imperfect prose on thursdays: the exorcism (and what to teach our children about halloween)


(post by Elizabeth at Just Following Jesus)

My husband, who is a pastor, had just left for a conference out of state when I got the call.  It was someone who attended our church, asking “the pastor” to please come.  They said their loved one was acting crazy and they didn’t know what to do.  I called our associate pastor and asked him to meet me at their home.  As I approached their front door, two city policeman were coming out.  I introduced myself and asked them what was going on inside.  I was shocked at the police officer’s response.  “That person needs an exorcism…”

 

My tummy was too full of butterflies from the excitement to eat my dinner.  I kept looking out the dining room window, anticipating when it would finally be dark enough for us to head out trick or treating up and down the streets of our little suburban town.  It was all so innocent, not scary at all.  Mama and Daddy had assured me that there was no such thing as witches and ghosts, so I knew it was all just pretend.  In fact, back then, it was more about the candy than anything else.

Costumes were as simple as putting on a ten cent mask from the variety store up the street.  The hard plastic masks had holes for eyes, nostrils and mouth, but were notorious for being hot and sweaty from the condensation of warm breath.  Inevitably, at some time during the night, it would end up on top of my head like a cap, held in place by the thin elastic string.  Another costume option was an old sheet with eye holes cut into it, but it was hard to be a ghost and not trip over that dog gone sheet.  Then there was the old standby of dressing like a hobo, wearing some of Daddy’s old clothes with a pillow tucked into the waist of the pants to give the appearance of a fat belly.

As I said, the main object was not the costume, but the candy, so the bigger the candy collecting container the better.  Pillowcases were my preference, and a half a pillowcase full was not uncommon.  The pillowcase bulged with Baby Ruths, Black Cows, Sugar Daddys, Big Hunks, Tootsie Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Bazooka bubblegum, (the kind that came wrapped up with a little comic and gave you a jaw ache before it was chewed soft enough to blow a bubble), homemade popcorn balls or caramel corn, and the occasional disappointing apple or box of raisins.   

There were no worries of getting poisoned or kidnapped, in fact, often people invited you into their house for a donut, a hot drink or maybe a caramel apple.  It was small town America in the 60’s, and Halloween was simple and fun.

I was in high school when the movie The Exorcist came out.  Up to that point, the scariest thing I had ever watched was the Wizard of Oz.  It wasn’t the witch that scared me, it was those creepy flying monkeys!  I never went to see The Exorcist, in fact, I’ve never seen it still.  But a friend gave me a blow by blow description of the movie good enough to scare me good.   I was in high school and ended up downstairs sleeping with my Mama, like some six year old.  That didn’t go on too long before Mama called in the big dogs.  Our minister showed up at our house and had a talk with me about the what the Bible says about satan and his cohorts, and about the power of the God in the life of a believer.  I don’t think I really comprehended much of what He said, but at least Mama got her bed back to herself.

Fifteen years ago was our first Halloween since moving to the city after accepting a new pastorate.  We rented a duplex across the street from an undeveloped lot.   We were awakened Halloween night with the unmistakable sound of the cries of an animal being killed, and looking out the window saw the glow of a fire.  Someone was making a Halloween sacrifice.  All I know is, the Halloween of my childhood, was far, far different from that Halloween night.
 
In the years in the ministry leading up to the call about the person needing an exorcism, my husband and I both took a lot of classes on counseling and inner healing and what some people would call “deliverance”.  We found in counseling people, that most struggle in the areas of unhealed hurts, unmet needs and unresolved issues resulting in unforgiveness and bitterness.  In our counseling we encouraged people to take a body, soul and spirit approach, getting medical help if needed, as well as attacking whatever they were going through spiritually, bringing the light and love of God into the areas of darkness in their life, either caused by past wounds, or current sin issues. We had dealt with many people over the years who were “oppressed” by darkness, but I had personally never seen someone “possessed” in the way the police officer was describing.

When I walked into the house, the person was on the floor, with eyes open but red and glazed over.  The voice that spoke was the person’s own voice, but the words were the words of the one that Jesus said “comes to steal, kill and destroy“.   The voice proceeded to say “I will never let them…” and listed all the hopes, dreams and purposes, that in their right mind, this person had told me.  The voice then proceeded to say “I hate you.  I hate your husband, your church, your family.  I’m going to destroy you.”

It’s strange what runs through your mind when you’re thrust into a situation like that.  “Well, now I know there’s really a God”, I thought, “because now I know there really is a devil.”   Right then and there, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt, that what it says in Colossians 2:10 is true, because as sure as the enemy was working in this person’s life, I felt God’s Spirit rise up within me, Strong and Brave and True.   I felt righteous indignation that the enemy was talking advantage of this person and speaking vile lies against God’s good plan for their life and ours.  I felt no fear, because I knew that I knew, that God’s power in me was greater than the power of the enemy.  I knew that light always overcomes darkness.  In my flesh, I was still that young girl wanting to run and crawl into Mama’s bed, but in my spirit, I was David facing Goliath.  What came out of me was word after word of Truth, in contradiction to every one of the enemy’s lies.  

