If you’ve read Once and Again you know I have had nightmares for as far back as I can remember. They were in color. They filled my senses: hearing, vision, I could smell sulfur, sand and surf etc., I could feel the wind drape around me and shadows fall and leave me with chills.
I will share here what I didn’t put in print in the book.
In chapter one I spoke of moving in with my Grandma Lucy, at that time I was 5 and no one really understood how far down the trail of Alzheimers she had traveled. But soon we would.
First let me give you some history. My dad had one younger sibling a brother named Frankie. Little brother may have been doted on a little by everyone and he, like many seventeen year olds, had learned how to work a situation to achieve his desired end even if it involved a little lying or twisting of the truth. There came a day he asked my dad (recently married to my mom) to borrow his car as he needed to run errands for their mom. Dad gave him the keys without knowing Frankie was actually going to gather some friends and go joy-riding. Frankie never made it back home. He was speeding and lost control and every boy in the car would meet death or live the rest of their life crippled. That reality haunted Grandma Lucy (and my dad) when it happened in October of ’61 and every day that followed. Then Grandpa died suddenly in ’63 of a heart attack. In ’65 I was born and ’68 here came my brother – named after our uncle Franklin. Then Alzheimers began creeping further in. Then my folks moved in to help.
The house was only four rooms two of which were bedrooms. Each bedroom had 1 queen size bed and since Frankie was still small I was sent to share a bed, with a grandmother I really didn’t know, in the room adjoining mom and dad’s. I didn’t mind, my folks didn’t mind… but Grandma did. Every night she would tell me to slide in next to the wall and not to be moving about or else… slowly she’d take out her false teeth and hold them up so I could see them before turning to drop them in the water-filled glass on her nightstand. Then she’d lay down and say, ‘If you move they will slide out of that glass and eat you.’
I wasn’t going to move. I didn’t move. I also didn’t tell anyone. But that was not when the nightmares started.
In the days that followed my mom began purchasing my school supplies, that’s when my little brother decided to play with my crayons and broke them. When I came in and saw it I told mom. Mom came in and spatted his hands. Frankie started crying. Grandma came into the living room and started yelling at mom for hurting ‘her’ baby and she started trying to pry Frankie away from Mom. Mom took Frankie out of the room into the kitchen. I sat on the floor and picked up the crayons. Grandma stood in her bedroom door and shot me a malicious glance and mumbling under her breath turned and went back to her bedroom.
Grandma remained quiet all day, even as dad came home and mom told him and he spoke to his mom about her Frankie, his brother vs. Frankie her grandson.
That night she didn’t say anything as we got into bed. I just did our routine. Get in. Get still.
The whole house was hushed.
Suddenly I awoke from sleep, I could her Grandma talking but couldn’t see a thing. I tried to move but couldn’t sit up. I could however hear, ‘You’ll never hurt my Frankie again.’ Grandma was laying over my upper body. A pillow was over my face. It blocked air but not her repeated whispers. Unable to breath, scared I began thrashing wildly with my feet trying to break free but all I hit was air and the wall.
However my dad heard the knocks against the wall and came in to see what was wrong. I couldn’t see him but I heard the door swing on the hinges and a gasp then I felt the weight of her lifted off of me. I don’t remember anything else but sleeping in the room with my parents and Frankie and the heaviness that wore on my dad as he met with family and we moved Grandma into a nursing facility. Within months she went from recognizing her at least her immediate kin to only recognizing Frankie whom she always thought was her own son.
But that was not when THE nightmares started.
Oh I had bad dreams but the nightmares didn’t start until after I met Jesus which I did in that same room where Grandma had almost taken my life 4 years earlier. In that same doorway where she had cast me a withering glance after Frankie had gotten in trouble – in that same doorway is where Jesus stood May 1, 1976 and called my name and asked ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Follow Me.’
That is when THE nightmares started.
Do you realize that before you gave your heart away to Christ… satan did not cast a single thought toward you. But God, our loving Father has watched us and known us since before our conception. God waits, watches, guards and loves and when our hearts are ready His Son steps up to the door of our heart and calls us, knocking at our heart. Then with Christ inside our ‘house’ we step off in obedience. From that moment on we become an enemy of the king of darkness… he watches, baits and battles us. That’s when THE nightmares we will face on this journey of faith begin… when we battle the one we cannot see.
For our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
Just as Jesus is the initiator, coach and completer of our faith journey. Satan is the lion circling around looking for opportunity and weakness… your weakness. The nightmares in life will occur as you follow and serve. Even as you seek the presence of the Lord, the devil and his minions stand by prepared to offer a tainted partial truth that will well up in your flesh desiring to take your faith captive: steal your joy, kill your hope and destroy your witness.
Yet in the stillness of the night or day, God can and will lead, guide and speak to His children. He can and will offer direction. He can and will call you ‘to’ and empower you ‘for’ His purposes. HE is not where the fault/frailties will lie.
