He was able to recognize the false teachings and the demonic in the things I was pulling up, and yet he was not able to see at all that responding with anger towards the PEOPLE who were doing these things-- not the spirit behind them-- was losing at spiritual warfare. He advised me to stay far away from thinking about or talking about these topics, stating that I would never change bad people. "Let the devil have them," he said. "They are choosing to side with him. The whole world has gone crazy." He also told me I would never make a dent in the evil around us, and advised me to just take care of myself. "You can't change stupid," he said to me. "Have you ever made a difference in any of these churches?"
"No," I admitted. "But I believe I've made a difference-- sometimes a big difference-- in individual people's lives."
He snorted. "Alot of good that does us," He said.
These types of conversations with him are fascinating. It seems to me that theologically, saying "Let the devil have them" is the antithesis of Christianity. We are called to bring the Light to the darkest places... And yet he is as passionate and affirming of his place in Christianity as anyone. And he's not the only one... there are thousands of self-professed Christians walking around thinking the same way.
The Catholic Church knows full well that everything boils down to our willingness to engage in spiritual battle, both for ourselves and on behalf of others.
"The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the dawn of history until the last day. This dramatic situation of the whole world, which is in the power of the evil one, makes man's life a battle."
--Catechism of the Catholic Church: 409
Spiritual warfare is so interesting. Not just because I'm immersed in it-- we all are-- but because when I am AWARE of it because by some great miracle I happen to have my eyes and heart lifted toward God at the right moment, it's just amazingly interesting.
Usually, Satan is cleverly disguised in the daily actions and events that tempt us towards panic and sin instead of trust and peace. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in these times... knowing that there is no earthly way that we can overcome whatever has just been put in our plate. And yet, panic is playing into Satan's hand.
When we receive terrible news, or something terrible happens, our job is to respond as worshippers do-- with trust. We place the event in God's hands and offer up our sufferings for His glory. We offer up a sign of our trust in His plan, and we recognize that when we obey those placed in rightful authority around us, we are operating within the realms of His plan. Ideally, this gives us peace.... a peace which is lasting, because everything ELSE is fading away. We know that this is the "right" way to respond to trials because Scripture tells us so, and also because when we do, we know we have never been let down by God. He always pulls through. He is truly Sovereign, and truly All-knowing and All-powerful. In fact, scripture tells us to rejoice always, especially in these moments!
Sometimes--even often, spiritual warfare puts on such an ordinary face that we forget what we are dealing with. In these situations it takes a trained eye and an inner guidepost. Other times, it is so UNusual that we struggle to even comprehend what we are looking at with our intellect.
For me, it is often sensed by a clear, unusual pit-of-your-stomach "gut feeling" even when outwardly, everything might seem right, or by the very small, still, and quiet "voice" I might "hear" when everything around me is exploding like a battlefield, calling me back to perfect peace.
In a recent bible study, we discussed how the Catholic understanding of scripture includes contextual reading, acknowledging the style of writing and literary structure of the passage, and also keeps a centered position somewhere between the fantastic/supernatural and the reasonable/literal. For example, that when God turned the nile to blood during the plagues, it was quite possible that the Nile became bloody due to a natural moss or plant that overgrew, creating reddish, cloudy water, rather than to literal BLOOD. At the same time, it was quite evident that each of the ten plagues corresponded very specifically to ten separate deities in the Egyptian pantheon, striking a blow directly into their territory. And that no matter what, God's hand was at work through the timing and execution of each plague.
I thought about the relevance of these ideas.... how different they were from my protestant mindset in which ANYTHING that could even remotely draw towards the natural rather than the supernatural was heretical. (I guess that would stem in their theology somewhat from a manichean outlook-- that matter was bad and unspiritual. I could be wrong.)
Nevertheless, as my understanding of theology deepens and as my experiences with demonology increase over time, I find myself amazed at how it seems that angelic beings (both good and bad) can physically move matter around. I notice that many diseases we know now as having "natural causes" were frequently diagnosed as demonic before, and (in my opinion) probably still should be to some degree. (things like night terrors, and multiple personality disorder, for example... which certainly appear to have a ""natural" cause, but often may have a spiritual cause that continues unaddressed.) At the same time, Angels are pure spirit, with no physical body.
When I first made a conscious decision to follow Christ, I was plagued with all sorts of crazy events. Among them, two really stand out as "demonic." And yet, as clearly demonic as they were to me... they were also very... ordinary.
I had had a profound conversion experience and found myself dealing with the strangest things.
The first happened immediately after I determined I was going to really LIVE for God, and that God was real.
My very first daring act as a practicing Christian was to break up with my live-in fiancé and move out of our shared apartment, moving into my dad's house even though we were not really getting along, all because I knew it was what God wanted me to do.
