As I work with people today in my new calling as a counselor, I draw heavily upon my own personal experiences. I can identify with a large number of people because I have wrestled with a variety of confusing situations. I don’t feel threatened when I don’t have all the answers or when I have to go to someone else for help. My needs give someone else fulfillment and employment and vice versa. That way God makes sure that we don’t tower over one another.
After the Easter experience, I grew closer to my children. They were eleven and seven years old at the time. They had been in a Christian school since kindergarten. Reading the Bible on my own seemed to bring us closer. So far our only exposure to the Bible had been as we had helped the children with their memory verses.
One day our younger son, John, reported to us that he had asked Jesus to come into his heart. I was fishing for a reaction from my wife to these words and asked her, “What do you think of that, Josephine?”
“Oh, that’s kids’ stuff,” she replied. Her reply signaled me to proceed with caution.
Later on, Johnny explained to me that there were three things you were supposed to do after you invited Jesus into your heart. First, you were to tell at least one other person what you had done. Second, you were to read the Bible. The third instruction was either to fellowship with other believers or to pray diligently.
Johnny had received Christ sometime in the past but had never had the courage to tell us. I felt very much ashamed that we had stifled the spirit of the children so that they could not freely share their lives with us. Later on, I approached our older son, Peter, and asked him about Christ. He told me that he had invited Jesus into his heart when he was six years old, or five years earlier. I am ashamed to say that his faith had no opportunity to grow in our family.
I was really happy to know that my boys and I were on the same team. I could turn on the radio to any Bible study at any time in the presence of my two children. They may not have paid particular attention to the Bible studies, but at least they did not get angry. We could discuss openly ways we might woo and win Josephine to the Lord. I was delighted when John brought some Christian stickers home from school and proceeded to put them on a number of our light switches. “By and by, as she flicks the light on and off, Jesus will rub off on her,” I thought. But the more we schemed to claim and catch Josephine for the Kingdom of God, the more she rejected and resented our efforts. One day someone gave me a little comic book entitled “Big Daddy.” It presented arguments in favor of the creation theory of man versus the evolution theory. I gave the little booklet to Josephine to read. She was so angry that I would read and believe “such infantile hogwash” that she practically exploded. But instead of losing her composure, she gnashed her teeth so hard that she broke a portion of her front tooth. She stormed out of the house and drove off in a frenzy.
As soon as I discovered that my experiences were not entirely eccentric and unique, I began to regain my emotional stability. I remember the following incidents very clearly.
I was in the bathtub primarily for the purpose of letting the warm water to help relax me. I learned that warm water and a good book were effective tranquilizers for me. I laid my book aside and pursued the following dialogue, “Lord,” I said, “You know how rational a mind I have. This business of asking Jesus to come into my heart really doesn’t make sense to me. But if Johnny can do it, I can do it too.” I proceeded to invite Jesus to come into my heart. As soon as I had done so, I said, “Lord, I don’t feel any different, no surge of warmth, no burst of energy, no radiant illumination or insight.” I was disappointed. But I did make this remark to myself. “This is the first thing I’ve done that I don’t understand.” As I look back, I would consider that experience in the bathtub as my first halting step of faith. I had taken a step that my logical mind could not understand.
The next step was as difficult as the first. I had to tell someone that I had asked Jesus to come into my heart. The instructions from Johnny were indelibly lodged in my heart. Whom should I tell? My wife and my therapist already considered me mentally ill! Telling them would only further complicate my relationship with them both. I decided I must tell someone who didn’t know me very well. I figured that the principal of our children’s school would be the best candidate. I drove to the school and parked my car. I probably sat in the car for ten minutes, trying to talk myself out of going ahead. All kinds of arguments came to me why this was the wrong time and the principal was the wrong person. “If Johnny can do it, I can do it too,” I finally said to myself. I got out of the car and looked for the principal. It was after school hours. After a cursory examination of the school grounds, I breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, maybe another day,” I thought.
I went back to the car, ready to drive away, but something within me gently admonished, “Peter, you didn’t look very hard or very long for the principal.” Reluctantly, I got out of the car and continued my search. I finally found the principal and was horrified to notice that he was not alone. Telling one man would be hard enough, but two! The thought terrified me. But I went ahead, reminding myself that if our seven-year-old son could do it, I could too. The verse “A little child shall lead them” comes to mind as I relate this incident to you.
Anyway, dear Phyllis, I introduced myself to the two men and quickly told them the purpose of my visit. I expected to get that scrutinizing look I had learned to recognize as “I wonder if he’s all right in the head?” Instead, I received a hearty welcome and a warm embrace from both men. Then one of them suggested that we pray and thank God for what He had done for me. That was a new experience—public prayer in the hallway of a school. I was powerless to struggle against the suggestion. I allowed the prayer to come down upon me. The experience was both new and renewing. I myself have done the same thing since then, having shocked some and surprised others with my spontaneous nature.
Those two men did much for me that day. I wasn’t crazy after all! Here were two respectable and employed people who believed that my experience of conversion was a gift from God rather than the product of a sick mind. If only I could convince my wife and my therapist, my life would be in order again.
As I became stronger in my new faith, the tension in my marriage increased. I was not as ready to consider the preferences of my wife. I limited myself to receiving religious instruction only from the radio. On Sundays I began to search out church services where I could feel comfortable. Although my wife no longer tried to stop me, our relationship became increasingly taut. I tried to get everyone who would listen to pray for her conversion. I was positive she would go to hell in her present condition. She became terribly angry when I mentioned that others were praying for her soul.