We are Adams children. Our flesh/will is our thorn. We are prone to wonder. The fault/trial/test will be if we are close enough to hear God or strayed and susceptible to the enemy lies. The ability to rise or fall rests within us and our faith walk with the Lord.
The devil won’t wait til we have understanding or are ready for a clean fight. He will play dirty. He will go for you when you are down, when you young and naive. He will come at you when you are sick, beaten, betrayed, aged. He will help you deceive yourself about your faith, your God, your righteousness. The king of excuses will give you alibi for every wrong choice you make until you are not close enough to hear God at all.
In light of the knowledge that the nightmare/struggles are real, how prepared do you feel to defend yourself and take offense against the evil one? (1 low – 10 high)
The devil has physically followed you around long enough to know your Achilles heal, your weakness. He not only knows it but knows how to use that information and bait you for a fall to your flesh. He doesn’t have to do anything other than manipulate and use those arenas in which we have not surrendered AND built up a defense. Almost everyone I know in their 50’s, including myself, would say that the thing that tries to take them captive repeatedly has been around since their youth! WHAT!
It is the truth. Decades of being a believer and attending church will NOT make you immune to your weakness’ and satan’s arrows. Only a life spent surrendered in the hand of a Faithful Creator can teach you to armor up and work out your salvation and equip you for all that lies ahead.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. John 8:31-36 NKJV
So are you willing to draw close to the One who knows and has seen EVERYTHING? Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and dig into your past hurts and haunts? Are you willing to hear Him expose the painful truth that feeds your flesh? And yoke up to Him and plow through the walls that house your weakness/sin/struggle?
Many will never make it past their past. Satan is banking on always using their EASY button. Your EASY button. My EASY button. The truth is I am the only one able to dismantle mine. You are the only one that can holds the key to victory over yours. The weapons and power are provided by God BUT the journey overcoming… it is a choice and a fight all in itself. A fight you, and I, must choose to take on.
I will not die with those weights locked in the recesses of my heart! I would have FULL victory and display the power of Christ over my strongholds! I will live for their annihilation. That is my prayer and battle cry! In my nightmares I knew the danger, I could see it. I was aware of the darkness. I felt compelled to hide, protect and lead people from the powers of darkness. I ran. Now I would lead and guide but while we flee the darkness I will NOT run from the fight. I will stand. I would stand and teach others to stand in the Light of the Gospel of Christ. Assured of the promise. Purged from their past. And ready to use the Word of God and the grace supplied to take back over that which Satan has claimed victory!
My husband was such a man. Lenny felt unworthy of the love and mercy God flooded him with. The adversary repeatedly used Lenny’s past, that sense of being undeserving, to bind him from moving in the fullness of power found in the Resurrected Christ! Time and again, we would pray and wrestle with the enemy until Lenny could stand once again and lead and BE all God had for him to be. And I will tell you, with tears coursing down my face… that my husband wrestled with that same weakness all of his life. Pre-Jesus. IN Jesus. IN ministry… even into his last season. With my dear, incredible, evangelistic, grace-filled husband it was never anyone else’s fault when they failed. It was because of his past, his failure and THAT IS A LIE straight from hell!! A lie that was a weight to him through this life with a reoccurring power that slowed him up in his race.
Watching it was painful. But I couldn’t fight his fight. But boy I prayed. I prayed and we saw victory. Then captivity… then victory… etc., Now he is free at last. But if he could have only have embraced the chastening and grabbed a hold of his past and released himself from it. The effort would have been painful; but afterwards it would have yielded the peaceable fruit of righteousness. He would have been trained by it… found freedom.
But you and I have not passed on. We still walk in this world, a world whose ruler is the prince of darkness. We too are laden with a past and that thing that is our weakness. Maybe it’s pride. Depression. Anger. Woundedness. Bitterness. Sexual addiction. ETC., We are in the nightmare and war until such time as we are home but we will run and hide or we will save and release the hostages and stand and fight?
Our fight begins within us individually. We must face that weight that still tries to creep in and overwhelm the fullness of life in Christ and the plans set before us.
If Satan wants to mess with me and create chaos along my journey at the very least he will have one hell of a fight because on this trip home I am walking in the Shadow of the Most High and I will not be as one without hope, swinging at the air. I would bear His likeness and have His favor and gain a crown worthy to be laid at my Saviors feet! I would empty my will and hands in order to take up His cross and wage war with the one who wrecks havoc on the saints. It is my battle cry. It will be stand upon the nightmares and trials to declare the glory of a Perfect, All-powerful and glorious God! God is in the midst of this child and I will not be moved!
“…everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. I Cor 9:24b – 27
Ready for a fight? To establish your faith you’ll have to armor up. Let’s go!
The Whole Armor of God Ephesians 6: 10-20
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Get still. Pray. Get in the Word. Find scriptures to use against your enemy that deal specifically with your weakness. Be vigilant and watchful. Armor up!