Martin Schongauer, St Anthony tormented by Daemons (1480 engraving)
We kicked out an unwelcome guest in our home Sunday evening.
We’re in a new house and getting used to the acoustics. We’re finding that my usual detached mumbling is insufficient for communicating in the house. Or so my wife would have me believe.
So, I was in the restroom while my wife was talking to me in the hallway. She didn’t know I was in the restroom; she was talking into the void and waiting for me to respond.
From her peripheral vision at her right, she saw a shadow pass from one doorway to the next. Thinking it was me, she kept talking. Moments later, I walk out of the bathroom from the opposite direction. There was no way I could have walked to her left unnoticed, since she was standing diagonally, with the restroom at her immediate left.
An evil spirit was living in the house.
She prayed silently and continued cleaning, not wanting to panic. My wife’s under-reaction may seem nuts to most of you but that’s her. She’s a tough chick.
The wife gets this serious tone in her voice every six months or less, and when she does, I drop what I’m doing and listen closely.
“I don’t want to make too much of this, but when you were in the bathroom, I saw a shadow in the hallway.”
We prayed and welcomed God into our home. We called on the name of Jesus, and took authority over whatever unwelcome spirit was in our home. We felt at peace.
Then things started to go bad. First, the toilet and bathtub backed up. The home had been thoroughly inspected about two weeks before. The home inspector said later he ran the bathtub, flushed the toilet, used the toilet (OK, he really didn’t need to share that with me), ran the dishwasher and used the sinks and there wasn’t a single leak anywhere in the house. I don’t think it was coincidental that the pipes went bad shortly after we encountered this spirit.
We went to bed. I tossed and turned for hours, as vision after vision of evil flashed in my head. I saw small, laughing faces with sharp teeth, neighbors walk up to our home and change their appearance into something demonic. It was extremely disturbing.
Monday morning arrived and I woke up with a horrific headache. The only thing I can compare it to is regaining consciousness after suffering through a grand mal seizure, which I used to get every six months ago.
I called in sick, disturbed by what I had experienced but still confident that the God who had brought us to this community would prevail over anything that stood against us.
My wife called our pastor’s wife and explained to her what happened. She said something similar happened to her and the pastor when they moved into their first home.
Incidentally, our pastor and his wife had just returned from a trip to Australia to investigate reaching out to the growing Latino community there. As he was en route, he said an evil spirit visited him to discourage him from coming. The spirit explained to him that he would be attacked, and that witchcraft would be the means from which this attack would come. Days later, our pastor preached at a service and a Christian gentleman came up to him and said “Be very brave.”
So, the pastor and his wife arrived Monday evening with dessert in tow. (You have to love our pastor’s wife and her sweet tooth!) I had just introduced myself to the neighbor across the street when they arrived, and we were making small talk about the homes, the neighborhood, etc. Out of nowhere, he says to me “Oh, and we have a ghost upstairs.”
He explained that there was an attorney who lived in the house across the street. He prosecuted someone and they received a prison sentence. According to my neighbor, the convict, upon his release, came back to his home and murdered the attorney. As it turns out, the attorney was cheating on his wife. Our neighbor said that locals believe the spirit of the late wife lives upstairs, although I don’t believe this.
Scripture is quite explicit about what happens when we die. Our soul is at rest, or more simply, we aren’t anywhere but in the ground. All of the folksy stuff they say at funerals about grandpa looking down on us from heaven, however well intentioned, goes against biblical teaching. This is another topic I will discuss at another time, as I can hear the giant “whoosh” of the can of worms I just opened.
After talking with our neighbor for a while, I went to my place and visited with the pastor and his wife. At the end of our evening, we got together and prayed for the home, invoking the name and authority of Jesus. Whatever was here is gone. I don’t know why the spirit didn’t leave on Saturday night. Maybe it was my lack of faith.
What I do know is that we’re not entirely welcome in this community, and I’m really excited about that. My next project is to speak with the neighbors across the street about their “ghost” problem. After this encounter I’m more determined than ever to share the hope of the Gospel with my neighbors.
It would seem that there is a “ghost” problem all over this area of Stockton. Another guy who goes to our church told me Tuesday that his wife felt extremely fearful when they moved into their home. He had to pray over his home and cast out the evil spirits as well. There is a rather large home near Victory Park that is allegedly has spiritual activity happening.
For readers who think I’ve completely lost my mind and joined The First Church of Ghostbusters, let me say that my wife and I aren’t the sort to hyperspiritualize our lives. If we were to get a flat tire, we would more than likely suspect it was a nail and not The Forces of Eeeevil. We don’t look for the devil under every seat cushion.
That said, there is a spiritual reality, especially in the life of a Christian, that cannot be ignored. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:10-12)
There isn’t a demilitarized zone with regard to the spirit realm. It’s good or evil. And as much as I wish I could simply go to seminary, engross myself in books and ignore the spiritual reality outside my door, wishing doesn’t make it so. To be a Christian is to be drafted into this spiritual war. There is no neutrality.