Grappling with Gravity

This is chapter four in the book “A Life Unplugged”; at the bottom of this post, you can click to previously indexed chapters.

A Life Unplugged: Part One

Chapter Four:  Grappling with Gravity

It didn’t take long after that incident that I slowly began to weave myself back into “normal” life or what I refer to as plugging back into the world.  Confrontation with pure, unadulterated evil had prompted me to walk away from my spiritual walk with God; I left God out of fear, plain and simple.  I stopped reading my Bible, I stopped all the ministry stuff, I got a girlfriend, and I did what all normal, red-blooded American boys do.  I played basketball and baseball, went to bonfires and made out with lovely girls under the stars, and pursued the lofty, accredited merit of achievement.  But that aching for my God never went away, and that incessant haunting that all was not well in the universe never completely left my heart and mind.  I covered that impulse and gravitational pull of the divine by being plugged into the world again.  When all else fails, distraction is the best medicine. I fell in love many times and got along better than O.K.  I was always a good student, and my intellectual achievements paved the way to many college scholarship offers.  I wrote poetry and short stories, I loved to fish, go camping, was fairly adept at dating, and occasionally partied with the best of them for the rest of high school.  I left God in the rearview mirror of life on my terms.  I was still a professed Christian; I just wasn’t an active Christian.  I wasn’t in the Army of God any longer; I was simply in the Reserves and maybe available if the poop hit the fan so to speak.  I thought if I ever returned to an intimate walk with the Lord, that it would require all of me, even my life, and that was a sacrifice I was unwilling to make.  I agreed with my dad:  it was just too daunting to walk in the spirit, and I just wasn’t cut out for a life unplugged.

Fast-forward to my mid-twenties.  Briefly, I had by this point, studied in college, worked in sales, been married and divorced, had two children from the failed marriage, was considered fairly successful, and now dating again.  My path of being plugged-in was failing miserably.  I was trapped; trapped in a life where everything that I thought would bring me happiness brought me only sorrow and a feeling of isolation and loneliness.  I was one of those people who could feel completely alone in a crowded room.  All my dreams had been ruined by forces known and unknown. I was confused.  My marriage had been awful, or rather, I had been awful.  It ended in an apathetic, yet cordial parting of ways.  I was selfish beyond words, and I was searching for meaning in a life that constantly reminded me that I was certainly looking in all the wrong places.  I won’t wax philosophical here, but I want to say at least this much:  once you have tasted God and know of the divine nature of your spirit, nothing (and I mean nothing) else will do!  Someone once said, “We all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts, and He is the only One that can fill it.”  I agree without reservation, but knowing something is different than living it out.  For example, we may completely agree and quote the above statement on one hand and then go out and try to fill that “hole” with other things!  What is wrong with us?  I tried money, achievement, human relationships, travel, cathartic writing and romance; I actually believed that a BMW would make me happy!  That is so cliché.  So I had a breakdown.  I had an awakening that all in life was vanity; I had a “Solomon Moment”.  By this time in my life, the memories of my spiritual life as a younger man had faded into a distant flicker of hope.  The enemy is a master at this neat parlor trick; the liar has a method of taking memories of the divine and twisting them somehow to where it seems like a dream that has been clouded by time.  But I had a moment of clarity and decided I would unplug again…even if just for a moment to get my bearings recalculated!

Most all of us have studied Spanish in high school and/or college.  Assuming that you have, then you know that “if you don’t use it; you lose it”; in other words, if you don’t speak or listen to Spanish on a regular basis, then you will lose the ability to not only speak it but to also understand it.  My point here is to compare Spanish to Scripture.  I do not consider it to be a leap of faith here to argue that if you stop reading and studying Scripture that you forget most of it or at least lose the implications.  I had forgotten the language of God, I did not recognize His voice any longer, and I decided to reacquaint myself with His Word.  The New Testament had changed.  When I began reading the Book of John, it was new to me somehow.  The fact of the matter is that I had changed, my perspective had changed, and my paradigm had changed.  The spiral is a curious thing!  The message was radical and convicting and exciting. In some connected way, maybe this fresh, revolutionary view of the Gospel was what my parents had encountered back in southern California.