Nothing about this decision was easy. I relished my independence and had enjoyed my relationship with this man. The breakup was hard and he took it wrong, not understanding.
He became depressed and tried to commit suicide. He became unstable. I became depressed that he was responding so poorly to what I wanted. He killed my cat. It was a mess.
In the course of all that, I was staying at a friends' house while trying to sort myself and my situation out and was finding peace and renewal there.
And then it happened.... one early morning, near six a.m., out of nowhere--- I got a mysterious phone call.
It was him, calling to tell me that he was sure I would never make it as a Christian. I believe the exact conversation went something like this:
"Oh. Hi." I rubbed my eyes, wondering if I was just not quite awake yet.
"I'm just calling to let you know that you will never make it as a Christian. You can't do it. It's too hard. I know you.... you won't be able to be strong enough."
"What I said. It's too hard. You won't be able to do it. Others could. But not you. You're too evil. You LIKE this."
I shuddered, thinking in my head that it was a remarkably satanic thing to say.
Well, I'm going to try my best. God will do the rest." I said, and hung up. It was the last time we talked.
A few weeks later, I was at my dad's house when a man I knew from the adult industry who had an unexplainable hold over me both emotionally and physically (and who I tried to avoid at all costs) appeared at my door, which was very unusual for him. He pushed past me and made himself very comfortable on my couch.
"So," he declared, smirking. "I hear you are a Christian now. Come on. What is that about??"
I searched for a witty answer-- faltering in my somewhat-embarrassed, somewhat-proud state.
"Yeah," he said. "That's what I thought. You're no Christian. You don't need to worship Jesus. You need to worship ME. You worship MY......" he went on to verbally vomit a slew of completely inappropriate comments relating my worship of Jesus to my duty to worship his man-parts which I will spare you here. Even more bizarre? I was incredibly attracted to him at that moment and it took ALL my will power to remove myself from the situation.
From then on, things have only gotten stranger in my Christian walk.
At the time, it seemed obvious to me that Satan wanted to detract me from my commitment to live for Jesus. And yet it was in the most ordinary-- albeit bizarre-- ways that he seemed to go about it. Then I quickly learned something else about his technique.
I learned that Satan would often use a method that appealed to my pride.
For example, one day I was on a break from my job as a bookseller at Borders Books.
Standing in the street, I shoved a few remaining pieces of sushi from my lunch into my mouth and looked around for my napkin when suddenly I saw a familiar homeless man walking up the street. Now, in Santa Barbara, homeless people-- homeless by CHOICE people-- are everywhere. They smell like urine and sweat and pot and have dreadlocks and skin caked with grime, and they live on the beach by night and take over the city by day. They are everywhere. Most of them are vietnam vets or hippies left over from the sixties who just couldn't pull it together. Harmless... but annoying if you're a young female who likes her freedom in the city.
So this man started walking up my side of the street, calm as can be. I could smell him from a few feet away and he's definitely different.... but apparently harmless. But when he got to me, he started to shout..... ranting and raving like a complete nutcase.
"F- you, Jesus!" He shouted, making a fist in my direction. "You don't KNOW me. You can't have this!!"
Mystified, I watched as he clammed up and quieted down, resuming his quiet, happy walk down the street without even a hint of sign that something was up inside him.
I had never in my life heard a teaching on spiritual warfare or even been aware of it's existence. But on that day something in my spirit told me that that's exactly what was happening. Something inside of him was reacting to something inside of me. And that something was in reference to the person of Christ-- living and active in me, and clearly hated and reviled in this man. I was FILLED with compassion for him, and followed him down the street, praying for him. When he became physically agitated again, I ran away, scared. At the same time, I was proud.... proud that I had somehow drawn this reaction from him, proud that I was powerful. When I later realized what great sin that pride had been.... it was very hard to remove.
Since that time I've experienced spiritual warfare continuously with very little respite. Although I have recognized it as such for years and am now well trained and experienced in spiritual warfare, I am never less mystified than I was in that first few months of actively choosing Christ, because no matter how much training, teaching and experience one has--- God's ways are not our ways and there is always a mystical element that is quite simply incomprehensible except by the inner spirit man.
I meet and talk to people often who consider themselves equipped demonologists or deliverance ministers and who believe that they know all there is to know about demonology and deliverance ministry. I'm not sure how that works, because God is always surprising me.
When I think about it, though, I guess I do know all I need to know too... I know that
-- God and the Devil are real.
-- Our free will is our friend and our foe.
--Healing comes when sinners repent
--Satan is tricky but God is stronger
--99 percent of our suffering is self-induced.
Most importantly... I've learned that I will never know it all, at least not on this side of death. Spiritual warfare remains a fascinating mystery and a daily battle that we must always give to God, our Deliverer.