If you seek him, he will be found by you.”
—2 Chronicles 15:2 (NIV)
My friend, Jane, imagines Satan as someone who looks like a stuffy, British stage actor wearing a red, velvet smoking jacket. She calls him Neville B. Goodenov. Jane says that she imagines Neville sitting next to her on the sofa, puffing on a cigarette in a long, black-lacquered holder. He says, with a British accent, “My dear, you’ll never be good enough.” When she imagines Neville, it helps her to put Satan in perspective. “It’s easier to deal with the concept of a fat-headed Neville,” she says, “than with a manipulative, evil spirit from hell.”
Neville must have grown tired of Jane, because he came to stay with me early in 1985. He was far more than fatheaded. Neville vacationed in my soul, all expenses paid, and he brought along plenty of baggage. I tried my best to be a good host, but I could never do enough for him. He berated me. He made me feel worthless, until finally I found it next to impossible to get out of bed in the morning. I couldn’t face another day of “seeing” Neville sitting there on my sofa, puffing on his cigarette, muttering about all of my faults. He made me cry. I begged him to be better to me, but Neville didn’t care. He was living the good life in my depressed soul as if it were a penthouse suite in mid-town Manhattan.
Spring of 1985 was a time of searching as I walked the bridge from young adulthood to maturity. It was a time when I was lost inside of myself hunting for answers. Neville owned me. I was his servant. I was obsessed with what it would take to free me from his bondage. But as I traveled those inner roads, I found nothing. When I searched deeper into myself, I pulled farther away from my family and friends. I sabotaged my relationships until there was just Neville and me—and that’s exactly how he wanted it.
I fell into a routine that lasted for months. When I came home from work, I changed into sweat pants and a tee shirt and lay on the sofa where I listened to Neville berate me until it was time for bed. I rarely ate, and when I did it wasn’t good food. (Neville said that I wasn’t worth a decent meal.) I didn’t read, watch television, or go out of the house. I just lay there in a living room filled with Neville’s cigarette smoke, waiting for the late afternoon sun to fade into twilight and disappear into darkness. I lost weight. My friends commented on how great I looked, but it was the last thing I wanted to hear. Neville said that I was ugly, and I believed him. He made my friends into liars. The weight loss made me feel defenseless; even worse, it screamed the secret of my depression to the world— a secret I didn’t want anyone to know. I was a genius at hiding it. My family, my co-workers, even my closest friends didn’t know. Then, finally, the loneliness devoured me. I ached to be freed from Neville for good.
One morning, I took a long walk. It was a gray, cloudy day, and the weather matched my mood. I strolled along the beautiful Lake Michigan shore where seagulls circled above me and water rolled before me like an ocean, vast and unpredictable. I wandered along a path on a windy bluff trying to decide whether I wanted to live with Neville or die to be rid of him. The churning, mouse-colored water stretched as far as I could see. I imagined a place on the other side that was filled with happiness and peace, a place without Neville. I struggled with how to get there. I wondered if God was on the other side of the water, and if He was, I wondered if He cared about me. I’d grown up believing in Him, but during my teen years, I’d rejected Him. At best, I was an agnostic. God seemed so far away, impossible to reach. I tried to remember the words of the Lord’s Prayer. It was years since I had prayed it. I was beaten and broken by Neville, and I felt every bit the worthless human being that he said I was.
“Lord,” I whispered, “I need you.”
Words formed in my mind—powerful, authoritative words: “Look out at the water, and the sun will shine upon you.” I stood on the edge of the bluff, and I looked out toward the horizon. On that cloudy day, there was a patch of blue in the sky. The sun broke through the clouds, and the inner voice spoke again, “Hold not another with more love than you have for me.”
I felt an odd sense of peace. I knew! I knew that God loved me, and I knew that I loved myself, and even Neville, more than I loved Him. It became clear to me that by wallowing in my own self-deprecation and by coveting all the things that I thought would make me happy, I had invited Neville to rule my heart. I decided that the only way to get rid of him was to put God first in everything. Before I finished my walk that day, I made the commitment to do just that—to put God first in all things—and when I did, my heart began to heal.
It wasn’t easy to let go and trust God. Neville had done a good job of convincing me that trust leads to pain. Still, I chose the Lord that day. I gave my whole self to Him, and before long, Neville’s evil, condemning whispers were drowned by the sweetness of God’s gentle voice. My soul no longer allowed Neville the four-star accommodations that he preferred, and he packed his bags and left.
Since then, my life has been a wonderful adventure. It has been a time of learning and discovery as God teaches me that He is in all things. Sometimes, His love shines brightly like the sun, and it warms me. Other times, His tears rain upon me as He helps me to learn lessons that will give me strength and understanding.
I hope that as you read this blog you will find God in everyday places. When you open your eyes to the possibilities, God will be there. All He asks is that you be still enough to hear His voice and that you be open enough to see Him in the simplest things.
Please come into my life, live within me, and open my eyes and my senses that I might see you everywhere, even in the most ordinary things. Amen.
©2009 Jean Fischer
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