That night that I saw Darkness face to face changed me forever.  First of all, Mama and Daddy lied.  There really are witches, ghosts and all manner of evil, dark things.   That night, I saw the evidence for myself, but I also saw, felt, and experienced the power of God and His Word.  I recommend that instead of pretending that devils and demons and darkness don’t exist,  we teach about the power of God that works for and through those who love Him.  For example, when my grandbabies are afraid of the dark at Papa and Nana’s house, I don’t poo-poo their fears, but I teach them that our home is full of God and His love and His light, so nothing scary is allowed here.  I teach them about the Strong and Mighty Warrior that lives on the inside of them when they make Jesus “the boss of their life”, (my kid friendly definition of the word Lord).  I teach them these things, because it’s what the Bible says, but also, because I know it’s true.  I’ve seen it for myself.
Still following,

every wednesday and thursday, we gather together to celebrate redemption. here are the details:

1. link up a post (old or new) that you feel is ‘broken’ or ‘imperfect’ or somehow redemptive

2. put the ‘imperfect prose’ button at the bottom of your post, so others can find their way back here (see button code in right-hand column of my blog)

3. read other’s prose, and encourage them!

so won’t you join us, as we “walk each other home”? (ram dass)

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40 Comments

  1. I was always afraid of those creepy, flying monkeys, too. And until I read “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti, I don’t think I understood spiritual warfare. This is a great post.

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  2. Excellent post. Thank you.

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  3. Great writing. Thanks for sharing, Em.

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  4. Wow, such a powerful story. Thanks for sharing!
    Uh, oh, looks like I linked up twice by mistake (couldn’t find my link first time around *blush*)

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  5. There are so many things that are scary and what I try to always hold in my heart is just what you said — light can always triumph over the darkness.

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  6. Misdiagnosis and abuse of people with mental illness is concerning. Unless there is some way to verify that exorcism is valid I would find it very morally and ethically dubious to support it. The danger of amatuer or self diagnosis doesn’t become any lower when you are talking about religious practice, or pop psychology. If you have a loved one you think may be possessed do them a favor and seek a properly trained mental health professional.

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    • hey brad, as someone who’s battled a mental illness (anorexia nervosa) i totally understand your cautioning, here. but as someone who’s also experienced the demonic side of that mental illness (because it certainly isn’t God whispering things like “you’re fat” and “you don’t deserve to live” to young girls who are starving themselves) i can also see the need for more than a doctor’s diagnosis. it takes wisdom on both sides, i believe. so i hear you. :) e.

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    • This is definitely true – I have experienced both sides of it as well. I have dealt with a dissociative disorder in the past, where parts of my personality were fractured from my “everyday” self. I had a very well-known Christian woman whom I trusted more than I should have, tell me that those other parts of me were demons (bc she had encountered a very angry side of my personality – angry at some abuses that had occurred). She took me to a minister for an exorcism. Of course it didn’t work, because you can’t (nor does God want you to) exorcise your own personality, broken apart as it may be. She decided after the failed exorcism that she didn’t have time to be friends with me anymore. But I agree with both of you. It takes wisdom from both sides.

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  7. I cried reading this. Because, I do that. I tell my son to reach for Jesus; that He is bigger than the Dark. And, your words blessed me. Your words were encouragement. Because, poo-pooing these things that are real doesn’t point to Him. Talking about His power does.

    Amen, friend. Amen.

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  8. What a perfect post for this day of the year! Yes, darkness lies in the world, but rejoicing today that…”Greater is HE who is in us than he who is in this world!” May His victorious children rise up, know their full authority in Christ, and fearlessly take over the darkness with His Glorious Light!

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  9. Isn’t that the tension of it all…..we sometimes see God more clearly when we are confronted with the darkness.

    Thank you for sharing!

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  10. We fight not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual darkness. Praise God He gives His armor to protect us from the evil one. Thanks for the great post & for hosting, & God bless!

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  11. Wow, Elizabeth, to see and sense God’s greater power in the face of evil…thanks for sharing; praying God continues to bless and use you and your husband ;)

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  12. Elizabeth, I LOVE this. Girl, you have spoken brave TRUTH!!! I’m so glad you’ve shed some light on issues like this one. As a Christian and growing up in a Christian home, I was taught at a young age about Jesus inside me gives me the power to overcome the enemy that hates us, and that those things are real! Just loved this…
    Blessings!
    Leslie

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  13. Just thought I’d link up some prayers for those “broken” and sorrowing in the aftermath of Sandy… and for our nation…and God’s healing restoration… :)

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  14. I am really glad you wrote this. My parents grew up in Africa, where they saw first hand a lot of the results of people dabbling in the demonic. Brad is right to be cautious in naming demons where there aren’t any, but I have spoken to people who had been demon possessed, and they were instantly released from their distressing condition (which is very rare for mental illnesses) and they described it as though an evil had come in and taken over their body. I have encountered people with severe mental illness, and I have encountered people who would say that they were encouraging demons, and the two are quite different. They feel different – both for the person who is possessed and the person who is praying, But I really agree that we should be very slow to pronounce demonic possession, particularly as mental illness is so common and misunderstood.

