This post comes from Josh Irby. Josh and his wife advocate for orphaned children in Eastern Europe in partnership with the non-profit Lost Sparrows.

Horror films are not my favorite genre, but I have seen my share over the years. Most follow the same basic plot-line: A city/institution/family/individual lives in peace and security, until strange signs reveal a different reality lying beneath the surface. The majority deny these signs are evidence of a significant problem, but a few recognize the hidden danger. The “monster” increases his action until a core group, motivated by personal loss, opposes his evil plans. This leads to a showdown between the darkness and the forces opposed to it.

Of course, what we most remember about horror films are the jump scares, the brooding music, the gross-out moments, and, of course, the villain him/herself. Personally, I remember the idiots. You know who I’m talking about: the dim-wit who decides it is a good idea to go outside … at night … alone … with nothing more than a flashlight … to check out the sound behind the garage; the co-ed who is home alone cooking a meal, or reading a book, or (always!) taking a shower before their demise; the monster-denier who wants to keep the school/stores/beach open because “there is nothing to fear.” These people who deny they are actually living in a horror film are what make the genre interesting to me. Maybe that is because I can relate.

Eighteen months ago, we brought a cute little two-year-old boy into our family from the Bulgarian foster system. His arrival marked the end of a three-year adoption journey and the beginning of our new family dynamics (five kids aged two to twelve). He displayed all the behaviors common in cross-cultural adoption — panic crying, sleeplessness, irrational behavior, and trauma eating. He wouldn’t let me put him down, and he wouldn’t let my wife touch him (she was the competition). He wanted to keep his eyes on us for fear we would leave him. He pulled the hair of all the girls in the house. He scratched, pinched, and hit. We were prepared for such things.

We knew some of his background. He had been in the foster system since birth but spent a quarter of his first two years of life in the hospital with respiratory problems. At two years old, he could not walk and could stand only when holding onto something. Six months later, when he came into our family, he had started walking but was very unstable. He could only speak a few words in a mix of Bulgarian and Turkish.

Six months into his life with us, his body was growing, but his traumatic behavior continued. My wife had to wear a shower cap in the house to preserve the hair that remained. He could not sleep without touching me and woke up five to ten times a night to ensure I was still there. Every morning began with his whining voice. Every day ended with it. All night long it continued. My wife and I were sleep-deprived and beginning to lose our patience. We wondered if we had invited a monster into our nice and somewhat well-behaved family.

As time progressed, I noticed something happening within me. I am generally an even-keeled guy. In fact, calm-under-pressure is my superpower. I have had children yelling directly into my face and remained completely unmoved. I have had work staff unload on me, spitting out venomous lies, without a change in my blood pressure. And yet, our little guy’s whine, “uhu, uhu,” flooded my brain with chemicals for action. I found myself fighting angry and violent thoughts. Gone was my super alter-ego, Unperturbed Man, and in his place was a super-villain, Mr. Rage. My reaction was surprising because it was so out of character for me. I mean, this was not my first child. I had been changing diapers and waking up with screaming babies for 12 years at that point. We survived two children with significant behavior problems. I have had toys flung at my face and let them fall to the ground with an unfazed and unflustered glance. But this cute little boy’s “uhu, uhu” made the blood rush to my head. What if our little bundle of joy was not the monster in the house? What if I was?

Our adoption peeled back the outer layer of my life and revealed what lay beneath, a monster of horrific proportions. I discovered it is easy to think you are a good person when you are not self-aware. It is easy to think you are a good person when your life remains under your control. But when you take steps of faith, do not be surprised at what arises from the dark closet of your heart.

Imagine a horror story where the protagonist is also the villain but doesn’t know it. He calmly cooks his meal, takes a shower, reads a book never suspecting the horrific reality creeping just below the surface. Like the horror film idiot, he reinterprets every piece of evidence to allow himself to doubt the existence of the monster. Also like the morons in the film, he doesn’t stand a chance.

As hard as it is to admit, I am that idiot. I am Mayor Larry Vaughn keeping the beaches open for the fourth of July. I am Wendy deciding a family vacation in the middle of nowhere on an Indian Burial Ground with Jack and her family is a good idea. I am Edward Norton in Fight Club, blaming Tyler Durden for all that’s going wrong only to find out that, dang it, I am Tyler Durden.

As painful as it is to shine a light on what lies beneath, it is an important step toward actually defeating the monster. I have spent more time reflecting on the undercurrents of anger in my heart over the past year than I did during the whole of my life before. I now see my radical desire for independence and my hatred of dependence. I realize that in my heavily dependent and traumatized toddler I see the dependent kid in me that I would rather keep buried. And yet the only way to kill the monster is to recognize its existence. As Paul wrote, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Jesus did not die for a superhero; he died for the villain. God is using a little boy to teach me that, even after almost thirty years walking with him, I need Jesus just to live.

Jesus is not an idiot. He is shouting, “Look behind you!” He opens the closet door and exposes our ghosts. He releases the monsters of our idolatrous allegiances to save us from their vicious wrath. He is not afraid of what lies beneath. In fact, he died to defeat it.