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.
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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