Some time after coming to faith, strange things started happening to me, so strange that I am reluctant to talk about them in a blog or in real life. I have mentioned them to few people although perhaps if I mentioned them to more, someone would be able to educate me about what happened. I have had a few people tell me that I had come face to face with evil, and that sends some chills through me, especially because I am an optimistic, eternally happy, trusting human being. Moreover, I am hopelessly naive despite the number of years I have lived, the amount of international experience I have garnered, the scope of academic knowledge I have gathered, and the extreme difficulties I have survived. So, it is no wonder that I had no way to interpret at least three puzzling events. (There may have been more, but besides being naive, I am also somewhat oblivious to everything around me, so it is only the great strength of the associated ambient sensation that allowed me to perceive these three.)
The first incident happened in the car as I was leaving work late one evening. I so strongly felt a presence in the back seat that I turned around. There was no one there, and yet the sense of a presence would not dissipate even when I turned on the inside car light. Hm. I had to drive home. Was this my imagination? It did not feel like it. Yet, while not being able to see anything, I felt a terrible sense of something bad, evil, negative, dark. I had a half-hour drive home alone, and I did not much like this sense of something that I could not see in the back seat. So, just in case I was not totally hallucinating, I invited the evilish thing that I could not see to join me in the front seat. "We can pray together all the way home," I told it (out loud, actually), and suddenly it was gone. I drove home with no more interference. I assumed that God had intervened, and for that, I was more grateful than words can relate.
The second incident happened on the mission grounds. I like to walk around them each evening around 9:00. Depending on the time of year, sometimes it is light outside, sometimes dark. On this evening, it was dark. On such evenings, I would spend much time in meandering prayer, and I would also take time out from my ambling to kneel at the church door and pray in earnest. This time, as I approached the church door and stood still, I felt someone standing beside me, about a half-foot taller than me (in other words, average male height). I turned to say something -- and jumped. There was no one there, just a mass of air that was darker than the surrounding air. Spooked, I walked away rapidly, stopped near the close-by rose garden, and looked back. Nothing there. Had it been my imagination? Was I losing my mind? Too much evening air? Determined that nothing was going to keep my from my evening prayer, I walked back to the church door, kneeled, and suddenly felt the dark presence beside me again. Not knowing what to do and determined to connect with God, confident that God would protect me if there was a need for protection as He always had and always does, I said my prayer, surprisingly unimpeded by my "companion," whose presence I felt until I had finished, stood up, and returned to my ambling. I did not look back as I walked away. Perhaps I should have. Suddenly, I heard a leaf crack, as if someone had stepped on it. I whirled around, but no one was there. Then, I looked at the ground, and there was a cracked leaf a few feet away where I could not possibly have stepped on it. Spooked again, at least a bit, but mostly angry and not knowing how to eliminate this "thing" from either my mind or the location (not knowing whether it was real or not -- how does one determine reality beyond a shadow of a doubt?), I shouted at it: "Whoever or whatever you are, real or in my mind, get off this land. This land is God's, and you have no right here." Just as suddenly as it had appeared, in my universe or in my mind, it was gone. I assumed that God had once again intervened, and for that, I was blessedly, relievedly grateful for my aloneness and my returning sense of sanity.
The third set of events began soon thereafter. I was traveling to many locations -- so, what is new? -- and had trouble getting rest because every night I would experience nightmares. I could never remember the details, but I knew they had been dark and frightening, demonic. Sometimes I awoke in the middle of the night from them, a strange phenomenon because throughout my abusive childhood I never once had nightmares. Throughout my difficult parenting-of-special-kids days, I never once had nightmares. Throughout my travels on rickety planes to dangerous countries with no money in my pocket, I never once had nightmares. And I did not want them now. So, I began to pray before going to sleep to God to keep any nightmares away from me, to let me dream only of Him, and He answered that prayer. I have not had a nightmare since. Nonetheless, I still ask every night, and God still gives me my request, for which I thank Him endlessly.
Truly, I am ever so grateful that these apparitions or whatever they were seem to have disappeared in recent days. I am a new convert to Catholicism, to belief of any sort. I don't know how to understand these things. I don't even know if they are related to my newfound belief, about which I am still learning. (I keep asking God for lessons, and He keeps giving them to me -- tough ones.) However, I certainly don't want any other opportunities to learn more about this dark stuff first-hand, regardless of source or what it is related to. I hope God keeps it away from me permanently so that I can at least maintain the self-illusion of being sane! For that illusion, I am grateful!
Now, if you have not written me off as hopelessly insane or the equivalent, please tell me for what you are thankful this wonderful Thursday.
More information about the Thankful Thursday meme can be found at the website of Grace Alone.