It's been eight months since I've left Costa Rica and three months till I go back. I'm so thankful God has given me a long time to process my last experience... not that I'm done thinking about it. A life changing event like that tends to stick with you daily even if you don't speak of it openly. It's often running in the background of my mind shaping my thoughts, actions and perspective. It has led me to pursue a deeper understanding of verses and passages in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, that deal with such unseen issues. I mean really, what Christian hasn't heard of angles, demons, and spiritual warfare? It's right there in black and white, yet I'm not sure why I tend to think of it in an intellectual way rather than practical advice for daily living. The Bible speaks of the seen and the unseen, but I confess I have been more willing to believe in the former. As for the latter, I just try not to think about it too much, yet we read that Jesus spent a fair amount of time dealing with the latter. Why would this be if not to instruct us on such matters?
With that question, I dove in deep. I started reading book after book about understanding the enemy. Who is satan? [not giving him an uppercase letter] What are demons? What does an attack look like? Under what conditions is it likely to occur? So many questions. I also started studying the Bible with new vigor. With highlighter in hand, I zeroed in on all the places where it mentions demons, satan, and the Holy Spirit's role in all of this. While I know it is not right to become too overly focused in this area, I also know that for far too long I have chosen to under-accentuate it. My prayer life has also taken a place front and center. It is by communication [prayer] directly with God through Jesus that my eyes have been opened to things my brain has become dull to. It's not surprising living in a secular world that some things have become acceptable to us (speaking of Christians) even though they are really opening the door for demons to attack and oppress. Am I sounding wacky? Let me clarify.
A Christian can not be fully possessed by a demon because we have the Holy Spirit in us; however, we can open areas of our life up to attack because we invite them in. Here's an example from my life of something that illustrates this point. Over the course of time my thought-life became polluted. I didn't even realize it was happening until one day my kids asked me why I listened to 80's music all the time. "I don't know," I answered. "I guess it's because it reminds me of the parties I used to go to." Trust me when I tell you that nothing of God was going on at those parties worth remembering! The more I listened to it, the farther my thoughts were away from anything spiritual. Even worse, I had thoughts of guilt and shame even though I know that when I came to Christ I've been forgiven for past sins. I had thoughts of what might have been if things worked out differently. I had thoughts that tempted me to reach out to influences from the past that would be best left in the past. I was thinking constantly about stuff I hadn't thought about in years almost to the exclusion of what was going on around me in the present. Satan found a weak spot in me yet in the beginning I dismissed it as just music on the radio. Now I see it as spiritual warfare. I innocently invited one of satan's minions (called "the demon of past sins") to mess with me by conjuring up memories of the past. What did I do? I confessed my sin to God, I demanded the 80's demon to leave me alone (I pictured it sailing away like Duran Duran in Rio), and I filled my soul with lots of Christian music. Am I saying that 80's music is evil? No of course not. But for me, it just might have been. And remarkably, since my prayer time, I have had a peace that passes all understanding with no thoughts of that decade marked with so much willful sin.
My next question is in what other areas of life have I (or my fellow Christian friends) compromised on that might carry more weight? Movies, TV, books, music... those things are obvious. But I wonder about the not so obvious things that our culture has made acceptable or "Christianish" like yoga (which promises to be a good way to stretch especially while done on the beach during sunrise), essential oils (which promise to help with many medical issues, depression, focus and concentration), taekwondo (which we did for a few years at a place with a Christian logo on the window), and karate (which my son also practiced). What are the origins of these things and can they be separated from their occult beginnings? If you are uncomfortable with me characterizing them as 'occult' I understand; I am to. But the Bible says the occult is any practice that tries to gain supernatural power, abilities, or knowledge apart from the creator God. The aforementioned practices all come from Eastern based religions. Feel free to do some research because you will not find Jesus practicing yoga, wearing a gi, or using a diffuser (although I understand oils were common in Biblical times but not with the same promises made today). These are examples of things that are challenging my comfortable Christian suburban homeschooling way of thinking. What if these things invite unwanted spiritual warfare into my life? What if some of the things I've pursued are actually offensive to God? or at very least... how many things can satan take credit for? Before Costa Rica I blindly went along with the research and testimonies of success with no consideration for the source. Now I can't help but be convicted that the choices I make every day truly do make a difference in the unseen world that is all around me (and all of us!).
Speaking of the unseen world, isn't it interesting how our culture in America is just obsessed with Harry Potter, Halloween, vampires, zombies, paranormal/ghost reality shows, mediums, teenage werewolf's, etc? It's not just secular people who are partaking in these things. My kids have dressed up every year for Halloween. It's almost the most popular holiday in America. But what does it honor? Or who does it honor? Can it be separate from the real-live satan? When I was attacked by some kind of evil spirit in the nursery in Costa Rica, it was not cute and fun like some kid with a white sheet over his head dressed up like a ghost. It was dark, powerful, ugly, forceful, menacing, and evil. It reminded me of some of the things I've seen in a Halloween shop. How must God feel when he see me dressing the kids up for some family-friendly event in honor of his biggest enemy? Have I become comfortable being double-minded, i.e. a professing Christian most of the time but sometimes, when it's convenient for me, a person who pays more attention to popular culture and wisdom than what the Bible teaches?
And on a final note, what about kids? Are they exempt from this spiritual battle until they reach 18? To tell you the truth I hadn't thought about it much. I never considered that when a young child is abused in some way that it is open for spiritual attack through no fault of their own and this experience can haunt them (literally) for a life time if not properly addressed even if a profession of faith is made at a later time. I never considered that my own kids, who have grown up in a loving Christian home, can be open to spiritual attack from something simple like a trinket from a foreign country to something more serious like obsessive video game playing, pride, anger, or selfishness. When I hear one of my kids say they are not smart, no good, or not interested in anything, I know that those thoughts are not from God. Who's talking to them? Who told them that? It wasn't their dad or I. Why is it that a young Believer, who knows that they are a daughter or son of the King, still believe that they are worth so little? Is it possible that through an experience/music/relationship/etc. that something unseen was allowed to gain access and continues to speak lies to them even though they are Christians who show up to youth group each week? I am beginning to see the connection between daily choices and how they can open us up to thoughts and attitudes which eventually can turn into behaviors that are devastating (and quite common) like eating disorders, cutting, drug/alcohol abuse, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, sexual promiscuity, and many others. Would my kids make better choices if they could see the enemy with their own eyes? Imagine a swarm of flies buzzing around a Rated R DVD. If I told them the flies would transfer from the movie to them while they are watching it and would buzz around them mercilessly day after day, would they still watch it? The flies wouldn't kill them, but they would make life difficult and would hinder their desire to be around people who have no flies buzzing around. I know they would think twice. That's why our family has spent a great deal of time learning about spiritual warfare. I want them to understand the enemy, recognize an attack from a mile away, believe that the choices they make do make a difference, and know how both to pray for protection as well as pray for victory over past events. Jesus has already won the war, but the battle continues in the unseen world and unfortunately no one gets to sit on the sidelines. You are in it even if you find this blog to be completely ridiculous.
My experience last year in Costa Rica was not an isolated incident. Since I've been back in the States, I have had other encounters with the unseen although none quite as intense as my first experience. For those with a curious nature I'll share what has been going on in Part 2 of "The Time In Between". If you are interested in further study on spiritual warfare, I can provide a list of books and lectures that explain it clearly from a Christian perspective without hysterics or Hollywood drama. And finally, if you find fault with my logic or don't agree with my summation, that's okay. This entry is merely me putting words to my thoughts while I try to make sense of a super natural experience.