I underwent excruciating cycles of physical and psychic distress. I did not correlate this pressure to the tense relationship with my wife. The stress would come on me out of the clear blue sky. There were no warnings and no particular events that triggered it. Tranquilizers did not help. In fact, I was taking them sparingly. If I could have done what I felt like doing, I would have taken a brick and thrown it through our television. I know that would not have helped, but at least it shows you how I felt every few days. To alleviate the tension, I would squeeze a piece of putty in my hands and pace back and forth like a caged animal. I didn’t know how to release the tension or cope with it intelligently. My severe stress was obvious to my wife, and she was quite concerned. Occasionally, she sat with me in the bathroom while I soaked in a tub of hot water. During such periods I talked profusely. The stress would leave me as suddenly as it had come. The release was accompanied by a light shower of electrical energy pervading my body. My wife could sense the change and would ask me to put my arms around her. Somehow she could feel the release also and be refreshed by my embrace.
I encountered powerful, unexplainable urges to go different places, meet different people, and eat particular types of food. I did not struggle particularly hard against these impulses unless they were morally wrong or illegal. My wife was quite protective and did not want me to entertain anything that was new or that didn’t make sense to her. Sometimes she was able to restrain me or at least, slow me down.
I remember one weekend participating in a type of encounter group. The desire to share in an all-weekend affair starting Friday evening was enormous. The idea of meeting primarily young men and women from all walks of life appealed to me very much. We were to meet in a church basement, get acquainted, and together explore the underprivileged and perverted segments of our society. I didn’t last the whole weekend. We were allowed to sleep only about two hours each night. Little sleep was to help break down the artificial defenses or “masks” we were wearing. I did, however, participate in visiting the tattoo shops in Los Angeles and a bar on Sunset Strip where only men who had questionable designs on other men went. I also attended a Black Panther meeting. The atmosphere in the meeting I can only describe as extremely hideous. I had many feelings, but I cannot put my finger on exactly what it was I felt. I discovered that I had acquired the ability to perceive things outside the range of the five senses. But I did not know what to do with this extra perception. I could not stay in the Black Panther gathering. This clandestine brotherhood is committed to a life of revenge, violence, and rebellion. The angry atmosphere was more than I could handle. I was not the only one who needed to slip quietly out of the meeting.
Outside there were a few other agitated souls pacing back and forth on the sidewalk. A skinny, young man started to pick a fight with a much bigger man. There really was no contest. I sensed that the young man’s thoughts were terribly disorganized. I felt a strong desire to pray for the young man. I told him if he was willing to get down on his knees right there on the sidewalk, I would pray for him. I felt that whatever was wrong would be healed. I can’t remember whether he knelt long enough for me to enter into a real spirit of prayer. I don’t believe so.
We were subsequently bused to another place. The young man wanted to sit next to me on the bus. He was very much attracted to me. I was somewhat leery of the confusion and need in his personality. When his glance fastened upon my glance I experienced a powerful transference of energy between us. The incident lasted for possibly forty-five seconds. As I am writing these lines, I am wondering if I might have seen a demonstration of divine healing as described in the book of Acts, chapter 3, verses 4 through 7: “And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said ‘Look on us...’”
The experience was quite similar to what had happened in the hospital, but much stronger. The young man’s eyes started to reflect more and more peace and serenity. No words had been exchanged, no prayer spoken. Then he began to sob and sob. The tears welled up deep from within his innermost being. He could not stop until his whole being was limp. His words, as I remember them today, more than five years later, were “I want to be clean, I want to be clean. What do I have to do to be clean?” I do not recall whether or not I urged him to start reading the Bible diligently. I did tell him that he must stop taking drugs right away, including marijuana; he must go to the dentist and have his teeth cleaned; and he must be kind to his mother.
I never saw the young man after this episode, but I do recall two very interesting things that happened to me within a short time after the experience. First, I became terribly agitated. While the rest of the encounter group attended some kind of political rally, I paced. I must have walked around a big city block ten times, trying to keep from flying into bits and pieces. I prayed as best I knew how, quite disorganized, quite incoherent, I’m sure. Somehow I tried to keep my mind on God. When we finally got back to the place where my car was parked, I excused myself and left for home. I was totally spent.
On the way home, I began to feel terribly dirty, unclean, contaminated, polluted. I was not able to correlate the experience with the young man to the way I felt. It was several years before I began to relate the effects of prayer to a change in my metabolism and other changes in my physical and emotional states of health. It was several years before I understood that I needed to ask for wisdom before I prayed. It was several years before I realized that people can be like parasites, draining one of physical and emotional strength. It was several years before I learned how to recognize who these parasites are and how to protect myself from them.
On my way home from the encounter group, my physical body was in a state of uproar. It seemed as if someone had poured a pint of filth into my blood stream. I scouted around in my mind to see if there was something I could do or eat to be clean again. My thoughts struck upon fresh pineapple. I stopped at a market to buy one. The fresh pineapple helped a great deal. Once home, I may also have taken a warm bath to wash away that feeling of dirtiness.
Dear Phyllis, I do not understand the spiritual or psychological laws that come into play as we pray for people or just plain associate with them. I do know that in some way we all affect each other. Unless we are unusually strong, it is wise to associate as little as possible with those who do not contribute to our sense of physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Avoid these persons like the plague unless you are positive God is sending you. When God sends you, He will also protect you and equip you. Health rubs off and so does filth. Filth can often be cleverly disguised. Ask God to help you recognize the counterfeits.
Many people, too many, are preoccupied with the business of collecting and distributing information that eventually will completely pollute our personality. Eventually, we will not even have a desire for that which is clean and pure. Unless we continually dream “The Impossible Dream,” we will finally slide into a very low estate. The God-part of our nature will fall sound asleep. I believe we must always encourage and inspire each other to focus on Jesus and never compromise with the enemy. We must be willing to shun filth with a passion. We must learn to recognize it in all its subtleties.