I remember crying out to God in desperation, “Oh God!  Reveal Yourself to me again!”  He was more than happy to accommodate my request.  As I began to rediscover the magic in the Bible, it was so dramatic that I wept for days.  My first inner thought was, “How is this Truth so hidden in plain sight?”  I thought of how many Bibles I owned, I thought of how many Bibles are sitting on dusty shelves begging to be opened, I thought about all those Gideon Bibles nicely tucked under the yellow pages in every nightstand in every motel, and I thought about how perfect a strategy for the enemy!  Hiding in plain sight is ingenious.  I was officially unplugged when I began to spend copious hours poring through the New Testament.  The atmosphere changed and the scales fell off from my sleepy eyes.  I remember like it was yesterday, the incredible vision the Lord showed to me.  The vision was of my life.  My entire life was shown to me in an instant in the spirit.  Clarity was the gift:  I saw how every decision I had made, every relationship I had, and every move I had made placed me exactly in the right here and right now.  It was like looking at a maze from above; good decisions, bad decisions, turning points, and circumstances all worked together somehow to deliver me to “here”. I was stunned that He showed me this because it was a full frontal attack of grace.  I realized that I had forgotten God, but He had not forgotten me.  I know this must sound strange to many, but it is true nevertheless.  We have all heard of your life “flashing before your eyes”; well, that is the only example I can compare it.  We will explore this together later.

When I walked away from the spiritual life as a young man, it was out of fear.  Now as an older man and as a man approaching God once again, I knew He would present the ultimatum again.  This time I chose Him over my own agenda, this time I didn’t care if it cost me everything, and this time I ignored fear.  Things began to change rapidly.  I started praying and seeking Him in the Word, I fasted and meditated, and I began to minister once again.  One thing that all disciples need to realize:  when you start this chain of events, it feels very much like a rollercoaster ride.  Your life is not only exciting but also filled with the unknown.  I would venture to say that most unbelievers think of the Christian life as boring or stuffy; nothing could possibly be further from the truth!  The unplugged version of the Christian life is indescribable, beautiful, and full of wonderment.  When you start seeing in the spiritual, it is like life transforms from black and white to full color.  When what you can’t see becomes more real than what you can see, the game changes.  God anointed me in this time in my life; He anointed me in such a powerful way that it was undeniable to anyone who knew me.  All of my family recognized His presence, all of my friends were either accepting Christ or gracefully bowing out of my life, and people who didn’t know me would be drawn by the Holy Spirit in me.  It was like living on a different planet and it was glorious.  But then came Satan again and this time he wasn’t playing by the rules…he never does.

As I stated earlier, I fasted often during this time.  Fasting is for a purpose and not something you just do for the heck of it.  Every time I fasted it was to accomplish the purpose of receiving an answer to a question or an answer to a prayer or to be empowered for ministry.  One day in the Spirit, the Lord asked me to fast for three days.  I obeyed but had no idea as to why I was fasting.  By the way, there are many types of fasting:  going without breakfast, going without a vice, juice or rice only, and on-and-on it goes.  There are names to all these different fasts, but I won’t bore you with them now. I always fasted by going without food.  The only thing I “ate” was chicken broth and the only thing I drank was water.  After the three days of fasting, I jumped up that morning and took a hot shower looking forward to eating a fine breakfast!  As I was drying off, the phone rang.  It was my mom, “Your father’s mother commit suicide yesterday…ah…your…your grandmother is dead son.”  At that moment, time froze and life became something to observe; it was like God hit the “pause” button and then pulled me into His arms.  I could see very clearly, and what I saw was in one moment lovely and in the other moment horrific.  I saw why I had fasted and God’s omniscient unction to do so, and I also saw the raw pain in human existence. God had prepared me for this without me knowing why.

