Surviving Spiritual Warfare


“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse
than a whiskey bottle in the hand of (another)…
There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy
worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to
live in this one, and you can look down the street
and see the results.”

– Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

hey surrounded her as she laid on the bed. Stark white, numb…she was a shadow of her former self. My father began chanting and the others joined in:

Thubink losso atranystant kabo lusoven
    Thubink losso atranystant kabo lusoven

Speaking in tongues, their arms moved in tribal movements back and forth.

  Thubink losso atranystant kabo lusoven
    Thubink losso atranystant kabo lusoven

She laid on the bed, eyes open and seemingly unaware of the group’s presence. In a daze, her blank face held many secrets.

I stood in the doorway watching as my father, aunt, and uncle continued with their “healing” ceremony over this vacant shell of a woman I’d known as my mother for the past twelve years.

I believe this was the genesis of her escape from my life. Gone were the days of chocolate chip cookies. Gone were the long afternoons of unending dialogue. Gone were the warm and safe embraces of hope for a better life. A dark reality set in, and my childhood was locked in a tight box replaced with bondage and fear of the unknown.

When I was thirteen, my mom was hospitalized in a mental institution. Sitting with her in the common areas, we were surrounded by zombies in robes. Most were medicated to flatline numbness. She didn’t seem interested in escape, and it took me many years to understand why.

Our home was a spiritual war zone. My father, the dictator, was the keeper of God’s word. Never to be questioned, he ruled the house with an iron fist. “A woman’s place is in the home,” was the mantra of my formative years.

Source: Kristina Sowers
Source: Kristina Sowers

The youngest of six kids, I learned early that Dad had final word on everything. And, his word was never to be questioned. Doing so would result in punishment from him today, and God in the afterlife. Every action had a consequence. This firm reality left no room for interpretation, emotion or feeling.

It took until I was about 15 to realize that my father’s life was a contradiction to his teachings. On the Sunday of my Baptism, he was on a golf course with a colleague. He participated in unethical business deals, reviled in trysts with Uncle Jack Daniels, stepped out on my mom during his tenure as a traveling businessman, and he was physically abusive to my brothers and emotionally absent from all. The warmth and comfort of relationships eluded him.

My father knew God’s word so well that he likely holds responsibility for splitting up more than a handful of spirit-filled congregations over the years. The problem was, he always talked a good talk. It was rare to find anyone who could adequately hold their own in debate with my father. Visits from extended relatives on Dad’s side were chocked full of endless religious disagreements regarding baptism, tongues, healing … and of course, salvation – resulting in estranged relationships that were never fully restored.

It was engrained in my very being, from an early age, to seek salvation at all costs. Everything in life was temporary, and would be discarded with the daily trash. To reach heaven, you had to be on the right side of the interpretation – Dad’s interpretation – of the Bible.

This story might sound sad. And, I’m not going to lie, there are many scars from my upbringing in a spiritual war zone. However, I am reminded of how distant that life is from my reality today.

Distance offers perspective. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace the beauty found in shades of gray that permeate our world. My experiences have afforded me the opportunity to empathize with those whose walks are different from my own. The God I now worship is a spirit of love with boundless acceptance of every race, every creed, and every orientation. I saw a bumper sticker recently that read, “God bless the whole world. No Exceptions.” That speaks volumes to me about my faith journey. And, it’s a reminder to challenge myself to continue to broaden my world view to make room for those that I stand quietly in the shadows judging.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 10.59.13 PM
In this season of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for a vast universe of unending possibilities. I’m thankful that the world, indeed, is round… I’m thankful for the many people in my life who wear colors of the rainbow, embrace diversity, and who accept me for my strengths and my weaknesses. I’m thankful for family and friends who have taken time to love me in light (and in spite) of my shortcomings. I’m even thankful for surviving a spiritual war zone. I feel blessed to have a unique perspective, and know that I’m stronger because of it.

Have you survived anything from your past that unveiled a hidden treasure?

© 2013, The Musing Maven, all rights reserved.

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