Remember when you were a kid and would go to the circus or the carnival? Sure, there were elephants and chimps, usually crapping everywhere. The air was scented with cotton candy, popcorn and the smell of animals. I remember the games, balloons, darts, tossing things. Besides the lion tamers and the freak show part of the carnival there were usually fortune tellers, people that would look at your palm or into a cheap hunk of round glass and predict you’d meet a tall, dark and handsome stranger. It was exciting and thrilling, wasn’t it, when you were a kid?
When I was a member of Possum Creek Christian Fellowship we used to have something like that, but we called it a ‘conference’. Sometimes there were people there that purported to hear from God for you. They didn’t have crystal balls or tea leaves in the bottom of delicate porcelain cups.
At first I thought it was as equally ridiculous as the palm readers and fortune tellers of the circus even if you weren’t being told something as mundane as the ‘tall dark and handsome’ thing. I recall scoffing over it, saying there was no earthly way the things you were being told were real. But eventually, with enough time and drinking the Kool-Aid I started to believe in these ecclesiastical fortune tellers too.
I’d forgotten about this aspect of my old life until this week. I spent the week clearing out the large storage room over our garage. It’s being set up as my design studio, with all my art supplies, drawing desk and computers for those side jobs I’ve been taking on recently to supplement my studio and teaching income. I found a box that contained my old Bible and various tracts, photos and journals from my years at PCCF.
One of the more interesting bits were three pages of notes from an intense ministry weekend that my husband James and I attended about seven and half years ago. You have to realize this wasn’t long after James had confessed to a depression so deep that it made him consider suicide. He wasn’t long out of the mental ward. None of us knew at that point that it was a combination of internal dissonance between what he knew and believed and what the men of our church were pressuring him to believe. We didn’t know about his chemical imbalance due to a parathyroid gland tumor. We just knew he was deeply unhappy when our life was nearly perfect in most ways.
At a conference at RCCF a big ministry from the Wilmington, North Carolina area was claiming to heal people of depression and many other ‘spiritual’ problems by deliverance ministry, prophetic words from God and prayer. Somehow James got to talking to them and before I knew it scheduled us to go down for a ‘deliverance’ on Thanksgiving weekend.
I was furious, even if I did at that time believe people with various prophetic words for me that were supposedly from the Lord. I was furious I was being drug away from my children during a family holiday for something I did not want to do. I felt no need for ‘deliverance’. Part of me seriously feared what they might say.
We went. It wasn’t helpful, it was just all kinds of weird. It might have fit in well with a freak show or circus somewhere.
But at least we stayed oceanside and I got to walk on the beach for long stretches and sit in the mostly deserted hotel hot tub.
When we arrived we were separated, James went with two men from the church and I was left with two ladies. I was surprised by the way they were dressed. No frumpers but there was no modesty either, both were wearing tight, low cut and very revealing clothing with do-me type shoes. Loads of makeup and big big hair. This really puzzled me till the end when both told me that they were recently divorced and looking for another man.
So what did these two tell me about myself and my husband? That my husband had a demon of rage in him that might harm me one day. I laughed, James is a pussy cat and not violent at all. Other idiotic things were said, like they wanted to know what I’d been doing the night before at 3 am. Uh, that would be sleeping. But the biggest thing they kept harping on was their insistence that I was having an affair with someone named ‘Wally’ or ‘Walt’. I laughed again and told them the only ‘Wally’ I knew of was Beaver Cleaver’s older brother on the “Leave It To Beaver” show. They kept telling me I was having this ‘affair’ and I angrily rebutted that notion between bouts of laughing and asking where was all this hot sex I was supposed to be having because I sure didn’t remember it.
After a futile and uncomfortable two hour session we agreed that this was accomplishing exactly nothing and I was released to go back to the hotel along with a copy of the notes these ladies had of what God had revealed to them. Most of it was was innocuous stuff, like saying I struggled with an enormous sense of frustration, yeah, probably because I was being drug to this crap during a family holiday. But the notes did contain reference to an affair with this mysterious ‘Wally’
When I inquired about my husband James I was informed he wasn’t ‘ready’ yet. The ministry team kept him a total of eight hours before calling me down to pick him up. When I got there he was like a smiling zombie, didn’t say much, just wanted to hug and hug and hug. The ministry teamed also gave me the notes from James session as well. I barely glanced at the papers.
Nothing really changed after we got home. James still struggled with depression and I just kept moving forward as best I knew how. We never discussed our Thanksgiving weekend deliverance sessions. I felt guilty for not buying into what they told us and being non supportive towards James during this ministry for a very long time afterward.
Finding the notes from the ministry made me chuckle because not only were my notes there outlining the supposed affair with ‘Wally’ and my sense of frustration and futility there were the notes from James session. I laughed hard, so hard I scared my cats as I read through his. The notes said that James adored ‘Star Wars’ and loved to fish, both so wrong it was comical. The notes went on to list some of his problems as infidelity, pornography and adultery, again so completely one hundred and eighty degrees from his true nature.
After reading through I could not resist calling up James at work and needling him about his supposed affair/infidelity and pornography problems. When he got home we both shared a good laugh at the utter ridiculousness of the hand written words and supposed information from God about our problems. I think a faux gypsy with a crystal ball from Target could have done a more accurate job than this ministry did. The arrogance of proclaiming all this crap and blaming it on God.
I feel sorry for all those desperate people this ministry preyed on under the guise of helping them. This type of thing merely causes more damage. I shudder to think what could have happened had we both been younger, more desperate and eager to believe that each of us was engaging in some sort of affair, how that would have shattered our bond and thrown our family in even more chaos.
I’m keeping the notes as a reminder that fortune tellers of all stripes, religious or not, cause more harm than good.
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