A silly little experiment in chance or providence: Determined to blog about the result — whatever it may be ((If it was a series of “begats,” then that’s just what this post would have been about.)) — I closed my eyes, opened my Bible, and pointed at a passage.
Judging by the thickness of the pages, I would have expected to open my eyes to one of the Minor Prophets, but instead a passage from Luke sat there on the page before me:
Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. Luke 8:1–3
These three little verses provide a springboard to go any number of different ways here, but what first caught my attention was the phrase “who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.” That, as you can see, refers to Mary of Magdala, from whom seven demons had been cast out.
It’s interesting my eyes should fall upon this passage first for I have been thinking a lot lately about my own “close encounters” with the spirit world.
It all began in middle school.
For whatever reason, I, along with a couple of friends, became quite interested in ancient mythologies, particularly that of Egypt. ((Eventually, Greek mythology would become my favorite, with Norse following closely behind.)) The interest grew and, in addition to being shared by several more friends, began to include subjects like aliens & UFOs, vampirism, lycanthropy, ((For all you laymen, lycanthropy is the technical term for being, or believing oneself to be, a werewolf.)) ghosts, Wicca (ever so briefly), parapsychology, dreams, and so much more.
Yeah, that probably made us dorks, and I was probably the most “into” all of this than anyone. I filled notebooks with mythology information and even determined that a map of my neighborhood which included friends’ houses as well as our hang-out spots resembled the constellation Orion.
To this day, I can spot Orion in the sky within seconds.
And I even organized a mostly unorganized little group called the Paranormal Investigators. We had a Web page before having a Web page was cool. Oh, yeah!
All of this was fairly “innocent”; we tried to determine whether any of us possessed any psychic abilities and on more than one occasion we attempted to “share” dreams by focusing on predetermined locations and events prior to sleeping.
During that time, I had a very vivid dream about the rapture of the Church — myself getting left behind — before I ever knew a thing about the rapture. I never did share a dream with any of my compatriots, however.
Then there was the dream about the 200-foot tall Jesus sword-fighting with a 200-foot tall Devil. I think I watched too much Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers back then… Did I mention I was a dork?
Things began to get a bit freaky when Michael — one of the aforementioned best friends — attacked Amanda — another friend on the “Orion map” — during a game of backyard football. For no reason.
Sometime during that time (probably the night before or after, if I remember correctly), Michael found inexplicable scratches on his back as though he had been attacked by something in his sleep.
And for a few weeks after that, he seemed changed. Disconnected.
Walking to school one morning with Michael and Jason, Jason & I turned around to find that Michael was frozen in his tracks about a block back.
Strange behavior like that persisted until Michael finally opened up to us about what was going on. By his account — which he continually swore as true even as we grew up — he was seeing some sort of spirit(s).
What he described (and later drew) was a black, ethereal being that roughly took humanoid form, beings which demanded threateningly that he do things. There was the explanation for the inexplicable attack on Amanda during the football game and all of the odd behavior since.
I think it was Chris — who is today an assistant pastor — who first brought the Bible into this whole ordeal involving Michael. His solution?
Cast the demons out.
A good ol’ fashioned exorcism.
Yeah, I know. I can see you rolling your eyes (if you haven’t been this whole time). You have your experiences; I have mine… I’m just relating what happened.
Chris’ idea was the best one we had, so we ran with it. I think there were five of us that day — Michael, Chris, Jason, Randy, and myself — who, Bibles in hand, went to Michael’s house.
We were all given very specific jobs. I don’t remember what we all did; some of us prayed, Chris communicated our intentions to the demons and demanded they leave, and I read from the Scriptures, a passage about Jesus casting out demons, showing forth His authority over evil.
Whatever took place that day, it seems to have worked. Michael was normal after that — as normal as a young, teenage guy can be, I suppose.
Flash forward half a decade or so.
I had lost contact with most of the guys — an unfortunate side effect of growing up along divergent paths — and had fallen in with a new crowd, specifically an independent Baptist church.
Given my past interests, I took to learning theology very eagerly and once I learned certain areas of doctrine existed, I rejoiced and avidly studied them: angelology, demonology, satanology, and eschatology.
Surprisingly, at least to me, what I learned reinforced the experiences of years gone by.
I also learned that we were perhaps risking our lives during that exorcism. Evidently, demons don’t like to be cast out, and sometimes they may just turn on the one doing the casting:
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus, whom Paul proclaims.” 14Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. Acts 19:13–16
The five of us running from Michael’s house beaten & naked… What a sight that would’ve been.
A few months passed, months filled with learning the Christian doctrine and (most importantly) my conversion when the Lord saved me in August of ’01.
Shortly thereafter, I’d have my closest encounter with the spirit world yet — barring, of course, the newfound intimate relation with God.
In my room alone late one night, I was in bed with the lights off, not really tired, but needing to go to sleep regardless. I point out here that my room had white-painted walls and doors and that the room, even though the lights were off, was lit fairly well by the nearby streetlight.
Waiting for the sandman, so to speak, I turned to get more comfortable and my eyes fell upon… well… fell upon what I can only assume was the same thing that accosted Michael all those years before.
There in front of my door was a black figure, ghostlike in appearance, and clearly facing in my direction.
I froze. Absolute terror seized my body, terror that I had never known before or since. I could neither move my body nor avert my eyes, and in my panic, I did the only thing that I knew to do.
The paralyzing terror lifted just enough to let me leap to my feet and flea my room; everything happened so quickly after that prayer that I can only assume I ran through the intruding spirit.
A little while later I returned to my room, and within a week I prayed all throughout my room, anointing the walls with oil.
I still don’t remember how I came up with that idea, but I do know that the oil symbolized the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Never again was I bothered by the spirit.
Even though the experience introduced me to a level of fear that I didn’t even know was possible, I’m thankful for it. Not only did it confirm that whatever happened to Michael really could have been happening just as he said, but it also confirmed once and for all time that this world is not all there is.
For whatever reason, God granted this bit of external, visual confirmation of the spirit world in my life. I’ll never forget the experience or how it changed how I viewed certain passages of Scripture…
…like the one about a woman named Mary, a woman rescued from seven demons.
And to think, I was terrified when confronted with just one.