Growing up, I never felt like I was given good answers to my questions about the Holy Spirit. Supposedly He was in me and reminding me that I was saved, but that was about it. Salvation was His endgame and it seemed to be all He was interested in—well, that and He also did miracles and signs and wonders, but I never saw any of those in my life or at church. I figured that these supernatural ways of God had come to an end after the Bible was written—and sure enough, the Christians around me confirmed my suspicion. I was taught that God didn’t need to work in those ways anymore. The theology seemed odd to me, but I didn’t question it much.
But there was an ironic lesson I was taught alongside this one. Apparently, though God doesn’t work in supernatural ways anymore, Satan does it all the time. I was informed that the devil was real and powerful and that I needed to stay away from things like ouija boards and palm readers and scary movies and what-have-you. It was a strange spiritual and theological conundrum for me. Apparently Satan has power and uses it and God has power but doesn’t care to use it. And therefore, under this theological mindset, I could only assume that everything supernatural that happens in the world today is Satanic. I didn’t read my Bible enough to challenge the thought, so I just took the teaching at point blank.
It wasn’t until some fifteen years later that I was convinced this teaching was wrong. What convinced me were the rumors of exorcisms on my college campus. Stories spread that a professor and his students were meeting weekly to pray and worship and engage the Holy Spirit. During these times, strange and supernatural things began to happen. Stories of exorcisms eventually started to leak out.
My eyes lit up at the rumors. I hadn’t been taught that the Holy Spirit did anything supernatural other than dwell in me, but I had been taught that demons were powerful forces, so I immediately believed that there were deliverances happening on campus and I was intrigued. The supernatural was at work around me and apparently this professor and his students knew how to operate in it. The stories found in my Bible were now coming to light right in front of me in real life.
So yes, it’s a bit sad to admit, but my entrance into the supernatural world was through my belief in demons, not the Holy Spirit—and that little paradox was taught to me by the church. Weird, right?
I wanted to meet this professor and learn everything I could from him. I had always been intrigued by the supernatural but had never been given permission to embrace it until this moment. But though I wanted to learn more, there was a slight problem: This professor and his students completely terrified me. I didn’t know anything about the Holy Spirit, but I had heard that the Spirit was speaking to these students and giving them surprisingly accurate prophetic words to tell strangers. The last thing I wanted was to have my entire life on display to a stranger. I was afraid that if I walked up to one of these students, God would tell them every last sin I had ever committed or give me a command that I didn’t want to follow.
One night I faced my fear and went to a meeting and sat in the back of the room. It was there that I tried to get enough courage to walk up front and ask for prayer. I watched people around me shake as the students spoke with boldness and authority. I continually tried to force myself to the front of the room for prayer, but in the end I gave up and headed back to my dorm room. I have always had an intense struggle with shame and so I feared that a word from God would completely devastate me. Perhaps I can go back when I have my life more together and God doesn’t have as much critique to give me, I thought.
In the meantime, I began to read supernaturally-minded Christian books and I took classes that this professor was teaching and soaked up every word he said like a sponge—though I still kept my distance. I didn’t want to get too close to him lest a prophetic word somehow pop into his head based on my proximity.
The time never came where I felt good enough to approach these Spirit-infused Christians, but I eventually hit the point where I was willing to get over my fear and embrace what God had for me. And so, at the start of a new school year I boldly walked into my professor’s office and asked if I could join his group of students and learn from him.
“Oh, those students graduated last year so we decided to stop that ministry,” he replied.
Crap. I thought to myself. I waited too long and now I’ll never understand these kinds of things! The moment is gone.
“But we should meet up and have lunch sometime,” he continued.
And so began my transition out of Christianity as I had always known it. I was in new territory now. Over the course of the next few years, my professor shared with me the most incredible stories I had ever heard. To read such stories in a book is one thing, but it is breath-taking to have someone who has experienced crazy things sit down with you one-on-one and lay it all out. I tried to play it cool and pretend like I was familiar with the content of his stories, but on the inside I was always freaking out. I wanted to experience what he was talking about and see it with my own eyes.
And since then, I’ve seen God work in many interesting ways as I’ve jumped into this kind of ministry.