It always started with a strange crawling sensation in my scalp. I would see colors and textures flashing in front of my eyes, and then I would hear the voices. I could never understand what they were saying, but they were always angry. Loud angry voices, screaming at me in my head. Sometimes they would get so loud, that it was difficult to hear anything going on around me.
It happened the first time when I was eight years old, and after it came back two or three times over the period of a month, I tried to explain to my Dad what was happening.
Dad listened, and then told me very seriously that this was spiritual. Satan was trying to attack me. He knew because he experienced spiritual attack many times before. He also told me that I had always been spiritually sensitive, and remembered a time when I was a toddler and had woke up screaming in the middle of the night. Apparently, I had run into the living room, and when my parents tried to comfort me I acted as though I was afraid of them. I ran away screaming towards the window, and then recoiled from the glass as if I saw something outside the window. The only thing that had calmed me down was when my Dad rebuked Satan in the name of Jesus, then I had relaxed.
He told me that it was very important that I never try to communicate with these voices, or even try to understand what they were saying. And if it happened again I could come and tell him and as my spiritual authority he would pray for me. I continued hearing the voices from time to time, and I would always go to my Dad who would pray over me rebuking Satan, and every time the voices would go away.
It got more frequent when I was a teen. It would come on so suddenly, and it was often so intense that I felt as though I was going to black out. I would try to pray it away by myself, and sometimes the voices would recede, but most of the time it required the prayer of my Dad. I asked my parents why Satan was after me, and I was told that it could be because I was the oldest child in our family, Satan always wants to get the oldest child. I also had to be careful that I wasn’t opening the door to let Satan in, as long as I stayed obedient to my parents in every way, dressed modestly, never listened to worldly music or read worldly books, I would remain under the umbrella of spiritual protection from my father. If I was rebelling, that was like inviting the devil in.
It got a little better after I got married, but I would still wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety, nightmares, and the voices. I would wake up my husband (since he was now my spiritual protection) and ask him to pray for me. And usually, it would go away.
In the last 18 months, these episodes have gotten fewer and fewer until they stopped entirely. Actually, I’m not even sure when the last time was. I’m not even afraid of it happening anymore. I find myself wondering what it was in the first place. If my parents were correct, and it was spiritual, these attacks should have been increasing. The last two years I have been the least religious I have ever been. Yes, I still go to church (I am the Pastor’s wife after all) but I read very little Bible, pray infrequently, and I’ve questioned the very existence of God. Surely I would be at my most vulnerable at this point in my life?
My parents talked about God and God’s will all the time. Everything that they did was attributed to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The only reason anyone else did anything differently, was because they hadn’t opened themselves to the Spirit the way my parents had.
I was kind of in awe of my Dad’s spiritual power. My Dad often shared stories of his experiences with God. As a child he had heard God’s voice, been miraculously healed, seen visions, gotten miraculous signs and had prophetic dreams. Dad talked about possible outcomes of future events based on his interpretations of the book of Revelation, he had dreams from God, and he often interpreted my own dreams for me. If only I could have a connection with God like he did.
So I prayed. I fasted. I read and meditated on book after book of my bible. I have a journal of written prayers from that time begging God to draw me closer to him, to help me open myself up to a deeper relationship with Him, to help me to feel His love.
And nothing happened. It was only because I wasn’t open enough right? It certainly couldn’t be God’s fault, it had to be mine. I couldn’t understand why God ignored me. Was it the sin in my life? I was truly trying to submit to my parents and live as godly as I could. I was spending all of my free time searching after him. I was begging him on my knees and on my face, often crying with frustration. Nothing. No warm feelings of God’s presence, no outpouring of God’s spirit, no connection. Not even relief from the “spiritual attacks” that plagued me.
I wasn’t good enough for God. Despite all the ways my parents hurt me, they had God’s blessing and involvement in their lives, God must agree with their criticisms of me, or surely he would respond. I felt so ashamed of being such a “bad christian”. Eventually (after many months) I gave up. I still prayed, and read the word, but I had accepted that I was not going to have a spiritual anointing from God.
I don’t see charismatic spiritual experience as part of a relationship with God anymore. I think it might be more based on someone’s personality than someone’s relationship with God. Spiritual experience certainly isn’t confined by a certain expression of Christianity. People of all faiths claim to have these anointed, out-of-body, drunk in the spirit, filled with God’s love/presence type of experiences. I think some people have these surreal experiences and others don’t, it has nothing to do with how close they are to God.
I’ve had these warm loving spiritual moments very rarely, (I describe what I consider to be one of them here) if my relationship with God is to measured by my spiritual feelings or experiences, I’ve only had “real” relationship with God a handful of times in my life. Right now? I don’t feel like I have the answers I used to. I still want to believe God is there, and that He is loving. But I am no longer waiting for Him to reveal Himself to me a relational way. If I continue to believe in God, it isn’t because of emotional connection with that God. God isn’t waiting for me to open up enough, or surrender enough, or obey enough, before He makes His presence known in my life. I can’t live my faith life seeking one elusive spiritual high after another, and feeling spiritually dry and starved for God in between.
I believe that all people are worthy of love and acceptance regardless of who they are or what they do. I believe that I can make a difference in the lives of the people around me. And I hold onto my faith not by having warm loving feelings of relationship, but by hoping that there could be something beyond this earth and this life.