name and date on a stake and then pounded it into a little “stake garden.” Recently I watched builders pound in stakes to mark where the foundation will be poured. Much of our spiritual health is founded on the commitments we have made to God, our spouses, our children, our calling, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Any spiritual check-up should include a careful examination of all our commitments. It is interesting that Bram Stoker gives Dracula the ability to turn into a mist that can float away or pour itself into a room and then rematerialize to prey upon a victim. He literally became something hard to nail down. Sometimes we most effectively battle “our demons” by “nailing down” those areas of our life where we have been uncommitted and foggy.
Anyone who has been in ministry long has encountered psychic vampires who seem to feed off the lives of others—but have no life of their own. These poor folks are the black holes of counseling—always receiving ministry but never getting better, always needing but never giving. Prayer, God’s Word, inner healing, repentance, and forgiveness are all important. But sometimes these folks need the wild rose. They need to take up bird-watching, botany, painting or photography—anything that forces them to see the world around them. Some of these folks need to be greeters at Walmart, go bowling with 7th graders, or go to more baseball games. They should have to eat garlicky food with a large Italian family that homeschools.
Okay, we probably shouldn’t drive wooden stakes into the hearts of the psychic vampires who seek our counsel, but some might be cured by driving their own stakes. Many need to stake out what they believe—the truth upon which their foundation is poured. Many need the stability that simple commitments provide: a commitment to serve others in a specific way, a commitment to pursue a specific goal or a calling. Sometimes the commitment to do one’s best at a job imparts spiritual health. Hard work, done as unto the Lord, can drive a stake into the heart of our depression and self-absorption. Next to the garlic, psychic vampires need to drive some stakes in the garden and string up some beans.