Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Presence

As with most young people growing up in Colorado, my friends and I enjoyed camping and hiking in the mountains.  I've since moved away to the flatlands; so should the opportunity present itself, I now prefer to experience the mountain scenery through large windows of a lodge, with a glass of wine in hand before a fire crackling in a cavernous fireplace under the watchful eyes of a moose head.  My friends who have remained in Colorado tell me they still love to get up close and personal with the Rocky mountains, and it shows in their thin and lithe physiques.

But back in the day (there's that dreaded phrase again), we enjoyed the mountains.  And so it was, my friend and I decided to hike up Pikes Peak on one of the trails carved out for that purpose.  I don't remember if our intent had been to climb to the top; it may had been; in any event, we ended up camping about half way up before meandering our way back to civilization.

It was just after dawn on a Sunday morning when the mountain disgorged us into the back of Manitou Springs.  I recollect the sky being overcast and the site quite deserted.  The air was still like the Sargasso Sea.  I seem to recall a pumping station for the western slope water shed, but I could be mistaken.  If so, the pumps would have made the only sound we had heard--like when the time traveler first entered the lair of the morlocks in H. G. Wells' The Time Machine.

And then I felt it.

My friend did, too, and at the same instant; his eyes told the story.  An invisible cloud of gloom diffused around us like Indian ink does in a pool of clear water.  A distinct disquiet enveloped us, displacing the fresh air with an oppression that weighed on us.

"You feel it, too," my friend whispered.

I would like to be scientific about the whole experience, but I cannot; an unmistakable Presence closed in around us that morning.  And its evil was palpable.

My friend and I were Christians, so we wasted no time analyzing or entertaining the Presence.  Indeed, after terse conversation, we bowed our heads and openly but unceremoniously prayed against it.  And as quickly as it had infected the atmosphere, it dissipated, leaving behind the cool, fresh, and thin air so welcome on Colorado mornings.

It must be noted that neither my friend nor I were prone to dwelling on matters of the occult or witchcraft; we certainly hadn't been discussing such topics during our excursion that weekend.  The Presence had appeared totally unexpectedly; we had arrived at the spot without any thoughts or suspicions of even the possibility of such a manifest evil rearing its ugly head.  You must believe me, boogie men were definitely not on our radars.  Nor had we been unnerved by the solitude of the place; my friend and I tended to be introverts in those days, so we welcomed the absence of people; we had been quite content to come off the mountain into the deserted back-streets of Manitou Springs.  No, the Presence we encountered that Sunday morning was real and malevolent.

You might be asking yourself about now why some nebulous evil should happen to pop up on a Sunday morning at such an obscure place as the foot of Pikes Peak.  Well, in the great tradition of the late Paul Harvey, here's the rest of the story.

Months later, in the commons at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, I struck up a conversation with a fellow student who had recently become a Christian.  He told me he had  come out of the occult.  He went on to explain he had been a prominent warlock at one of the local witch covens.

"Witch covens?  We have those around here, for real?" I asked.

"Quite a few," he answered.

"I don't believe it," I said.

"Believe it."  He looked at me with that kind of expression of cold certainty indifferent to how I might react.  "Point of fact," he continued, "except for perhaps San Francisco, Manitou Springs is home to the largest concentration of covens in the country."

Okay, so what's my point?

The next time you turn on the news, open a newspaper, or just walk out the front door into our mad, mad, mad world, tell yourself the chaos is not solely the handiwork of evil human beings, but also that of the Presence, who exploits men and women for the Presence's own evil purposes.  And even though the Presence had been defeated two thousand years ago by Jesus on the cross, it still menaces and influences our tormented world.  The Presence draws its strength from its deceptions; for Jesus described Satan, the despot of the Presence, this way: "...Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies." [NET]

Therefore, my point is this.  Our hope and security are not in our politics, politicians, philosophies, science, wealth, and the rest because they all are ready pawns in the hands of the Presence.  Rather, our hope and security are in Jesus, and Jesus, alone.  For Jesus is King; the Presence knows this and shudders.  And Jesus' kingdom cannot be shaken;  indeed, Jesus' kingdom will one day be all and in all;  and Jesus' kingdom lasts forever.


Jon Kokko said...

I oft reflect upon what C.S. Lewis said, "two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them."

I think there's deeper truth there [that the charismatic/Frank Peretti crowd presumes to understand].

But, like yourself, I've had those moments when 'I know' something isn't quite right. Prayer is a man's best friend.

I still struggle with what CS Lewis said. Where do we draw the line? What clued Paul that "Satan hindered us" and what was his reaction? Perhpas time & maturity will give me more answers.

Jeff said...

"Above all else, the devil cannot stand to be mocked" C.S. Lewis

bruce said...

One thing is for sure, Peretti et al. know what sells. People love a good ghost story, I've had more hits on this blog than I typically do, but I wonder how many went away with the message I wass trying to relate?

Jon Kokko said...

Honestly Bruce, I try not to overwhelm myself with thought (wondering how many that is). Paul called it the "foolishness of preaching" for a reason. We share as the spirit leads us - the rest is up to God.

bruce said...

It's good to be reminded of this truth.