There was once an older woman in my church who needed a ride home. I saw no harm in helping her; she seemed well put-together. She dressed in fancy suits and silks. Her hair, jewelry, and make-up displayed knowledge of both the latest fashions and what was confidently best matched to her. She was an international woman of culture, sophistication, and beauty. I saw no harm in her, so I took her home.
But one ride led to more rides. And more rides led to dinners and teas in her home.
It didn’t take long to realize that she was not normal. Her once well-furnished home had been cratered; she’d sold off much of it to maintain her lifestyle. She was existing on whatever she could sell and whatever people would give her. Though she was quite talented, she refused to work. She said she felt “called to seek God in prayer and Bible study”. She had a “yeah, but…” excuse for every Scripture you quoted for this including “…the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
All of this I did not know when our friendship began, but I learned it over time. I knew her lifestyle was not a calling of God because God doesn’t call us to do things that don’t line up with his Word. Nevertheless, I didn’t do much to push back against the falsehoods she was believing. I would casually mention a scripture countering her belief and ask her what she thought about it. I then let it be, and I told her I wasn’t going to judge her. This kindness grew our friendship and, like an unchecked garden, her weeds filled my life.
I have always liked being able to offer a spare room in my house as a getaway for my friends. Sometimes just a short break from their status-quo was all it took to give my friends a fresh, encouraged perspective. My townhome had a perfect space for this, and I remember inviting this lost friend into my home as a getaway retreat for her. I remember her stay landed on a weekend where I was obligated to help with a church yard sale. I invited her to come along, but she declined. I left her alone in my apartment. When I came back to my apartment, something felt off from the moment I walked in the door. My friend had been “seeking” and wrote what she felt God told her in her journal. She had left her journal out where I could see what she wrote in it. I knew it was an invasion of privacy to read her words, but I also knew that the truth of whatever had happened in my home would be there. So, I read it. The words seared me: “the pastor is supposed to be my husband”.
Everything holy within me rose up in anger against her in that moment. She had written poisonous LIES…in my HOME….about the MARRIED man of God leading our church! I was so livid that I was visibly shaking. Nevertheless, I recognized that the Devil–not God–had been whispering in this woman’s ear…in my house…and I had to tread carefully over the next few things I would say to her. I felt danger lurking in my apartment and, I’m ashamed to say, I was scared. Nevertheless, I confronted her.
I told her that I saw what she wrote while I was gone, and I asked her if she really believed it. She smiled and said she was glad that I read it because she didn’t want to hide it anymore. “Anymore!” I thought, “How long has this been going on?” I thought that; I didn’t ask that. I told her that she was wrong to say those things because God would never tell her to break up a marriage to be with a man. I told her she was not hearing from God; she was hearing from the Devil. She became viciously angry and spewed hurtful insults at me. I don’t remember what she said as much as the burning hatred in her eyes. The woman was wholly sinning and defiantly fighting hearing the Truth. It was the closest thing to a possessed person that I have ever seen.
Because this all happened in my home, I felt responsible to right the grievous wrong being done here. I argued with her for quite some time, but she would not relent from her belief that the pastor was supposed to be her husband. I had her pack up her things, and I took her home. That was the end of our “friendship”.
I knew what had happened in my home was no idle threat. I could not keep it to myself because I was certain she would try to hurt the pastor’s wife. Consequently, I went to my church’s pastoral staff and the pastor’s wife herself and told them everything. I told them about the lost woman in my apartment and all she did and said there. I remember bowing like a failed knight before her king because I felt like I had failed them. I felt guilty for not knowing better. I felt guilty for letting it get that far. I felt guilty for being close friends with her and letting the sickness grow. Though I was abused, misguided, and betrayed, I felt responsible for this clear and present danger. I let those feelings consume me.
The lost woman did not go quietly into the shadows. She continued to listen to her lies and they told her to shave her head and present herself to the pastor during worship–naked. She showed up one Sunday to do just that. Her lovely hair shaven, she had wrapped herself in a silk sari with nothing on beneath. In front of an audience of over a thousand people, she attempted to disrobe in front of the pastor. Security swarmed in and carried her out, however, before she was able to get the job done. They took her out, thankfully, before anyone really knew who she was or what she was trying to do. They were able to do this because of what the pastor did prior to her entrance.
It was customary practice for the pastor to be in prayer before going on stage before a service. The time before services was so important, in fact, that the pastor was guarded to reinforce his conviction that he needed to remain focused on the task at hand. In these prayer-prep times, the Holy Spirit would speak to the pastor about things he needed to say and attacks that were coming against him. The Sunday that the lost woman came in, the Holy Spirit had already prepared him for the attack and told him to direct everyone in the audience to close their eyes in worship. The Holy Spirit saw the attack coming and enabled the pastor to protect his flock. We sheep were directed to close our eyes and keep worshiping until the pastor told us to open our eyes. Because I was one of the obedient sheep, I never saw the lost woman come into the sanctuary. I never saw her attempt to disrobe or her shaved head screaming as she was carried out of the building. All of that was told to me later along with the news of other failed attempts to hurt the pastor’s wife.
Her failed attempt to get at the pastor brought scrutinizing eyes on me. People that knew about my friendship with her and the incident in my apartment then associated me with her. I was now the woman that knew the woman that tried to kill the pastor’s wife and take her husband. I could not be trusted. I was guilty by association.
Because of the lost woman in my apartment–and the sinful lies she wrote there–I believed I could not trust myself to hear the voice of God again. I believed that I could serve the house of God–in volunteer positions in the church–but I could not hear from God personally. I held myself in this prison for many years.
Because of the lost woman in my apartment, I became a lost woman too.
I went into a dark depression. I questioned myself and everything I thought I heard from God. I doubted everything to the point that it became impossible for me to make decisions for myself. I remember people close to me were recommending I get professional help and calling my parents to come and check on me. I didn’t need professional help; I needed a friend to believe in me and pull me out of my mess. My mom was that friend.
I remember coming to the end of myself. I had been working temp jobs and applying for “real” jobs for over a year. Some weeks I was applying to as many as 100 jobs a week. Still, no doors were opening for me. Even the part-time jobs that had been sustaining me for two years were beginning to dry up. I felt so hopeless and lost.
I called home and begged my mom and dad for guidance. “Just make the decision for me,” I pleaded, “I don’t know what to do.” Without hesitation, they said: “Come home.”
Coming home, at first, felt like defeat. My parents had been empty nesters. My room had become storage. There was no place for me. I knew that coming home meant a lot of work for my mom to make a space for me. Nevertheless, mom and dad knew I needed the family to get through my dark time. My mother especially knew this because she had weathered many such storms herself and knew what it took to break through. Her gift to me, in that moment, was going into my old room and clearing it out so that I could come home. She not only cleared out my room, but she also cleared space in the living room and kitchen for parts of my furniture and kitchen tools. It’s not easy for a woman to give up part of her haven to another woman…even when that woman is her child. It’s not easy for two women of age to run their own separate homes to share a home together, but mom and I embarked on that journey together. Almost ten years later, I can say it has been one of the strongest and best moves of my life. The beginning was a mess. The middle was a bit brooding and rocky. The later years have been a blessing.
It took almost ten years for me to stop beating myself up for what happened with the lost woman. It took almost ten years for me to believe I could seek God and trust that I was hearing his voice again. That trust came from knowing the difference between the voice of God and the voice of the enemy, Satan.
In my next post, I will go into that in more depth. For now, let me ask you to think about these questions:
In what ways has the enemy attacked you and made you feel unworthy?
What lies has he spoken to you that you accepted as truth?