Steve's Story: Explorations and Exploits
Excerpt from Rescued from Hell, Chapter 6: Back on Planet Earth
This was still my season of "baby steps" and many pleasant discoveries abounded. I had taken to walking the neighborhood at night. I loved to gaze upon the stars and watch the play of moonlight on the broad expanse of Bogue Sound. I delighted in all the sights and sounds of our heavily wooded shoreline community. The presence of Jesus was so strongly with me on those walks that it seemed all the trees were bowing and bending, clapping their hands in the rustle of the breeze, as He walked by them at my side. It turns out that not everyone was applauding. A neighbor called June one night to share her fears, "June, lock your doors! There's a strange man prowling about." With a sigh that I can well imagine, June told her, "That strange man is my husband.
She meant it; I had become strange to her as well. June was both delighted and stunned by what had suddenly sprung to life out of her hippie carpenter husband. The old me she knew well enough - the plastered-over exterior I had been presenting to her and to the world. That Steve was a rolling disaster under such fierce self-control that he seemed placid and steady on the surface, even predictable. The new Steve was a cat out of the bag. My moods were swinging off the charts; my deep, dark, and secret former insanity was chilling to hear and hard to believe; I needed constant encouragement and regular deliverance. For instance that demon of condemnation I cast out at Ridgecrest, kept coming back to sit on me like a ton of bricks. It was hard for me to take authority over it and believe I wasn't supposed to feel so guilty, because after all I was always messing up and seemed very far from the mark. How little I actually understood and believed in the grace of justification in those days (look up Romans 3:24 and keep reading!). So I would put in a desperate call to her from work, "June, I feel so condemned." June, with a child in her arm and a pot on the stove, would sigh and say, "Oh, for goodness sakes, spirit of condemnation leave my husband alone in Jesus' Name." Bam. She'd hang up and I'd be free. But it was one more thing for her to do, and Steve being a Christian was supposed to have made her life easier.
There was a lot more work for me too. I was used to going at it ninety to nothing at Timberworks, arriving well before my employees, working through lunch and leaving only after everyone else was gone, sometimes long after. Now when I arrived home in the evening, totally beat and feeling like I had done my day, the Holy Spirit was teaching me: Stay in the car long enough to let it all go, and get the mindset firmly in place that my real work, my most important work, was about to begin once I walked through the front door. The kids would want me. June would need me. It wasn't about me, and it certainly wasn't about Timberworks (my baby!). I had a new assignment, my top priority: Be the best father and husband I could be with God's help. It was a very tall order.
Please, don't ask me how well I did. We men typically will hold up a better scorecard on our performance than our wives. Let's just say that we managed to keep our love alive, stay together as a family, have good times and grow spiritually - but not without plenty of struggles. That sums it up nicely from a male point of view. One of the great struggles was at Timberworks (my baby!). Winters were always difficult since our area's economy was driven by summer tourism. In addition to the yearly cycle that first fall and winter of my conversion June and I had been using Timberworks as a staging ground for witnessing to everyone who walked through the door. You might have come in asking only for directions, but you were going to find Jesus on the way out!
One day, a penniless young man came through that door; he was homeless, slept under cars and talked gibberish. All he had in the world was a half-eaten bag of Oreo cookies. It was apparent that he had "mental" problems as well - I had been in Cherry Hospital long enough to read the signs. We took him into my office and started presenting the gospel, then began looking for ways to minister deliverance. The Lord said, "Cast out pride." You've got to be kidding me. How could this guy have any pride left? Look at him! OK. We'll do it. When I commanded a spirit of pride to leave him, it was as if the roof came off the building.
June and I stared at each other in astonishment, then we stared at the source of our amazement. He was sitting there looking like a whole new person, in his right mind and engaging us in "normal" conversation. We took him into our home and to our church. Here was a modern, albeit tamer, version of the Gergesene demoniac (Matthew 8:28). Unfortunately, for our new friend, it didn't last. The spirits began stealing their way back into his mind and we didn't know nearly as much as we needed to about how to do a deeper cleansing or equip somebody to maintain their deliverance. He never fell back to where he had been, but he never fully recovered the freedom and clarity of mind he had first received. This was a crucial lesson about our own need for more depth.
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