Tuesday, June 12, 2018

46 Years in the Crosshairs of Satan: Part III: On March 20, 2018, Satan Nearly Killed Me in Oxford, And My Sin Let It Happen


In this third and final installment of this series, let me confess my greatest sin in life. It is worse than naive folly, pride, or in trusting in human energy without sufficient proactive prayer, as already itemized, that which allowed Satan to do me harm. The sin is that of impatience.

The flip side of our strengths is our weaknesses. I am sanguine, I love the Lord and I love people, I am an optimist, and the glass is always 99 percent full. My father, an optimist, called me a "tunnel-view optimist" from my early childhood forward. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. It has also been natural to be a risk-taker for the Gospel, but I was also blind or naive to so many things, whether concerning evil and deceitful people, or simple practicalities in pursuing good goals. I have relentlessly bitten off more than I can chew in my enthusiasm for the reality of the Gospel. Yet, very much good and dynamic ministry has been achieved, Satan is displeased, and has only ratcheted up stress on me to catalyze further folly in impatience.

Over the years, a pattern developed and deepened. When the good I pursued did not happen on my assumed or explicitly impatient timetable, I would get frustrated. This happened hugely in the 1988 Massachusetts Pro-Life Referendum drive. Had I been a patient and wisely prayerful man, we would have prevailed over the deceit of the Massachusetts Attorney General. He blocked it on a technicality that would have otherwise been understood ahead of time, and overcome. And when frustration sets in, anger follows, and folly multiplies. And my anger began to erupt at various places, especially under financial stress.

Now, my father was not into financial planning -- he had a view, which I have had, believing that if you do the good, finances will follow. Not so. Naive. He was chief of hematology at the Hartford Hospital, with General Practice alongside. He simply loved caring for people. Hematology, from the late 1940's to 1990 was not high paying among doctors. And he did not bill about 40 percent of his patients, because they were too poor (many Black, Hispanic and White inner-city people). He never used a credit card and paid for everything in cash except for the mortgage. He carried no debt, but also had no savings, health and life insurance, or retirement provisions. Only after my mother died young (age 54 in 1976, when my father was 58), did he change his planning. So, in my tunnel-view optimism, I had a similar assumption, but without a sufficient income most the time.

So, I would get angry under the duress of finances, or with respect to mundane items (I have cursed Microsoft more times than you can imagine), or when simply pressed for time. It took me years to realize and confess that my anger was against the Lord's timetable, against God himself. Even though I have always and naturally embraced his goodness and sovereignty, perhaps this also blinded me to the object of my anger.

As frustration for achieving good goals grew across the years, the anger became worse, and so bad that in the last two years I began to grasp it, and to pray and repent. But still, when I can't pay my bills, meet the utilities or mortgage, even facing basic food shortages, I was only partially successful. And since 2008, when adrenal exhaustion began to set it (before diagnosed), and my work pace and income dropped, I was trapped. And when the adrenal exhaustion hit State 4 two years ago, as formally diagnosed, I was in deep trouble. And it led to my crypto-genetic (unknown origin) stroke in 2014, which no doubt came from deepening stress, and my diabetes, for the first time, going out of control.

All this is due to my own sin of impatience, and thus a wide opportunity for the enemy.

In dealing with my adrenal exhaustion these past two years, I have had great success in regaining strength. But there were also two reversals emotionally, when my youngest son was in the hospital four times in nine weeks, and almost died (he is far better now); and when this January and February my whole computer system broke down, and I could do very little ministry, academic and financial work.

Nonetheless, I was okay, and in March, I was lecturing in Krakow, Poland, then flying to London, and up to Oxford for some academics. I got very sick just before leaving Krakow, and there was something demonic about it, but not readily identifiable. My strength started spiraling down. Limping into Oxford, I got my minimal obligations done, but on Thursday through Sunday, up to March 20, I was very sick, and could hardly leave my room for the bathroom. My diabetes raged out of control, but not due to my ratio of food intake and the insulin regimen. On Friday, face down on my bed all day, I was suddenly aware that I was being "sifted" by the devil. I cried out in prayer, I felt I weighed 400 pounds (not 185) and was dying. I called my wife at home through this entire process, seeking prayer. But no relief from the sifting illness.

I had to leave for the airport Sunday morning. I arranged for the taxi Saturday night (to the bus station), and the details were clear: 6:45 a.m. at Wycliffe Hall, 54 Banbury Road. "Yes, we know where it is." It took me hours, through the night, to pack my bags. I told them I was sick, and would wait inside the building until they pulled up. They did not show. I called, and the driver could not find it. They asked me to wait outside. But I was sick, and it was -3 celsius and snowing. I started to get angry. I went to wait outside, and it took another 18 minutes and two phone calls, and I had to go onto the street, and try to flag the cabby down, who was 100 yards down the road. In the process, I cried out, "What have I done wrong Lord? Did I not set this up ahead of time to prevent me waiting in the cold?"

Then my anger seized the worse control of my life ever. I cursed the Cab company and the driver in foul invectives. And as I did, my whole body started shaking, and started shooting fire from every cell, and my eyes were full of lightening shooting off in every direction. It was like a transformer exploding. Then I said loudly: I REPENT. I experienced what James says in 3:6 of his letter, describing a tongue out of control that curses men made in the image of God: "... sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." The fire stopped, and had you pushed me slightly, I would have collapsed.

The cab driver arrived, a Muslim man with the style of beard said to imitate Muhammad -- long and untrimmed, but with a shaved upper lip. He was in Pakistani dress. I struggled to get my bags into the cab, and at the train station, as I was so weak, I fumbled with my billfold to pay the fare of 6.2 British pounds. As I pulled out a 5-pound note, he looked me with great mercy and changed the fare to 5-pounds. Once in the bus, I was just praying to get home alive, as I had to fly first back to Warsaw (hub for Polish airways), then to Newark, then the 150-mile drive home.

Then amazingly, when the bus crossed past the Oxford City limits, a huge demonic oppression tangibly lifted. And only then could I say in prayer, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," and as I prayed that all the way home, step by step as God gave me the strength. As a pastor friend in Oxford says: "Oxford is a city full of demons." There is a history in place. And yet with many strong believing churches. No question that the demonic assault was territorial in nature, and here is my observation: Satan brought his greatest strength against my deepest weakness and almost killed me, seeking even to overcome a strong heart. And how do I know that apart from this experience? It turns out that I had a burgeoning heart attack, stopped the moment I said: I REPENT. I have always had a strong heart, and after my stroke in 2014, my EKG was excellent as was my blood pressure (that is why it was labeled crypto-genetic). But two weeks ago, at my physical, my EKG showed an infarcation, and my doctor said I had had a cardiac event, which is another way of saying some sort of heart attack. I knew it exactly, and told him so.

Since March 20, I have rested, am steadily recovering my strength, and the anger that almost killed me -- under Satan's strategic pressure -- is 99 percent gone. I am praying for the final 1 percent to eviscerate as well. I am grateful for your prayers. I REPENT. As James also says: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you"(4:7).





1 comment:

Jeff Herron said...

Thank you for the encouragement of your transparency and vulnerability. You are living out 1 John 1:9, among others. I am praying for you and God's work through you regularly.

I have also struggled with "waiting on the Lord." His timetable is always the right one -- but it is so rarely the same as my own! May his deep peace be ours as we submit to his will in all things. (Hard to do!)