RobbyMac on his site the other day was talking about his first “charismatic” experience or when he sensed the Holy Spirit for the first time. He challenged those who tend to call themselves post-charismatic to remember the days when it was all right and new. He asks us for our stories of how we first became acquainted with and eager for the felt presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I thought I would participate as it is a story that I would like to record for myself and my family. It is long - sorry. (I'm breaking my rule believing in short posts.) If you want to read along, get a cup of coffee or a glass of wine :)
In this post I am going to touch on a lot of sensitive subjects. Dispensationalism, Tongues, Demons, Deliverance and filling of the Holy Spirit. I do not mean to alienate any one person. The people who read here a very dear to me. Today, I barely care what you think of those subjects. I am more concerned if you love the Father and understand how He loves you. I want to know if you are loving God with all your heart and soul and loving others. So please just read the story and don’t get caught up in the theology of what I believed then or now. It is my story. I’m not embellishing. It was real. I don’t have chapter and verse for everything I just know what happened to me. I do not wish to debate any of it. I just hope it gives hope to someone who is tied up in the grips of Fear or wanting to know if the Holy Spirit can be felt in a tangible way.
I was raised in a fundamental Bible church. We were there Sunday mornings for the gospel message, Sunday nights for the sermons on the End Times and Rapture and Wednesday nights for Choir practice, youth groups and the Old or New Testament Book studies - verse by verse. It was there that I first heard about the “abuses” of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Mostly we were taught that He was given at Pentecost with signs and wonders and tongues but God did not do all that stuff today. We were in another dispensation. Tongues were of the devil. We were filled with the Holy Spirit at salvation and that’s all of Him that we would ever get or need.
I want to mention here that I was raised with Fear. My mom was fearful of everything. She instilled early on that really bad things were lurking out there. Mostly, we were not verbally taught this - we just caught it. I was fearful as a child. I would have visions of bad things happening to me, my sister or my parents. I could “See” these things as if they were playing on TV. God played into this too. He was to be feared. He might come back in the Rapture and I would not be taken. He would cause me to be sick if I sinned. My life was played out on a tightrope of trying not to be in his wrath or even bad graces. I was afraid of hell. Even though we were taught that we would not loose our salvation the church taught that God was not ever really happy with us. - At least that is my take on it.
Along in my 30’s we had gotten involved in a semi-charismatic expression of church. We didn’t do all the ‘weird’ stuff but now we believed it existed. The Vineyard was just coming to prominence and we studied the charismatic teachings of Wimber and Jack Deere.
One thing our church did believe in and practice was the ability to cast out demons. We practiced on each other, cast out anything that sounded like it was of the enemy and generally, in my opinion, went way to far with this. But it was exciting and every once in a while someone’s life truly seemed to be changed.
One night I was called in to help pray for a girl who had a diagnosed brain tumor. She had severe vertigo and was going in to see the surgeon the next day. The cat scan showed the tumor plainly. The pastor of our little church plant/student work, my husband, and I all gathered that night to pray for this girl. The pastor was leading the session, I was there for prayer support. They wrestled with the demon that manifested for most of the evening. Finally I got impatient with them and frustrated that nothing was happening. Thinking that I could do a much better job, I broke in, grabbed her hands in mine and firmly commanded the spirit to come out of her in Jesus name.
My hands tingled like they were shocked with electricity and my world spun. I was knocked off balance and went to the floor. She was elated as she felt something leave her. I was panic stricken. I had never felt anything remotely like this. I was nauseous and dizzy from that moment on. As you can imagine I was frightened out of my wits. The guys prayed for me but the feelings did not subside. We left that night and I stayed dizzy.
The story is very long from there. The girl was healed as she asked the doctors to do one more cat scan before they operated. The tumor was gone, she was no longer dizzy and even other unrelated symptoms like where she had been severely lactose intolerant before that night she now was completely healed. We are friends to this day.
