“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,”- Acts 4:29
He told my sister and me to follow him, that there was something strange he had to show us. We made our way down into a room that faced a large rectangular shaft in the stone wall. There was no grate covering the opening, which was about shoulder height tall. The hole spanned six feet across with an aperture large enough for a good size man to squeeze through. The outer lip of the hole was lined with rough shaped stones. Their surfaces facing the interior of the hole were worn smooth as if this once was a source of water or fluid that slowly eroded the ancient surface.
Our guide explained to us that this was where onlookers could stand and safely watch the demons emerge, without fear of being pulled into the hole. There was a convenient mark on the floor where he stood.
“You don’t want to go beyond this point,” he said stretching a crooked finger toward the crack in the stone floor where the toe of his sandaled foot stopped. “Don’t step one inch closer than this,” he demanded, with a glare in his eye. That stare caught my attention. “They can’t pull you back into the hole from here. If you go past this line, then your soul becomes theirs.”
Something about his gaze felt comforting as if we had been acquainted before.
Our focus returned toward the shaft as a soft breeze brushed past my cheek. A chill filled the room, and my skin began to crawl. Something was coming; …the darkness approached.
My thought’s returned to our guide as goosebumps rose on my arm. The man’s voice sounded so familiar. My mind couldn’t let it go.
Yet, the darkness crept closer still.
Turning my gaze from the abyss back to the man pointing out the dangers, I suddenly realized the stranger, was no stranger at all.
He was our late father.
My heart leaped.
The last time we were together, I kissed him goodbye and walked out of the hospital leaving him to God’s care. We were to meet again on heaven’s shore. I wanted to rejoice and hug him in that moment, but that’s not why we were there. The euphoria was quickly replaced with that of sounds emanating from the shaft that caused the hair to stand up on the back of my neck. Haunting screams of horror jerked my focus back to the gaping hole. There wasn’t a feeling of reunion in our meeting, but rather, a sense of warning instead. There was no time for pleasantries. Just as he had finished speaking, as if on cue, shadows begin to ebb from the orifice, like hands stretching out for someone to hold, they sought our grasp, reaching, enticing, calling us closer. My sister’s eyes widened in horror as the ghoulish images played out before us as if they were taunting us to move closer. Their macabre dance continue for only a brief time then slowly the beasts of hell slithered back into the darkness from whence they came. Their cries of anguish echoed in the hollow of the space from where they had disappeared.
We stood frozen as we listened in horror to their voices retreat.
Darkness, echoes and then silence.
Something inside me suddenly told me to go after them.
There was no sense of fear, no foreboding of danger in my being. Without hesitation, I walked over and began to climb into the opening of the tomb.
“What are you doing,” my sister screamed!
“Get him out of there,” my father called, as they both grabbed at my feet trying to stop my advance into the chamber beyond. Before they could obtain a firm hold, I was submerged into the blackness beyond. All feeling of dread had left me. It was almost as if my fear had been replaced by a rage that repelled the demonic force within the tomb. But it was more than a rage; it was if there was a hand on my soul protecting me. As my eyes adjusted to the dimly lit corridor, I could sense the shadows retreating, fearful of my presence. Feeling empowered by the force within, I continued onward. The ceiling was only a couple feet from the surface that my body scooted along, which then eventually opened up into a taller hallway. Cobwebs and dust portrayed an abandoned dwelling left to decay. Looking for a way out, my eyes caught the rays of muted light passing through cracks in the boards along one wall. Pushing my way through the brittle wood, a large room opened up in front of me. Carefully, I stepped down onto what looked like a rooftop, covered only with tar paper.
“Hmm, no roofing shingles,” came the thought as I timidly walked out far enough that I could look back from where I had come. It was then the realization hit me from where I had just emerged; the old farmhouse of my paternal grandparents, Victor and Mildred Tron. It never occurred to me that there had been a room on this side of the house, yet here I stood, looking back. The black surface of the floor had no dimension. It was as if my footsteps walked upon a void that reflected no light, only absorbed it or trapped it below its surface, held prisoner for all of eternity. The groans of those trapped below caused a vibration that pulsated into the soles of my shoes, sending shivers up my spine.
“This is no normal floor,” I thought to myself, “am I standing on hell?”
“God,” I called out turning my gaze to heaven, “Why have you brought me here?”
Overhead there was a sparse rafter system, one that didn’t look strong enough to hold much of a snow, let alone a windstorm. The pieces of wood of that upper framework were pieced together in a haphazard fashion, fastened together at odd angles forming a peculiar dome shaped visage. Had I been in my right mind, I would have been fearful of the entire room’s collapse or being devoured from below by the inequities which I walked upon. Again there was still no sense of doom, no feeling of pending disaster; nothing but a feeling of confidence.
Before I could make sense of where or why I was there, my body was suddenly transported into an RV park in another place and time. Once again danger loomed as neighbors screamed pointing in the direction of the trailer where I had appeared. A massive black funnel cloud as far as my eyes could see, from one end of the horizon to the other, bore down upon us. Those who were faint-hearted were frozen with fear and couldn’t move but rather collapsed into heaps of angst and gnashing of teeth.
Panic was in the air.
Once more, there was a power within that drove the fear from me as the smoke is driven from the fire. One man who had been running from the cloud of death stopped for a moment beside me. He was bent over gasping for breath with his hands on his knees. As the color began to return to his face, he looked up at me with a puzzled face.
“Why aren’t you getting out of here mister? Don’t you know if you stay you will die?”
“No, I’m not,” I calmly replied.
“What the hell do you mean,” his face squinted in question, “can’t you see that,” his weary arm stretched out behind him as if he didn’t even want to face it.
“It’s not coming this way.”
“Like hell it’s not,” he screamed, “all the reports have it coming this way and if you can’t see that,” he now stood and turned pointing with both arms, “Then something must be wrong with you.” He shook his head in utter disbelief and slowly took off, joining the river of people that flowed past on the street next to me.
I turned to face the bleak reality of what he had feared and saw the dark cloud, yet there was still no urgency in my being.
“There is nothing to fear,” I said speaking to the treacherous, twisting serpent cloud roaring in the near distance. “You are not coming here, for He has told me so.”
As I stood watching, the cloud didn’t approach any closer, but rather, continued to swirl and pound the earth in the distance. The deafening roar shook the earth like a thundering herd of wild horses. Furniture, pieces of homes, and shreds of all manner of life spun about in the futile darkness and slowly, ever so slowly crept away, like a scolded dog that had been chastised for misbehaving.
As I watched it fade, the boldness within continued to comfort me.
When I awoke the next morning, there was a serene sense of security, a calmness of being.
That morning my scripture lesson began with the book of Ezekiel, and there before me were the words that said it all. Like Ezekiel before his vision, God placed his hand upon him, and comforted him-“ and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.”
Yes, it was perfectly clear now.
His message was pure and simple; be bold and fear not, for I am with you always.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4: 13