I ran in the house, pressed my back against the door and sighed, the chase was over. “You’re real, aren’t you?” I asked. The overwhelming love of God enveloped me and I began to weep tears of joy that could not be contained. My surrender had been a long time in coming. I fought against it as hard as I knew how. Thankfully, I did not win that fight.
I was a runner, you see, and had run from all kinds of things my whole life. Running and hiding was just what I did. Why did I run? In my mind, I had already blown it there was nothing I could do or say that would change my standing with God. I was afraid of Him and I knew God was mad at me and because of that, I wanted to stay hidden and as far away from Him as possible; I didn’t want to have anything to do with Him. I was afraid that if I looked at Him, He would see me and remember how much of a disappointment I was, how bad I was and had been. And since that was my belief, that was my reality.
Back in the late summer of 2005, I began feeling like ‘someone’ was calling me or pursuing me. I couldn’t explain it nor did I tell anyone, especially Paul. He had gone all Jesus on me and was acting weird and peculiar enough as it was – he was the last person I wanted to talk to about these things. The feeling was a little unsettling.
As a family, we had started attending a Methodist church in the neighborhood. Paul said something to the effect of, “God told me I was to go there for one year on assignment.” I had no idea what that meant other than another example of Paul acting weird and being spiritual, again. My attitude was basically one of whatever; I could have cared less why we were attending.
At this new church, I had expectations of finding new friends and families we could interact with, as we had done at our previous church. We had only been in the neighborhood for a month or so and meeting new people who might live nearby was definitely going to be great. Or so I thought. My first encounter was pretty dismal and sad. There wasn’t much joy at all. The conversations with everyone I spoke with were so negative and full of hopelessness that I actually felt a little depressed by the time I left. Ick! People looked at me as if to say, “Just you wait and see. Things are bad and will only get worse!” No one was simply glad to see us or welcome us in.
My first impression was not great, to say the least. I left that day thinking; I really don’t want to go back anymore. Only bad things happened to these people and they were expecting more bad things any minute. Who needed that? I had enough stuff in my own life!
During this time, Paul spent his Saturday’s praying with a Healing Room ministry. When the adult Sunday school teacher discovered this she invited Paul to teach a few classes on healing. Paul had shared with me about his prayer sessions and the people he prayed for so I knew a tiny bit about the concept, but I didn’t really think about it too much, I wasn’t interested.
Paul agreed to teach the class two or three Sundays in a row. I must say, it was a pretty eye-opening experience for me; I can only say wow, what an introduction to spiritual warfare! (And I didn’t even know what that was). What Paul didn’t know was that for every problem that someone had in that room, God was to blame. Apparently, just about everyone was a victim of some sort of accident, illness or family crisis. They blamed God for taking their son from them in a car accident. They blamed God for giving their father cancer. They even blamed God for their financial woes.
All this blame that was being put on God grieved me in a way I couldn’t explain. Even though I was afraid of God and how He might punish me, this didn’t sit well. It didn’t feel right. Have you ever been in a room, trying to teach about God’s love and His desire to heal with a bunch of people who just want to crucify Him all over again? That’s what it felt like while Paul was teaching. A lot of anger got stirred up and Paul was being attacked over and over again.
I’m mentioning this because this is the place where God started waking me up. I began to see a tangible collision of light and darkness with my own eyes. I saw the battle Paul was fighting and began to try and defend him. Verbally that did no good so I began to battle for him in intercession, even though I had no clue that that was what I was doing. I began to cry out for his honor, his safety (seriously) and his heart. I did all this in my head so I wouldn’t be attacked too.
The following week, Paul enlisted some of his friends from the Healing Rooms to join him while he tried to teach again. One person got healed while nine got angrier.
Have you ever noticed that victims take no responsibility or blame for anything that has happened in their lives? Everyone else is to blame for decisions they made or decisions they didn’t make. I came face to face with the victim spirit those Sundays and even though I had no clue what it was, I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t know that some people become what had happened to them, or that they got comfortable with this identity so much that they would fight to stay there.
These sessions stirred up so many things in me. There was a passion growing inside me that I couldn’t explain. There was also a longing for the things I had been seeing and experiencing to be true. I couldn’t talk to Paul about it because I was afraid he would laugh at me and I would be ashamed, and then I would find out that I was wrong. I didn’t want to share these things with anyone who I thought might dismiss them as silly because as long as they were only mine and in my head, I could hope, even though that was a word I could afford to even say out loud.
After the Sunday school class episodes, one of Paul’s friends tried to connect with me and invite me to a book study they were about to have. I declined because I didn’t feel like it was something for me at all, I wasn’t interested in church. Over the next few months, she continued to invite me; by phone, by flyer, by postcards, email, etc. The book they were going to be reading was Captivating by Staci Eldridge.
Also at this time, in August my dad was diagnosed with throat cancer. This really scared me; he had never smoked a day in his life. It scared me because here I was, a seemingly intelligent person smoking at least a pack a day and enjoying it, thank you very much! It scared me so much that I made a decision to quit there and then. Well, that is when I finished the carton I had just bought, but the next week for sure!
In order to quit, I needed to change other habits too. I found I couldn’t sit out on the back porch, drink wine and read my fantasy novels anymore; all of that was part of my smoking experience. I also realized I needed some new habits and a new place to do them. And yes, I did eventually quit smoking.
The doctors told dad that he needed to immediately begin the chemo and radiation treatments, and he needed both at the same time. Besides the obvious problems this could cause, one of our major concerns was what or who was going to care for mom when and if things go bad for dad? She had been diagnosed with dementia many years before and needed constant care at the time; dad was her sole caregiver. That meant if dad was hospitalized we would need to come and stay with mom. And that was not an easy thing, for many reasons.
