When I was 12 years old, I went to my best friend at the time’s house for a sleepover. We’d do this often, considering we were little middle school girls whose very nature was to simply gossip about boys and laugh at stupid videos on the internet. One night when I slept over, she told me she wanted to watch a scary movie. Well, on one hand, I grew up in a house where my parents kept me aware of the reality of spiritual warfare and cautioned me to NEVER open the door to that kind of stuff (meaning scary movies, ouija boards, & even playing bloody mary mirror game). On the opposite hand, I was such a submissive people pleaser and HATED telling people no-- especially those whose opinions I cared about the most. So, I said yes to the scary movie, thinking, “one scary movie isn’t going to kill me.” We ended up watching all 3 paranormal activity movies in one sitting at 2am. To say I was terrified when I left her house is quite the understatement. I felt guilty for going against my parents & watching the movies, but more than anything, I was scared that I opened “the door.” And the truth is, I did.
I used to have nightmares. To call them nightmares doesn’t quite represent how horrifying they were, but either way, I woke up in a cold sweat almost every night I would fall asleep. They were awful. I would see creatures clawing at my legs, trying to drag me with them to wherever they were going. I would also have lucid dreams where I would wake up in the middle of the night and hallucinate things in my room. I would hallucinate spiders crawling on my pillow, cockroaches creep up and down my wall, and all sorts of insects invading my space. This caused me to develop insomnia, the inability to fall asleep. I would force myself awake so that I wouldn’t have these horrible dreams, and therefore got in the habit of not falling asleep and teaching my body to stay awake when it was dark outside. I would take benadryl in the morning and sleep through the first hour or so of my classes without getting caught. I would maybe get 8-9 hours of sleep a week.
I also started hearing more lies about myself that I hadn’t even thought about before. I began to see myself as an ugly, fat, unlovable psychopath. I really was losing my mind. I developed a minor eating disorder that caused me to spiral even more than I was before. Back then, I didn’t realize why all of these things were happening all at once, but I’ve learned that hindsight really is 20/20. Meanwhile, I never told anyone about the movies, the nightmares, and especially not my eating disorder. I thought if I told my parents, they’d be disappointed, angry, and/or disgusted with me. It was a long and dark battle that I kept hidden in my heart for awhile. I knew God could see all of it happening, but I wasn’t talking to Him much anyways because I figured He was still mad about me watching those awful movies. I ended up going to a youth group fall retreat pretty soon after my 13th birthday and I was genuinely excited to go, but only for the reasons any other 13 year old would be excited to go to a fall retreat. One of the last nights of the retreat, my youth pastor, Danny, went on stage in the middle of the worship set and said, “There is someone in this room who has been trying to keep their issues close to their chest. God is telling you to lay it down right here. Right now.” And at first I thought, “haha this ain’t about me lol no way” but then he said, “You know it’s you, stop doubting it and just come bring it to the altar.” I was mad. I didn’t want to lay it down, but Danny was right, I knew that word was for me. I went through it all in my head, asking myself if it’s worth it and I heard a voice in my spirit say, “I’m with you. let’s go change your life.” So I stood up, walked down the aisle to the altar, and collapsed to my knees in tears. I was quickly surrounded by a dozen of my fellow middle and high schoolers and felt every single one of their hands on me in prayer. “Here it is God. I’m tired. I’m ready for this to end.”
I told my small group leader about my insomnia and eating disorder, thinking she’d be pissed, but she just cried with me and held me. And that was exactly what I didn’t even know I needed. I didn’t need anyone to scare me with the health risks of bulimia or condemn me with scripture, I needed someone to remind me that my pain is shared with someone else and that there is always someone to hold me if I let them. After that night, I was able to get a full night’s rest for the first time in months and I haven’t had a single night hallucination since. And it’s all because I gave the Lord permission to take away something that wasn’t mine to begin with.
I’m sharing all of this to say this: Satan loves to use whatever he can to destroy us. And he’s so smart & good at what he does (he’s also been doing this for awhile so he’s pretty experienced). Now, his schemes in my life are more subtle, more slyish. He’ll crawl under my skin without me even realizing it and then attack when I’m caught off guard. The older and more spiritually mature I become, the sneakier he becomes. I don’t say this to give him any power over me, or to give him more credit than he deserves, I simply say it because it’s true. When I am without Jesus, I am nothing more than wounded prey walking alone at my own defense. Needless to say, we all know what eventually happens to that isolated prey. When the enemy attacks, I am still learning how to run straight to the Lord, my greatest defender. I am still learning to not try to defend myself. I am still learning to not run to another member of the herd in search of advice. I am learning that the only way to escape the grip of the enemy is to cling to the Father. And let me tell you, it is NOT easy, especially when the enemy uses those in your own herd as his tools of destruction. Giving grace to those who hurt you is hard already, but anyone who has been hurt by the church can tell you that it’s even harder to extend grace to those who claim to walk with Jesus.
I’m guilty of this too. We’re all human, whether we’re in church or a nightclub, we all make mistakes and we all hurt people at some point in our lives even if we do so unintentionally. But there is so much grace to be shared and extended. The Lord is teaching me that. He has given me keys to His kingdom realm-- meaning I have access to all of the grace He has for us and He gives us extra grace to give to each other, we just have to be willing to extend it and not keep it all to ourselves. When we do that, it doesn’t mean we won’t still feel hurt or upset or disappointed. It just means we took the first step in healing. All that’s left is to let Him feel our emotions with us so that He can start reconstructing us.
At this point, I’m just freely thinking and writing, but I think that’s really all God wants me to say for now. If you’ve read this far, thanks & know that nothing is fun when kept a secret from God. You are so loved.