As a child, I slept with covers over my head, fearing what lay in wait for me in the dark. This was no childhood fear of monsters under the bed or witches in the closet. This was mortal terror for what I knew first hand was out there. In my family, the demons were not imagined. They were real.
My mother read tarot cards over each of us when we were born, to see whether our future held bad omens or good. She read our palms to see whether we would live a long life or die a short one. She laid out a regular deck of cards, the face of each a symbol of our fates.
My father told us tales of astral projection, and described leaving his body as a teen and roaming the New Jersey woods by night in spirit form. We heard how he dreamed a trip to the river and woke to find muddy footprints on the floor of his second floor bedroom. Footprints that led from the sealed window to his bed.
I grew up all over the world. Born in Idaho, I started first grade in Florida, but before we moved there I’d been through most of the other states and down to Central America. At age five I had a pet monkey; we lived in Honduras. I used to hear gila monsters (giant lizards) sliding their talons over the metal roof of our house at night. I helped my mother pick chayote squash from the garden, grapes from the arbor, and avocados from the trees. Man-sized bunches of bananas hung from the rafters under our house. I had nursemaids and a nanny. My mother’s beloved housekeeper used to braid my hair; she was the only one who didn’t pull it and make me cry. Then one morning I looked out the windows of our house and saw soldiers guarding the gates.
A revolution was taking place in Honduras, and my father was chief mechanic for a steamship company that made sure he was well cared for. He became little more than a prisoner of the corporation, a victim of a foreign regime’s attempt at power. Almost a year passed before my father gained permission from his employers – I use the term loosely – to take his family on vacation. With only one small suitcase apiece, we boarded a banana boat from Honduras and sailed to Havana, Cuba, which at that time was still an open port. From there we sailed up the coast, watching flying fish and gazing deep into the clear ocean depths. In New York harbor my mother cried when she saw Lady Liberty. I still hear echoes of her cries every time I see a picture of the statue. So far as that vacation goes, I guess we’re still on it. We left wealth, comfort, a house full of custom made furniture and a bevy of servants to escape to freedom. We never went back. That act’s spiritual significance is not lost on me. I understand it well.
When I was 16, our house burned to the ground due to improper wiring. I woke at midnight in a smoke filled room, the blankets on my bed afire. My sister and I escaped in our pajamas, only a miracle allowing us to escape at all. That fire was as close to hell as I ever want to be. Thankfully, I can say with assurance that it will be. I know now that I am bound for Heaven, forever rescued from the flames. But ten years passed before I discovered the way of salvation and began my walk with Christ. Ten years that led me, step by step, ever closer to a precipice of doom.
Because of my parents’ influence, I dabbled in the occult. My older sisters searched for life; the oldest sister joined the Mormon church, and the sister just below her in age became Seventh Day Adventist. But the next sister down began a coven and actively participated in worship of Satan. I was agnostic, unable to decide if God was God or if evolution was the true reality. My younger sister watched me, did what I did, and lost when I lost. Neither of us knew up from down, good from bad, evil from righteousness. In a word, we were lost.
Astral projection interested me, and I attended a lecture describing it. Frightened by how much it sounded like my father’s experiences, I didn’t go back. I saw Black Sabbath in concert, and felt terror when they were performing and making certain gestures. Later, at a concert with Blue Oyster Cult, the same terror struck again. Both these groups were rumored to involve Satan worship. I began to wear a cross, thinking it had some mystical power, a protection against the vampires of reality. Yet fear reigned in my heart and mind. At one point, I even feared the teddy bear I had cuddled since a child. Stories of inanimate objects being polarized and used by demons left me terrified into helplessness.
I only knew how to fight the occult by using the occult. My witchcraft-involved sister gave me some spells to use. She described how to draw a snake with its tail in its mouth, with special protective runes written around it. I slept with this at the head of my bed for protection from the evil I felt lurking everywhere around me. That tight feeling you get in your throat when you’re walking alone at night and hear a sound you can’t recognize – a mindless terror that grabs at your heart – it rarely left me. I barely slept, barely thought past one moment at a time. Fear encompassed me until there was no way out. No light. No rescue. No hope.
By now, I was married, but my husband and I were arguing about whether to have children. I wanted nothing to do with them. Three of my four sisters had been married and divorced twice apiece. Children from different husbands and lovers made a brood of twelve. I could hardly deal with my own feelings. How could I deal with a crying child’s? Divorce seemed such an easy way out. I was from Nevada, and there it was a simple matter to arrange.
A Christian co-worker and his wife began praying for us. And the Christian wife of a scathingly anti-Christian co-worker also prayed. I found out I was pregnant shortly after the New Year in 1977, and was delighted. I had no idea why my mind had changed so radically about this, but I was excited! February 20th, while my husband was out of town, my anti-Christian co-worker abruptly left his wife. She had been a friend to me, and I felt comfortable around her, so I asked her to come and stay with me for a few days while my husband was gone. It was Sunday afternoon, and she asked me to go to church with her so she could ask friends for prayer. After the service, she and I went to one of her church friends’ house for coffee. Little did I know that a divine appointment had been set. As four of us women gathered around the table to chat and laugh, the topic turned to salvation. A tract was brought out, one for each of us, and the three women walked through it with me, answering my questions lovingly, and with such confidence and calm I could not help but be impressed.
Being pregnant and drinking coffee results in numerous trips to the lady’s room, and as I returned the last time, I overheard them praying for me. I do not think I had ever, until that moment, ever heard anyone mention my name to God. What a powerful influence it had. Even now, recalling that moment, my eyes sting with tears of gratitude. When I returned, we finished the tract, and then with a new understanding of what love meant, I bowed my head and prayed the sinner’s prayer. Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner, and forgive me. Jesus died for my sin and I acknowledge that and thank you for it. In Jesus’ name, amen. So simple, yet it saved my soul from an eternity of pain.
It has been 21 years since I prayed that prayer. Have I ever been afraid again? Of course! There is such a thing as godly fear, and healthy fear of dire circumstances. But my life verse is II Timothy 1:7 – God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Now I know that terror – the kind that grabs at your throat in the night, that robs you of sleep and peace and thought – that kind of fear is never from God.
I now have three children, all of whom love the Lord. My husband was saved shortly after he returned from his trip. We have been married for 24 years, and are more in love now than the day we were wed. My parents came to know the Lord late in life, and I’m thankful to say they are with Him in glory.
Now, I confidently tell fear to leave me in the name of Jesus. There is no weapon formed against me that will prosper. The Lord is with me even in the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil. Ten thousand may fall at my right hand but I will not be afraid. No plague shall come nigh my dwelling. I will not fear my enemy, nor will I fear their fear! God is triumphant. God is love. And by His grace, I walk in this world as His beloved and triumphant child.