Ever notice the shortest verse in the Bible?  John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.”  Now much has been said about the implications of this verse, but for me, it showed His unfathomable compassion and sympathy for those He loved.  A beloved friend named Lazarus had died, and many were confused as to why Jesus delayed His visit or why He hadn’t hurried to Lazarus’ aid. When the company of friends and family led by Mary met Him on the road, the Jews present reacted to His weeping saying, “See how He loved him?”  The door is left wide open, for the Bible does not tell us why Jesus wept.  But we can make a logical progression quite easily.  Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead, so weeping for Lazarus is an obvious omission. Jesus knew the glory of the Lord was about to be manifested to all in an incredible miracle, so that omits the idea that He wept for death itself.  The only logical explanation is that He wept for the human condition; He saw how death affected the loved ones left behind. Jesus knows our pain.  There is nothing in life that He has not experienced or not suffered through. All of it was nailed to the cross. That He suffered with us, for us, and by our hands is a profound meditation.  If that mere fact doesn’t bring us to our knees, then we may be hopelessly lost!

The news of my grandmother’s untimely and self induced death was the first movement in a symphony of death and destruction that blew through my life like a hurricane.  The prelude to the first movement was the death of my grandfather on my mother’s side.  I will lay out the storm’s path for you, but writing these words is probably one of the more difficult things I will ever do.  Let me set the stage first.  During this time of intense and intimate fellowship with the Lord, He gifted me with a prophetic ministry. The gift of prophecy that I speak of is not the telling of the future and mapping out the “end of days”; the gift I speak of is one of seeing a person’s heart, of understanding them in the spiritual realm, and the ability to see them just as they are.  This is a powerful gift that comes with a great deal of responsibility. I knew things about people that made them very uncomfortable. I had to be careful when and how to use this gift, for if not used in love and for the purpose of edification, it could do much damage!

The death of my grandfather that I defined as the prelude to this storm started a chain of cataclysmic events.  He was my mother’s step-father; my grandmother had divorced her first husband because he was very abusive.  My grandmother was deeply in love with her second husband, but he was not a Christian.  In fact, he categorically opposed Christianity and had some deep-seated issues concerning God.  These issues, to my knowledge, were never resolved.  Only God knows. We prayed often for his conversion.  However, he was a great man by anyone’s definition.  He suffered from heart disease for many years, and it was on his death-bed that I encountered something that shook me to my core.  He had been in and out of the hospital for two decades, but this latest heart attack would prove to be the last. I received a phone call from my mother telling me of his impending death, and I agreed to stop by his hospital room after class (I was attending a university just down the road from the hospital). As I rode the elevator up to the third floor, a feeling of darkness began to well up inside of me.  I don’t care for hospitals in the first place; I despise the smell and sounds and coldness of it all.  Also, I didn’t know who else would be there and feared running into someone. It was an awkward proposition to speak to anyone about the situation because I was young and inexperienced in the art of consolation or sharing grief.  A nurse prompted me to the proper area and told me the room number. I hesitated for a moment at the door but decided to enter despite the dark disposition in my spirit.  Upon opening the door, I was sick.  The room was dark, was filled with the typical equipment hissing and beeping, and was definitely not a place I wanted to be.  My grandfather was emaciated and pale; he was motionless and his eyes were closed. As I entered the room, he sat straight up in his hospital bed and reached out to me like someone pleading for rescue!  He yelled something unintelligible and it reminded me of a deep groan from a horror movie.  His eyes were wide open and it scared the “you know what” out of me. I was so startled and terrified that I ran out of the room and started down the hall.  I stopped half way down the hall and leaned against a wall trying to get my bearings.  What just happened? I wanted so badly to give him a hug and say a prayer with him, but I just couldn’t bring myself to face the seeming evil aura that permeated that room. To this day, I wish I had returned back into his hospital room, but I was too afraid.  The whole scene brought back memories from my childhood, the memories of looking darkness square in the face. He died shortly thereafter before I could muster up the courage to return.  I am plagued by the idea that somehow I may have missed an opportunity to lead him in a prayer and usher him into the arms of Christ.  I was told that he wasn’t in his right mind and what had happened that day was only a physiological response to stimuli. Like I said, it haunts me still.

