Many of you who read this blog have known me for as long as I have existed.
You’ve watched me grow and graduate and marry and birth some kiddos and settle, and I suspect, to the outside eye, it has all seemed quite normal. Unexceptional.
Rather boring, even.
But something happened one day seven years ago that gave my average, unexceptional, American Christian life a swift kick in the pants.
And unless you know me very well, you have probably not heard this story. You probably don’t know about the change that followed.
Sadly, you may not have even noticed.
But it happened, and it was real.
And, for me, it changed everything.
(By the way, this is going to get a little…ummm….different.)
Josh and I had traveled to India for the first time that January.
We would work alongside a group from our church and several native Indian pastors to share the good news of Jesus Christ with primarily Hindu people living in poor, remote villages.
Though the villagers didn’t know why we had come, our white skin and American-ness made us different and gave them the false illusion that we were important. They welcomed us into their homes easily, eager to seat us and listen to what we had to say.
Many of them would pray to receive Christ.
Oftentimes, after we shared the Gospel, we would also be asked to pray over people with various sicknesses and ailments.
“Of course!” we would say.
I tried to look like I knew what I was doing, but truthfully, though I had been a Christian since age seven and been exposed to the message of Christ my whole life, just stepping out of the taxi and onto the dusty Indian soil required mustering a level of trust in God that was far out of my league.
Praying over sickness was off the scale.
At that point, my most serious moments of prayer had generally revolved around a big test or maybe a trial someone else was going through. Most likely, if I was praying it was for God to “be with” so and so, and bless all the rest of us.
In other words, I stunk at prayer.
But no big deal, right?
I was a comfortable American Christian. Never in need and rarely in want. Life was grand, and God and I were just buddies.
I called on Him when I needed Him. I read the Bible when I was desperate. I sang songs about Him on Sundays.
And that was about it.
He and I both knew what a fair-weather fan of Him I was, but we didn’t speak of it.
I was going on a mission trip, after all. I really needed to look the part.
Things catapulted to hyperventilation level, however, when a man stopped our prayers and asked us if we could follow him to his village.
A woman there was demon possessed, he said. Would we pray over her?
Now I don’t know about you, but my only knowledge about casting out demons rested heavily upon a scene or two from the edited-for-content TV version of The Exorcist, during which I had most definitely half-covered my eyes.
So for this?
I. Was. Not. Ready.
We followed, however, in a sort of silent, horrible tension. We had not planned on this and had no idea what awaited us.
But she looked normal enough. Small stature, middle-aged, wearing a sari. She stared at us just like everyone else stared at us.
Then, without so much as a hello, how are you? and like it was normal and what everyone does when they come to visit, we laid our hands on her shoulders and began to pray the kinds of things that people pray when they’re casting out demons.
I remember really wanting to open my eyes. To see what everyone else was doing. I could hear their prayers. We echoed each other in our uncertainty. I wondered if they were thinking the kind of spiritual thoughts that I was thinking. Like, This is so weird! And, Man, am I going to have a story to tell!
But that weirdness was just beginning.
Suddenly, a few minutes in, someone in the room gives this loud, long, obnoxious, man-sized yawn.
Seriously? I’m thinking. Someone could yawn at a time like this?
We kept praying.
It happened again. YAWN. Bigger, louder. And again. They were getting more frequent.
Finally, I realized.
It was her.
The woman we were praying over was yawning at us.
It would almost seem funny, if it were funny. But the one most appropriate word to describe those yawns was nothing but defiant.
Insolent, bold, mocking defiance.
We, the people of “faith,” against her, the “demon possessed,” and we were boring her.
We were losing.
How could this be?
We left her home, uncertain.
She had continued to yawn for several minutes before she finally seemed to faint. Someone laid her on the ground, and she got back up after several moments, seemingly unaffected.
And it was over.
It has taken me years to process those moments in my mind.
And while I may never be sure, I do not believe we made a dent in that woman’s spiritual troubles that day.
Instead, her yawns called me out. I had spiritual troubles of my own.
My “faith” was phony. I lived my life for myself, and I did not love God.
I was Sunday Christian only.
And, Sunday Christians, my friends, are weaklings.
When it comes to the real stuff of life, the serious stuff, we will lose every time.
Just like I lost. Miserably.
But. (Praise God there is a “But!’)
God is good and He is faithful and He was not done with me.
Hannah, He said. It’s time to choose. Will you trust in Me? Or will your faith continue to be a joke? It’s your choice.
What will you decide?
I may run some of you off with this one, and that’s okay.
My goal with this blog is bring glory to God and speak the truth in love.
And this is truth: Jesus died for the sins of the world. He shed his blood and took our punishment. He rose again and defeated death. He lives.
If you don’t believe it, pray now that you will.
He offers life. Abundantly. Please don’t miss out.
If you “believe” it, but are not changed by it, pray right now that you will be.
There is power in the blood of Jesus and His work on the cross, and, had I believed it, this story may have had a much different ending.
So, please, learn from my mistakes, and give up on this myth that is half-hearted American Christianity.
Jesus is either worth going all in for or He isn’t.
What will you decide?
Hannah, I am thankful that your were bold enough to share this story. My life was changed the summer of 1999 on my trip to South Africa. When God answered prayers in ways I have never seen before. When I have shared stories from that trip friends though I was crazy. Just say that’s a great story. It was more than a story. It was God at work. I have never told you this you have been in my prayers over the years. I may not see you or talk to you like we did when we were kids. I pray for you daily.
I’d love to hear it sometime, Andy! And thank you, thank you for your prayers! I always need them.