    I am also married to a pastor. I am very thankful that we haven’t yet got a call of that nature!

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  15. wow wow wow. Our God is stronger and greater and and more awesome than we realize!

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  16. whoa, such a good and powerful post. When my own daughter was little around 5, I remember her waking up screaming and crying that the devil was after her. He was shaking her window and trying to get her. At first I didn’t know what to believe, but her tears were too real to dismiss.
    So scary, but at the same time I was infuriated that the devil would go after my child like that. This was the first time I saw for myself the very real battle between God and satan.
    Thank you for sharing this!!

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    • oh wow alecia. this is so awful… but i believe it. i believe he’s out to get our children. it makes me so angry and sad. praise God for his love. praise God that he is bigger. xo

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  17. My pastor once talked about Halloween and pointed out that it’s our day to laugh in the face of death because it does not have power over us. That’s what I am going to teach my son – the last great enemy has been defeated. (The post I linked is a little bit about that, actually, shameless plug. haha.)

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  18. Thank you for putting into words what I have believed and felt for so long. I too have had my brushes with the minions of Satan and each time I have felt the righteous anger bubble up that can only come from God, and then I would go all Xena Warrior.

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  19. I just had a long conversation with one of my children who, with a friend, went to see a movie which scared the living daylights out of him. We talked about being created mind, body, and soul; and about how each of these was broken by Adam’s fall. I told him that, as a follower of Christ, his soul has been healed; it is whole before God. We sang hymns and talked about scripture’s promises–there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, nothing can separate him from the love of God. We talked about battling for the truth in these ways because we remain broken in mind and body, and this brokenness can tempt us to doubt the reality of what Christ’s work accomplished.

    I wish he hadn’t seen the movie, but now he knows. Evil is real. But God is greater.

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  20. Beautiful post from my friend, Elizabeth! The truth is such a beautiful thing – especially in the face of evil and the darkness the enemy of our souls brings. Thank you for sharing this today. It’s so needed!
    ~Adrienne~

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  21. An awesome post Elizabeth. You remind me a lot of my sister who is a Pastor also. I am so glad to hear someone stand up about Halloween. People led to believe it’s just innocent fun but it is not. If you’ve ever heard of the book “The Witch that Switched” Irene Parks she will tell you it definitly is not a “fun holiday”. She’s gone on to be with the Lord but her book is a real eye opener to the enemies ways. I thank you my sister in Christ for your boldness and letting God’s Word pour forth from you. The Word and the Blood is two things the enemy hates the most. I know God is proud of you His daughter!!

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    • Thanks Red! I’m trying to visit everyone’s blog to thank them for the comment, but I can’t figure out how to comment on your blog. Hope you see this. :)

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  22. great post …yes concentrate on the Light…but don’t ignore the darkness…this makes me think of this scripture…
    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
    blessings to both of you special ladies~

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  23. Thank you for you reminding me there is Light to lead me down the path when I am surrounded by darkness and many, many obstacles.

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  24. Elizabeth,

    Amen! You said, “I knew that I knew, that God’s power in me was greater than the power of the enemy.” That’s so true, and is the source of our authority. Thank you for sharing this story. My parents have seen such things, and I have seen smaller instances too. It’s real…

    Warmly,
    Jennifer Dougan
    http://www.jenniferdougan.com

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    • Thanks Diane! Can’t find a way to comment back to you on your blog. Hope you see this!

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  25. The sound of the cries of an animal being killed–this gave me chills.

    I’ve been confronted by darkness, and I know the power of the Name.

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  26. Great story… what an amazing series of experiences! I was raised in a family that taught me everything you described in the last paragraph, and was still very very scared. To this day, even though I’m confident in the power of God and Jesus, having seen the ‘manifestations of the evil one’ from a very young age, I am not confident that God always chooses to step in when I’d like him to… don’t know if that makes any sense? But you’re absolutely right in preaching truth into the situation. I like how you say that the experience confirmed beyond the shadow of a doubt for you that there is a God!

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  27. Powerful truth here, the darkness exists, yet the light is more powerful. I cling to the truth that Christ overcomes the dark!

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  28. Oh, the darkness is so real, and we must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Grateful for the power and courage and light of our God. Thank you for this story.

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  29. Your description of Halloween as a child is so perfectly similar to my memories! As a mother of nine, we have chosen not to celebrate Halloween, something about the few that do glorify evil and not wanting to be a part of that. I do realize that the vast majority are just having fun, and I don’t judge them at all for it. Your Faith being built up so strong after your encounter so close to evil is encouraging!

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    • Thanks so much Renee! Tried to see if you have a blog for me to visit you on but guess not. Hope you see this!

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  30. I know that righteous indignation when the Holy Spirit takes over and allows you to participate. Great post

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  31. Amen, Elizabeth.
    Ephesians 6:12 NIV
    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

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  32. A gripping story here. Wow. So eye-opening. Thanks for sharing. It can feel risky, I think, to share about this kind of darkness. But it’s important. Thank you.

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