The religious teachings of my family disallowed for the paranormal. As if being told the horrific old testament stories as literal history from my infancy wasn’t gruesome and damaging enough to a sensitive psyche, the punishing and judgmental God who ordered genocide, child-killing, and the wholesale slaughter of those whose cultural and religious practices marked them different also commanded the brutal execution of those who practiced witchcraft and spoke to the dead. Anyone who performed paranormal acts or who had extrasensory knowledge but wasn’t specifically sanctioned by God was to be killed.
Would I have actually have risked my life to continue seeing the spiritual world I saw? Did I come to block from my vision the spirits, the auras, the “ghosts”, because I knew I risked spiritual annihilation? Would I have been stoned for a witch, if not literally, then metaphorically with punishment, shunning, and prayers for my release from Satan’s grasp?
Oh, yes. I’m sure of it. The struggle with writing this post has been to recognize what it has cost me to live for the last forty-plus years in denial of my ability to live in the thin places—seeing what others can’t see, knowing what no one told me, feeling emotions that aren’t mine, knowing events that haven’t yet happened.
God doesn’t work that way anymore, I was told. God doesn’t give visions, send prophecies, or work miracles (unless it was the occasional answer to prayer for the ill or overwhelmed). There is no such thing as a “ghost”. Only Satan uses these tricks in this modern day. The unspoken corollary was that if I kept insisting that I saw, heard, knew, changed things, I must be under the influence of the Evil One.
From at least as early as three years old, I was dreaming prophecy. By four, I was confronted with the unspeakable truth—that I knew what my parents said couldn’t be. My parents, well-regarded as godly people in our community, my father a pastor, assured me that my dreams were “just dreams, they’re not real”, that “there’s no such thing as ghosts”. My mother tried to prove false my dream about my babysitter’s injury after a car accident.
I dreamed that the doctors had put an eye in the back of her head at the hospital. My mother took me to visit when she returned home. The babysitter’s mother answered the door with “but she DOES have an eye in the back of her head now. Come, see!” We entered and the woman lifted the hair on the back of my babysitter’s head to reveal a line of heavy black stitches in a shaved spot still bloody and swollen. It did look exactly like a large closed eye. The proof my mother had hoped to demonstrate instead proved her wrong and my dream the truth.
In that moment of screaming hysteria, I knew that I was evil. It was much easier to believe in my own evil, bolstered as that belief was by church and family teachings on the utter wickedness of the human heart and the moral depravity of all mankind, than to accept that my parents and the fundamentalist evangelical church might be wrong about God. According to them, the God who was so wholly Good could not abide Evil, anyone who persisted in evil must be wiped from the face of the earth.
For the rest of my childhood, I prayed for forgiveness, for salvation, to be relieved of this terrible burden of sin. Lying in my bed at night, I developed long rituals to hold the Fear of God’s wrath from consuming me. I became convinced that while God may despise my evil self, Jesus loved me. I sang to myself through the night “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. After all, the Bible had convinced me of my terrible evil, I clung to any assurance that kept me from the Hell I so obviously deserved. Not that it was much of a salvation, I experienced hell every night in the dark while I wondered if tonight God would let Satan have me.
Despite my best efforts, though, if was clearly apparent to me that God had not delivered me from my visions, my clairvoyance, my empathic knowledge. I was still plagued by the evil. By nine I was horribly near-sighted, much more so than genetics might allow, I believe I was struggling so hard to avoid seeing the unacceptable that I was becoming blind. I tried my best to keep it to myself but things just seemed to leak out when I was talking to people. And they came in my dreams.