A Life Unplugged: Part One, Chapter Three
If this is your first chapter of “A Life Unplugged”, you can catch up by clicking on the links at the bottom of this post.
When we moved, all of us children changed schools again. It wasn’t a huge transition as far as education because we continued to attend Christian school. The big difference for me was the change of tone in this new school. The teachers and principal were refreshing and not as militant in the ridiculous details of hair being on the collar, the barring of blue jeans, or the preaching of hell, fire and brimstone. I met the Jesus of grace. I loved our Bible study classes and completely gorged myself with all things God; I liked the idea of a loving and merciful God and was acutely impacted as I reacquainted myself with the New Testament. I will revisit this theme later, but I want to make a point here: one should never underestimate the magnificence of the hermeneutical spiral. The spiral simply states (in my own words) that each time you read Scripture, it takes on a deeper and more insightful tone, or in other words, it “speaks” to you in an ever-escalating level of understanding. I often tell my young Bible students that it is very similar to a jaw-breaker, in that, as you suck on it, it changes flavor as another layer is uncovered and revealed. My path of rediscovery and riding the spiral coincided with the change in schools.
One thing to keep in mind as we move forward: my parents had told me and I surmised for myself that it was unwise to discuss or even refer to my charismatic experience as a young child. The theology of cessation was in full tilt back then in the southern Baptist tradition. If you are not familiar with this concept, in brief, it is the doctrine that the Holy Spirit was a reality back when Jesus’ disciples were engaged in ministry and the writing of the New Testament but somewhere along the line, the Holy Spirit ceased to communicate and empower believers except in the context of reading the Bible. I won’t “go there” right now, but to this day I still can’t understand why this doctrine even surfaced except to excuse a lack of power. Anyway, for me to express what I had experienced would get me in big trouble. I had heard many a preacher give accounts of people having mystical, experiential contact with the spiritual realm and all were cast wholesale into the Satanist or witchcraft category! If they were not placed into this category, then they were ostracized and accused of dabbling with evil forces. We were warned that Satan was famous for disguising himself as an “angel of light”. I already confessed that I gave my life to Christ to avoid giving the devil the satisfaction of claiming my soul, so you can only imagine how I viewed opaquely the experiences of my youth. But now I was drawing closer to the flame once again as I dove into Scripture. This new school didn’t forbid the doctrine of the Holy Spirit; they just didn’t give it attention. They seemed to me as neutral on the issue: they didn’t preach it but they didn’t preach against it either.
One day after school in my sophomore year of high school, there was an evangelist that came to visit our school. It was optional to attend; but being the spiritually hungry, contemplative type, I decided to stick around and hear what this guy had to say. I was floored. He spoke of dedication to Christ, he told us of the difference between belief and real faith in action, he said Jesus expects a definitive answer from each of us as to whether we will follow him as a disciple or just be a believer only, and he told us that “even demons believe, and tremble”. All of a sudden, I had been taken to a crossroads where one road consisted of believing in Jesus (having your ticket punched) and the other road was following Jesus as a disciple. This caught me off-guard to say the least. I thought the “decision for Christ” was a one-time shot! This was referred to as “rededicating your life to Christ”, and I did just that. Not too long after this rededication, the supernatural aspect of Christian spirituality surfaced again. Please understand, I never went looking for the supernatural…it always found me.
One late afternoon, I was reading Psalms (I’m not sure which Psalm) and speaking it out loud as I read it. The room got very bright and the atmosphere changed; my room became what can only be described as electric. This was a long, lost friend returning to me; I had forgotten what the Holy Spirit felt like until that very moment and all of the memories began to flood back into my soul. I was unsure what to expect! Please gentle reader, bear with me here (later in this book you will see just how important authenticity is to me; I will not embellish or put “spin” on anything that concerns the almighty God of the universe). The words began to literally come off the page; I was somehow ingesting them. The passage just moved through me, like the words had a mind of their own. My vision was past the page; I wasn’t reading any longer. My voice changed and became bold and authoritative as I musically chanted out this psalm without any effort. I had been transported above the ground somehow; I’m not sure whether I was levitating or simply spiritually “above” myself, but I was large or tall or in the air. I surrendered to the Spirit and the most incredible feeling of peace and power and love just swept through me like waves tossing me in the ocean. I let go as long as I could and then became cognizant of what was taking place. When I became completely aware of what was happening, I got a little freaked out. As I “came down”, the Spirit just softly set me on the ground like a feather. I’m not sure how long I was engaged in this sublime experience, but I now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the supernatural nature of Christianity had just been confirmed once again in my life. There, set before me, was further proof of another dimension to human experience; I had tasted the Lord again and He was good! I immediately began to praise the Lord, to exalt Christ Jesus as the King of kings, and to weep in complete joy at how the Spirit had just wrecked me. An unequivocal truth about the Presence of God is that it leaves you unable to stand, you seem to have no choice but to lay prostrate in His wake, and the awe of this Presence overtakes you to the point of not being able to move for quite a while.
My son once asked me, “Dad, how do I know when I’m in the Presence of the Spirit?”
I replied, “Oh son, you’ll know!”