The gift of prophecy and the ability to convey spiritual matters in a written form was a new thing for me, and I used this ability to write a powerful poem for my grandfather’s funeral. To this day, my grandmother cherishes this poem. I read it at the funeral as people wept. It was a few years later when my paternal grandmother committed suicide. I wrote a poem for her as well and gave the eulogy.  The fact that the Lord prompted me to fast and prepare for this moment was truly a blessing because, honestly, how does one out of their intellect or ability give a eulogy after a suicide? Out of respect, I won’t go into the details of why or how she ended her own life, but suffice it to say, it left my dad a complete wreck.  My grandfather’s death was the first outer band of the hurricane, my grandmother’s suicide was the second and more intense band, and the brunt of the storm was soon to make landfall.  My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

When my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I was at the height of my anointing; I was filled with the Holy Spirit to the point of absolutely being convinced that I could “pray her back to health” or that I could administer a healing.  I was wrong.  Within 30 days of her diagnosis, she was gone.  All of the immediate family was present and holding hands around her hospital bed when she slipped into eternity.  You could literally feel her leave; it was a palpable feeling of peaceful departure, but like running your finger down a razor blade, the pain would follow.  My mom and I had many unresolved issues.  She had promised me that at some point, she would level with me and bring to light much of what had been hidden.  Before her bypass surgery on her pancreas, she told me that when she awoke from surgery she would have an honest talk with me.  She never awoke from the surgery.  The unresolved issues were about her past and my birth.

When I was 12 years old, on the way back from one of my baseball games, my parents broke the news to me that the person I had always known as “dad” was not my real father, that my real father had abandoned my mother and me when I was around 6 months old.  My mother was obviously embarrassed about the circumstances of my birth and my stepfather (whom I called “dad”…he was the one who loved me and cared for me) was less than honest about it after her death.  When preparing to write this book, I formally interviewed my grandmother.  She intimated that the only person who could tell me who my real father was…was no longer with us, namely, mom.  My grandmother also explained the awful circumstances surrounding my mother’s turbulent childhood.  Her father had been harsh and abusive, she had left home at an early age, and my mom protected her heart for the rest of her life.  I wish mom and I could have had that conversation; I wish she could have gotten all of the mess off of her heart; I wish I could have had the opportunity for closure, but alas, it was not meant to be.

The hurricane had just made landfall.  Why didn’t God answer my prayer?  Why did He let my mother die?  How could I serve a God that would allow such wreckage?  I remember writing a prophetic poem about my mother a couple of years before her passing. When I read it to her, there was a long silence on the other end.  Then she began to cry.  Then she got angry and cried out through the telephone, “How do you know these things?!”  I told her that I just knew and that the Lord was showing me things in the spiritual realm.  She felt a little violated but the net result was her accepting of the Lord’s revelation to me.  She began to grow closer to God and began to seek Him once again.  Not long afterwards, she got sick.  My heart is shred to pieces every time I recount this story, but you must know where I have been in order to have a fully operational compass.  As the storm of losing my mother and the aftermath of anger towards God came to fruition, I shook my fist at God. When I was a teenager, I quit the unplugged life when I got scared of facing the reality of evil.  I quit the unplugged life this time because I was very angry with God.  I didn’t turn back because of fear; I plugged back into the worldly because I was angry with God and felt that I needed to distance myself from Him. I didn’t want anything to do with Him.  This was a mistake.

