I was nine years old the first time I watched Psycho. My mother brought it home from Blockbuster and lined the three of us kids up on the couch. I remember being confused—this wasn't our usual cartoon fare—then terrified. That night, I slept with one eye open (which is to say, not at all) because I was sure that Norman Bates was going to creep through my bedroom window. I eventually fell asleep in the early morning hours and came home from school the next day ready to watch Psycho again. It remains one of my favorite movies, part of a genre that proves terrifying viewers is one of the most powerful effects a film can have.
In the same way that horror films and Shirley Jackson offer me some odd comfort, I am drawn over and over again to the book of Revelation. I have struggled with anxiety most of my life, and many well-meaning friends have pointed me to passages like Matthew 6:34 or Philippians 4:6. But as I read these verses urging Christians not to worry, I’d wonder, what was wrong with me, that I couldn't obey this simple command? I longed to be the kind of Christian who had no fear. I knew those people, or at least I thought I did: Warm, effortless, kind Christians who only struggled with things like not spending enough time in prayer or not memorizing enough Scripture.
I was in college before I read Revelation start to finish. Even though I grew up in the church, Revelation always struck me as Advanced Bible Reading, for theologians and pastors. I sure couldn't explain what a pregnant woman was doing clothed in the sun and standing on top of the moon, or why that mattered for the Christian faith. But after a visit to Ephesus during a trip to Europe, I was curious about what John had to say ...1
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