I was not ok. I tried to find anyone who could help me. I called the charismatic churches in the area and no one believed my story. They believed that Christians could not have a demon oppressing them as I described. I just knew what had happened to me. I prayed, I fasted, I asked forgiveness for every sin I ever committed. I asked forgiveness from everyone I knew. I was sure that some sin had allowed this to enter my body. (To this day, I’m still not sure what allowed it - and other than the Grace of God- probably just plain pride if I were to look at my life then) I read the Bible during this time like it was a lifeline. I felt that I was going to lose my mind. I truly feared that I would end up on a psyche ward. I refused to take meds for this because I KNEW when it had started and knew it was not a normal sickness.
It was during this time that the Spirit of God came to me in a real way that I will never forget. I was laying on my bed one night. I had finally gotten to the point where I was tired of being afraid. I had told the enemy that he might be able to touch my body. He was certainly able to mess with my life. My fears of being good enough to win God’s protection had not worked. So I drew a line in the sand and told the enemy that though he might be able to take everything away from me I was not going to EVER let him have my worship. I would go down loving God and worshiping Him. Nothing would deter me. He could not win this one. That was my last stand.
I then asked the Father to become as real to me as this presence that was tormenting me. If it was real, then the Holy Spirit had to be just as real. I told Him I wanted to feel him as real as I felt the dizziness.
One night soon after that prayer, I was lying in my bed and suddenly, for no reason at all, I was overcome with joy like I had NEVER experienced. It was so tangible that it was like liquid honey but with bubbles as light as air. Joy filled me up and spilled over. I chose not wake Husband laying by my side. I just stayed there with joy unspeakable telling Jesus how much I loved him over and over again. I fell asleep that night in peace.
The next day I was worshiping to music and from out of nowhere a new language bubbled up from deep within me. I had never heard ‘tongues’ ever spoken in my life. But here I was joyfully babbling in a language that felt like I was a little girl pretending to speak a different language. I could start and stop it. It did not “take me over.” It was my choice but again I felt that syrupy, bubbly, honey of joy and peace. This language would become a solid rock for me in a world that was literally swirling in the days to come.
I wish I could say that the dizziness, fear and nausea disappeared that night that the Holy Spirit filled me. It didn’t. They were my constant companion. But little by little I learned that I was not going to choose to be afraid. In many ways it was like lifting weights. I could only lift about 2 pounds to begin with and then only do 5 reps. I could only weakly say to the fear and this thing that I lived with - I won’t be afraid of you. But slowly, like in lifting weights, I could lift more. I could command the dizziness to stop and it started to stop. It would come back and I again would stand against it. Over the course of a few years I would get so strong in my faith that it became easy. I would tell it, “GO - GET OUT OF HERE!!” And it would obey. It was about a 8 year process. It does not bother me today except every now and then when I share this story with someone a bit of dizziness threatens to come back. I now simply scoff at it and throw it out as I would a stray mangy cat that jumped to my dining table.
I tell this story for a few reasons.
1) I HATE fear. Fear of any kind is my personal enemy. I want to encourage you not to live with it. Even if it takes years to get its prongs out of you - battle it. Fear is not normal. God is bigger - you are stronger! Peace is possible. Talk to someone who is hardly ever fearful. You can be like them.
2) I truly believe that the enemy wanted to win this one. BUT God had different plans. He wanted me delivered from the fear that bound my heart and life. He wanted me to war against fear. It was the kindest thing that God has ever allowed me to go through. It was the worst and best experience of my life. He could have delivered me with the first persons that prayed for me. He chose to let me battle this one myself with His help and thus allow me to be strengthened in a way that could not have come otherwise. I trust His hand in my life with whatever he brings to my life. God can take the worst of situations and use them for our good.
3) I tell this story for one other reason. The enemy played his hand out and to this day I would take a bullet to the head in defense that I KNOW there is a spirit realm. This is not something taught in my doctrine classes. This is a real knowledge that I know I know. I may doubt greater things in my life. I may doubt sometimes in the very Bible being inspired or infallible (I choose to believe this one). I may doubt other things that I then choose to have faith to believe but this one thing I do not need faith for. I know that the enemy is real and the Holy Spirit is just as real. He is a comforter and he is my peace. His presence can be felt. He is real!