He shrugged off my reply without another mention of the matter. But it was no more than a week or two later that we had an anointed pianist perform at our church. This minister of worship was just beckoning the glory and serenading the Spirit. Fifteen minutes into the service, it happened. The Presence filled the little church and people began to cry softly, people began to whisper praises to God, and the glory was so thick that you could literally feel the weight of it. I looked over at my son through my own tears and he was weeping uncontrollably. As an awkward 13 year old boy, he had tried to hold back the emotion, but the Spirit was just too powerful. His efforts to remain “cool” were quickly disintegrated on the altar of worship. On the way home, none of the family could speak; it was eerie to drive home in silence. But as we turned the corner and onto our street, my son looked over at me from the passenger side of the van and said one word: “Oh”.
Remember when I made a point earlier about stepping into the light? Let us revisit the warning once again: when you step into the Light, God sees you, but so does the enemy. As a believer only, as one who believes in Jesus but does not actively “seek His face”, as a person plugged into life as usual, Satan has no reason to mess with you. You pose him no real threat. A lukewarm Christian is doing a fine job kicking his own proverbial butt. But when you are empowered by the Holy Spirit, you become a real threat! Your paradigm changes into one of Kingdom warfare whether you like it or not, choose it or not; willingly or unwillingly, you are now engaged in a battle that few truly understand. You can try to speak of these things to other folk, but inevitably, if they have no knowledge of the spiritual realm, they will look at you as a “nut job”. That being said, I don’t want to scare any potential disciples here! Just be sober and understand that once you are aware of the real and tangible presence of good, you will need to be aware of the very real and tangible presence of evil. This is one reason why my dad told me that walking in the spirit is next to impossible; it is serious business. If you start down this path of spiritual awareness half-heartedly, you will be body-slammed by the enemy in quick order. But I must tell you this as well: there is no greater joy to existence than to know your God and to walk with your God! Eternal life begins when you unplug from the finite, worldly distractions of life and get plugged into a relationship with the infinite. This is our destiny and our birthright. The next part of my story really is frightening, but the fact remains that refusal to engage with the spiritual has even more frightening repercussions! All one has to do is read the 3rd chapter of John to “catch my drift”.
Let me begin by giving a disclaimer: I did not know anyone at this time that had experienced the Holy Spirit in this capacity; therefore, I could not share this with anyone. It is imperative to have a close association to other disciples! It is crucial to surround yourself with fellow Christians…especially older Christians who have been through the “valley of the shadow of death” at least a few times. I tried to breach this subject with my parents, but they were too busy to give it much weight. I’m not trying to give them a hard time, but I want to warn parents and remind myself as a parent just how important it is to be engaged with your children. So before I dive into this dark piece, understand that I was afraid of alienating myself from my fellow Christian friends who I were sure would not understand, and I wasn’t sure any of my teachers or principal would understand based on the disdain I had witnessed for this type of thing in my previous school. I began to delve deep into my spirituality and dive deeply into Scripture. I began to witness to people and bring people to Christ. I was active in ministry and drank long and hard from the deep well that the Bible so eloquently speaks. But then there came a night that changed everything.
I slept on the top bunk above my younger brother as we still shared a room. I was awakened sometime in the early morning around 1 or 2am; everyone was fast asleep. I awoke to a very hot wind on my face and this wind smelled rotten, like decaying flesh. I opened my eyes to see a hideous face that filled all of my vision; it was large. It was evil. The face was looking into me; it was peering right into my eyes like it could see into my soul. I was paralyzed and terrified. The entity did not say anything; it just smiled and blew this hot rancid breath on me. I tried to speak the name of Jesus, but I could not speak. It just hovered over me in a reddish tint surrounded by smoke rolling inward on itself. The smoke never spread outward; it just was sucked back inward around the entity. After fighting against it, I finally was able to whisper one word: “Jesus”. The entity evaporated and I bolted up in bed in a cold sweat. I took a moment to get my bearings and swung my legs over the edge of the bed. A few minutes passed and I began to tell myself that this was only a dream or the spaghetti I ate for dinner coming back with a vengeance! I was still shaking in fear as I lowered myself onto the floor quietly as to not disturb my little brother (he hated to be disturbed at night and had a real hard time falling back to sleep). I went and checked on my sister; she was sleeping peacefully. I went and cracked the door to my parents’ room; they were also sound asleep. I then went to the bathroom and closed the door. I washed my face with cold water and stared into my own reflection. I stared into my own eyes looking for an answer in my reflection for a clue as to whether I was losing it or just spooked from a dream. Finally convinced that this was all just a bad case of Italian food consumed too close to bedtime, I returned to my bunk. I had just pulled the covers over my chest when the unthinkable happened: the entity returned. Again, it breathed hot, rotten air onto me and I could feel the rush of it moving my bangs. It again smiled and hovered like it was trying to reassure me that this was NOT a dream. The worst part of the whole experience is that you can’t speak! To not be able to call upon the One that can save you is a horrific predicament. This time, as if to say “I’m done with you for now”, the entity evaporated before I could muster up enough fortitude to whisper the Name above all names. It mocked me. This demon was showing off and saying to me in no uncertain terms that he has his eyes on me. I sat up in bed once more, prayed my butt off, and stayed on guard until the sunlight penetrated my window. I have never in my life been so glad to see the sun. This was my first encounter with true evil. For those who just don’t believe in such things, more power to you; in this case, ignorance is bliss…temporarily anyway!
Thank you for reading chapter three of “A Life Unplugged”. If you want to catch up in the story, you can click on any chapter as follows:
The remaining chapters will be published about every 2-3 days in chronological order. This is a limited time publishing of this book; this temporary effort is to gain feedback as I pursue actual print publication later this year. Again, thank you for taking the time to take this journey with me, and may the Lord bless you beyond your wildest imagination!