For the most part, dad had outpatient treatments which allowed him to continue to be the primary caregiver for mom, with us stepping in only on treatment days.
One week, I got a call that dad was put in the hospital because his white blood cell count was dangerously low, due to either the chemo or the radiation, I forget which one. While visiting dad, who was sleeping, I noticed my sister was reading the book, Captivating; the one I’d been invited to read with that group of women. Interesting, I thought. I began asking my sister about the book, trying to be nonchalant, as in an, I’m not interested kind of way, but trying to act conversational instead. She didn’t hear conversational at all! She kept going on and on about how this book really spoke to her and was teaching her a lot of things she never knew. It was even helping to heal things from her past sorrows, she said. That intrigued me because her past needed so much healing; even I knew that.
To back up for a moment here, my sister had also been talking to me about God, almost as much as Paul. This generally led to a much-exaggerated eye-roll on my part and a “Geez people, just leave me alone! I don’t need saving, I’m not lost” as my response. Little did I know!
While on my journey to quit smoking, I had changed my reading habits. That included reading other books besides the fantasy novels which I’d been reading exclusively for over 20 years. When I arrived home from the hospital, I ordered that book from Amazon before I could talk myself out of it. It arrived in two days and when it arrived, I consumed it! I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Could these things be true? Could I have been believing lies all these years; God wasn’t really mad at me? WHAT? I hardly dared to believe this good news. I had to find out.
The Captivating book study was still going on and I knew where it was taking place. During the book study, Paul would go to the same house but instead of taking part in the study, he would go out with Randy (the hostess’ husband) to a local coffee shop and pray for people.
The evening I finally did go was a divine appointment.
Earlier that afternoon I had helped celebrate a friend’s son leaving for college by throwing a party at my house. Paul was present at the party for a little while but excused himself to go meet up with Randy to pray for people. Since this was a party I had two or three glasses of wine, as usual, but somehow the party just wasn’t there that day. I wanted everyone to leave, I was feeling this strange pull to go attend the book study and find out about the people reading this book or more accurately, find out about if what this book said was true! As these things go, a couple of friends wanted to linger and hang out for a while, but I kept on feeling anxious that I was going to miss something if I didn’t leave soon. I was feeling so antsy and fidgety.
After everyone had finally left, I rushed to get ready for this meeting. The entire time I had an ongoing argument with myself about how stupid I was being. “They didn’t want me there. They especially didn’t want me there if I’d been drinking!” On and on these thoughts went but there was also a pull that kept right on telling me to go. No, it kept telling me to run!
I was so scared when I finally pulled into the driveway I was almost in tears. The lump in my throat was so huge I was having trouble breathing. I took the deepest breath I could and went and knocked on the door. The person who opened the door had a look of shock on her face but quickly changed her expression one of welcoming and hospitality.
I followed her into the living room where there were about 10 other women sitting around the room. They looked as normal as any tea party I’d ever been to and not scary at all. My heart was about to beat out of my chest.
Since the meeting had already started by the time I had arrived, I went in and sat as close to the door as I could; just in case I needed to escape.
And I watched. And I listened.
It was like nothing I had ever seen in my life. These women spoke with an authority and power like nothing I had ever seen in my life. I wondered, who were these powerful women and how did they learn this stuff? I was actually a little bit afraid of them! Power just exuded out of them as they prayed. Then even swung a sword and made powerful speeches. (They were making declarations but I didn’t know that at the time) They prayed as I had never heard anyone pray. There was something about those prayers that felt tangible as if the things they were praying for were being granted, even as they were being spoken. What?
Later, they placed the sword in my hands and prayed mighty prayers over me! I didn’t dare move. I didn’t know what was expected of me but I didn’t want to mess it up. They declared and prophesied many things over me. (I didn’t know that’s what they were doing at the time) It felt good but I couldn’t for the life of me explain why it felt good.
I was shaken and undone at the same time.
Paul walked into the house with Randy before our meeting ended and was quite shocked to see me there. He just smiled and went on into the kitchen, saying nothing. He didn’t even question me when we got back home. I didn’t discuss my experiences with him; I was processing too much to even articulate actual words. My mind was reeling. I wondered, had everything I’d been taught or thought I knew been completely wrong? How could God not be mad at me? No, that just couldn’t be true. Maybe some of these things were true but there was no way ALL of it could be so.
The New Year had come and gone and I continued to attend the book studies, mostly watching and learning. In February Paul, along with a few others were invited to go to Toronto, expenses paid for 4 days. I was still struggling with belief for myself, but I really felt Paul should go for sure. I didn’t know what the Toronto Blessing was all about but knew it would somehow change his life. And, hey, it was free right?!
I dropped everyone off at the airport in the pouring rain and all the while, I was trying to reconcile in my heart and mind to all the things I had heard about God. All my previous foundations had crumbled and I didn’t know where to stand. I didn’t even know what I believed anymore.
It wasn’t really a bad place but it was an unknown one. And walking in the unknown had never been a strong suit either. No, I was more used to knowing exactly what was going on and where I was going, or at least in my own opinion, I knew and had no problem telling you either. Oh, the idea of being so wrong is quite humbling and the opposite of pride, which I had plenty of, for sure!
And even more humbling, I felt pretty silly having so ridiculed Paul for his walk with God all those past few years, Ha. BUT, there was no way I was going to let pride have its way if any of these things turned out to be true. I was torn, wavering between two opinions, literally. I couldn’t breathe and just wanted to get home!
I pulled the minivan into the carport and ran through the rain to the back door. When I got inside I shut the door behind me and leaned my back up against it, looking into the room. I knew He was there waiting for me, waiting on me. I said, “You’re real, aren’t you?” My heart exploded and when it did…I jumped.