My Unsought Calling
The woman on the phone was frantic. "Pastor, you've got to help me. Strange things are happening in my house and in my life, and I can't get them to stop!" Bev (her name has been changed) had recently begun attending our church. I asked her what exactly was happening.
"I hear voices, even when no one is there."
"Has anyone else heard them?" I asked.
"Not till today. This morning, my two teenage daughters were with me getting ready for school, and we all heard these strange sounds. We were all terrified. Whenever I've told my ex-husband about these voices, he says I'm making it up. But today my girls heard it, too. Pastor Ray, I'm really scared. I've been listening to you at church on Sundays, and for some reason I thought you might know what to do."
I certainly did not know what to do. But I invited Bev to come to my office so we could talk and pray with her. When she arrived a few minutes later, I asked Susan, our children's pastor, to join us.
Over the next two hours, Susan and I got a glimpse of what she was talking about. Bev, a well-dressed professional, began telling us her story and about her mother who was a witch. "I was introduced to the occult in childhood, and my sister is still practicing witchcraft on the West Coast, but I haven't done any of that since getting married and moving to the Midwest."
She continued her story about her troubled marriage, the eventual divorce, beginning to come to church wanting to be a better Christian, and now the unwelcome presence tormenting her. I noticed that Bev's voice changed from being frightened to one that was flat and unemotional. It didn't seem like hers anymore. She was swaying back and forth.
I asked a few clarifying questions about her relationship with Jesus, and Bev stopped referring to herself as "I" and started referring to herself as "she."
"Are you referring to yourself?" I asked. And the voice that came out of Bev's mouth didn't sound like hers at all. "You fear us," it said. "You fear us."
Now I'm not going to lie; I was more than a little freaked out. But I said, "No, I'm not afraid of you or anybody else." I hoped whatever I was speaking to couldn't see I was starting to sweat.
Bev had started telling her story humbly and with brokenness. But that personality disappeared and other personalities took over that were accusing and vulgar. "F--- you!" the voice said with a sneer. "Up yours. She's ours." Those words and that tone were definitely not what we'd heard even moments before.
I'd never been in this situation before. My seminary theology classes that mentioned doctrines of the devil, demons, and the spirit world seemed long ago and far away.
"Bev has accepted Jesus," I said. "You have no right to be here."
"Yes, we do," the voice replied. "She invited us here, and we're not leaving."
"She's a Christian now."
"Oh, we know all about her."
"Oh, you must be omniscient," I said, using the word as a test, knowing Bev had no theological background. But the voice's answer was immediate and spot-on theologically.