168. on spirituality (part 2)…with all due respect
So the other night, I was a part of something pretty gnarly…and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Okay, so these past couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing about how I want to have a more experiential kind of Christianity rather than just a clinical, intellectual one. Now I don’t know if some of you have been praying for this to happen for me or if God reads my blogs as prayers themselves, but last Sunday night I had an encounter with…well, I guess the only way to really put it is to call it an exorcism…sort of.
I’ve been going to this house church that a friend of mine started. It’s pretty simple. We get together, share a meal, and then talk about the Bible and what God’s been doing in our lives. And we call it church (old school, Book of Acts style). Anyway, after church, we have a time of prayer and healing and this past Sunday, one of the members asked to be rid of a personal problem that had resurfaced lately.
No sweat. So we start praying, and this guy (let’s call him T) starts to growl. I don’t mean his stomach started to growl, I mean HE started to growl. And my first thought was, “oh no, not again.”
Months ago, maybe a year ago (I’m not good with history), T asked me to go with him to a Monday night healing service at a church in Moanalua Valley. See, T had been going through a rough time in his life and one night he got so frustrated that he kind of decided to switch sides from being a Christian to being a tool of Satan. He got so frustrated he prayed to the devil and said something like, “take me, I’m yours, do whatever you want.”
The next day, T is kind of freaked out by what he did so he talks about it with someone who worked at the church he was attending at the time. This guy tells T that he’s messing with things that shouldn’t be messed with – opening doors and inviting some really bad (basically demonic) spirits to come into his life. He suggested that T go to this Monday night healing service thing.
So I meet up with T at this church and we sing some songs and then the healing service begins. Basically the people who want prayer team up with one or two of the people who are there to pray for them. All these little groups sit in little circles around the room. T met up with two of the prayer people and they said it was cool for me to sit in and to pray along with them. I’m thinking, “no sweat, we’re just sitting around and praying.”
T tells these guys what he did and they all agree that that wasn’t a good idea and that he needed prayer. So we start praying. And for the first few minutes it’s just prayer. They pray for T and ask God to forgive him for what he did and for protection and some other nice prayer type things. And then the shit started to hit the fan.
I don’t remember how it began exactly, but I started to hear all kinds of strange noises coming from T. We’re praying so I have my eyes closed, and when T starts growling and gnashing his teeth, I keep my eyes closed because I don’t want to see – what I’m hearing is freaking me out just fine, thank you very much. Then the guy who’s praying for T starts going off about “demon come out” and “you have no authority” and “in the name of Jesus I bind you” and all kinds of other exorcism type phrases.
At this point, I’m hearing other strange noises from around the room but the bit that’s going on in our little group is quite enough freak out for me so I don’t pay them much attention. T keeps making these animal, almost unnatural sounds. Occasionally he bursts into laughter – not like a witch’s cackle or like a diabolical villain, just a gently mocking laughter. This gets the guy who’s praying for him even more worked up and he starts commanding, “in the name of Jesus, stop laughing. Demon, stop laughing.” And sometimes that would work and T would stop laughing and go back to just growling, sometimes he would just keep laughing.
Well, this goes on for what must be ten or fifteen minutes, and then T kind of peters out and snaps out of it. He becomes plain old T again. They let him rest for a moment, give him some water, ask him how he’s doing. T sounds groggy like he just woke up from a long, deep nap. When it looks like T is ready, they go at it again, the same as before.
Now, I’ve known T for four or five years by now and he is not one of those flaming Pentecostal types. He was kind of the opposite. Like me, he had trouble experiencing his faith. What I’m trying to say is, this isn’t someone who had ever wigged out like this before. Honestly, when he first started making those strange noises, I almost laughed because I thought he was playing some kind of joke. But he wasn’t.
We do this little cycle of prayer and resting about five or six times that night. In the end, there wasn’t any kind of demon expelling itself from his body like the alien in Alien. It was more of a gradual release. And here’s the bit that really freaked me out. Walking out of the church, I asked T what it was like, what he remembered, and he said he couldn’t remember a thing. I asked him about growling and about laughing but he didn’t remember. It was like someone had flashed one of those MIB memory sticks in his face and filtered out the last few hours.
END OF BACKSTORY
So we’re praying for T after home church and he starts growling. There were four of us (including me) praying for T, but I was the only one who had seen him wig out before. It pretty much went the same way things went at the healing service except for one crucial difference. The people praying at the healing service had seen this type of thing and had studied it and knew what to do. We did not.
And here’s the bit that I’m reluctant to admit because I really respect T and the other people who were praying for him at this home church. I wasn’t buying it.
Now before I go on, let me be clear about what I mean by that. i don’t mean to say that T was purposely making up those noises. I’m just not as sure that they were from a demonic source. So where did they come from? Well, with all due respect, there’s a part of me that thinks it was a kind of psychosomatic response. See, shortly after T went to the first healing service, he started going to a church that had a pretty heavy charismatic flavor to it, and so he’s much more familiar with teachings that talk about demonic influence and strongholds and spiritual inheritances. With that in mind, it wasn’t as much of a surprise for me to see T act out in this uncanny way.
I wasn’t super freaked by what was going on but the other guys praying certainly were. And they had reason to because while T was in the grip of whatever had hold of him, he started talking back to those praying for him, calling them weak, calling them sinners, accusing them of not knowing what they were doing. He even turned to one of the guys who was praying and said he was going to leave T and enter him instead.
Now here’s the bit I don’t understand. He spoke specifically to three of the people praying for him, but he didn’t say anything to me. I suppose one reason could be that because I wasn’t buying it, I wasn’t a threat to it. I mean I was praying, but it was a weak prayer along the lines of, “Lord, if this thing is real, help T and help my friends who are praying for him.” I didn’t have any of myself invested in that prayer whereas the other three guys were verbally praying their guts out, trying to drive this thing from T. Why should it have paid any attention to me.
And see, this is part of why I have such a hard time with this whole spirituality thing – because it reads like a bad fantasy novel. And I don’t like the fantasy genre (I was bored through most of the LOTR trilogy, especially the first one).
But at the same time it troubles me because I feel like I’m dissing T by not
believing in this manifestation and by extension, I’m dissing the other guys who were praying because they certainly believed it was serious and real. Not only that, but what if it was real and what if I really was such a non-threat to whatever it was that it didn’t even bother to acknowledge me. Now I don’t mean to say that I wish it had spoken to me, I’m glad it didn’t, but if it didn’t because it didn’t give a shit about me, well that makes me a pretty pathetic Christian doesn’t it?
Bottom line? I don’t know what I saw.