Here is where I must point out what I mentioned earlier about the fruit of the Spirit.  I see now in retrospect, that prior to the hurricane that spun into my life, I had been anointed.  But I was not mature.  In a later chapter, I will deal with this by sharing a vision with you that explains this in detail.  I had thought of myself as a person who wielded the Holy Spirit, like I was some kind of holy sorcerer or something!  God used me to do many wonderful things, but I became proud.  Two things I lacked: first of all, I lacked spiritual maturity and did not understand the process of producing fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23); and secondly, I was not in community.  Fellowship is absolutely crucial in the spiritual process; trying to be a Christian all by oneself is at its core…unchristian!  I told you earlier that I learned this lesson the hard way; it was a hard lesson to learn, but I can assure you I will never make this mistake again. At this point and in my estimation, God was to blame…not me.

My life began to spin out of control:  I began to drink, do drugs, and live an incredibly destructive life.  I didn’t care anymore.  What was the point?  I rebelled against God, turned my back on my family, and decided that life was too painful.  I left a wake of destruction in my path.  Everything I thought was sacred had been defiled, everything I thought was important was surely destined to be destroyed, and everything I thought was important was simply vanity.  A few years later, my stepfather was diagnosed with cancer.  The bleeding of my soul continued.  I continued to spiral deeper and deeper into darkness with no hope in sight.  You have to realize, I had children, I had a new wife, I had people who depended on me, and I had had enough.  Insanity has no defense.  From the outside looking in, one would say, “You have all these loving people around, you have plenty to live for; why don’t you pull yourself together?”  Insanity has no defense.  You see, in my opinion, everything I touched would eventually be turned into pain; I thought everyone would be better off without me in their lives anyway!  I made myself scarce.  I knew I was a mess and didn’t want to expose myself to anyone lest they “catch” my disease.  So I did the absolute minimum.  I still spent time with my children and tried to hide the gaping, bleeding wounds in my soul.  But I’m sure everyone, including my children, could see the path of destruction that I was on.  I was hurting and I covered the pain with anything available. About a month before my stepfather died, my aunt (dad’s sister) commit suicide. Can you even imagine how this affected him as he lay on his own death bed?  My aunt’s suicide was a result of his terminal prognosis.  She could have been there to support him, but instead decided to “check out”.  Why am I telling you all of this?  Because it is important to know the reality of just how potent evil in the world can be.  You may already know this.  But I want to be part of your healing, and I need you to be part of mine.

I was reaching for things to numb the pain, I was searching for anything that would at least temporarily stop the pain, and I longed for release.  About a month before dad passed on, I was in a terrible state.  I had driven 3 hours to see him in the hospital, reeked of alcohol while I was there, was asked by him to leave (no one wanted me around), went to eat, and decided to return home.  I was sick. I felt my soul had died, I felt like no one wanted or loved me, and I just knew that the anger would eventually consume me.  On the way home, with tears clouding my eyes and my blood boiling in rage, I changed lanes on the interstate by jerking the steering wheel hard enough to lose control of the car.  Time began to move in slow motion.  The car slid sideways, hit a ditch on my side of the median, flipped two times in the air, threw me 70 feet through the air, and planted me face first into a drainage ditch of rock.  Despite the horrific nature of this ejection, I never lost consciousness.  After gravity had brought me back down to earth, I opened my eyes to see limestone rocks; I closed my eyes and rested on my forearm.  When I decided I wasn’t dead, I lifted my head to see my arm covered in blood, and a man whom I never saw, put a jacket over me and said, “Sir, you need to stay still.”

Thank you for reading chapter four of “A Life Unplugged”.  If you want to catch up in the story, you can click on any chapter as follows:

IntroductionChapter One:  Holy Hippies, Chapter Two:  Southern Exposure, Chapter Three: The Holy Spirit and The Demon or on to Chapter Five:  The Miracle of Nothingness.

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