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The Spirit of Fear

This is a long story – so you might not want to start it until you have some time. It is an intense account that includes mention of a sexual attack. It might be too intense for some readers.

I am a strong Christian of six years with a firm understanding of who I am in Christ and the spiritual battle that surrounds me. I have been raised up in a wonderful church from infancy in the faith to spiritual adulthood. I know the authority that I have in Christ and I am not afraid to exercise it against the enemy of my soul.

But, there was a time when the spirit of fear owned me.

Nine years ago, before I was saved, I was separated from my husband, and living in a very large complex of townhouses with my 2 year old son, Sean. We had purchased the townhouse about a year before and I was very pleased with it. We were situated across the street from a huge city park with a playground, softball field and a pavilion for picnics. We had two bedrooms, a bath and a half, a basement, and a nice community back yard for our son to play in; all for a very reasonable monthly co-op payment. I loved the place and felt very comfortable there.

I had lived in or near this neighborhood since I was sixteen years old and felt it was safe from the crime that increased in other areas of the city. I was wrong.

One morning I was up getting ready for work. It was during a short period of time when I did not do child daycare for a living but was working outside the home. My son was at the breakfast table and I had let our small puppy out the front door to go relieve herself. My sixteen-year-old niece was sleeping in the basement; she was going to take care of my son while I worked. We also had my husband’s young cousin with us for the day and she was asleep in the recliner in the living room. I was in the kitchen when I heard my front door open. I wasn’t worried, my neighbor’s boyfriend had made it a habit to stop in to borrow cigarettes and I expected it to be him. I came out of the kitchen and saw a man’s head poked in through the door. It wasn’t my neighbor’s boyfriend. I still wasn’t very worried, I expected that it was a friend of his sent for the errand. I asked simply “Can I help you?”

He looked at me and said “Your dog has been hit by a car.” I believed him and started to walk towards the door, I was almost there when my dog came running in between his legs, obviously not hurt. I looked up from the dog to the man and he reached out suddenly and grabbed me by my hair and pushed me back into the house.

I began to scream. I screamed my nieces name over and over. The man shoved me to the ground and let go of my hair. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a gun which he pointed directly into my eyes, about six inches away from my face. “Shut up!” He shouted angrily. I stopped screaming and clenched my eyes shut, expecting him to shoot. The terror that filled my heart was indescribable. Sean was frozen in his seat at the table, crying and screaming in fear and for a moment that was the only sound in the house.

Then came the sound of someone running on the stairs. The man was obviously surprised by this and he looked up at the stairs leading to the upper floor, the gun going to the stairs and then back to me when he did not see anyone. My niece exploded out of the basement and rounded the corner to find me on the floor with this strange man pointing a gun at me. She said “What is this?” in a strange tone. You have to understand, my niece was very street wise for her age and she had already experienced a lot of violence in her young life that I could not even imagine. Something about her stance communicated that she was not going to respond to this situation as most young girls would. For at least a full five seconds no one said anything. The man looked undecided and unsure for the first time since he had grabbed me.

I found my voice again and began to speak. “Please, sir, just go. Just turn around and go. Just go out the door. We won’t do anything. Please, just go.” His eyes went from me to my niece and back to me, then he seemed to notice the little girl in the living room for the first time. She was now awake, staring in wonder at the man as though she wasn’t sure what was happening. Then suddenly the gun was pulled back from my face and in a blur he was out of the house, the door slammed behind him.

I closed my eyes and breathed out in relief. My niece ran to the living room window to see the direction the man would take and then she helped me up. The next minutes are hard to remember clearly. I know that I picked up my son and comforted him and I know that I called the police. I was amazingly calm about it as I explained why I was calling and gave the terrible description of the man that I was able to give. Black skin, tall, wearing a dark hat, dark coat and dark gloves. I was so relieved that he had gone without hurting us that I hadn’t given much thought about why he had been there until the police dispatch officer asked me over the phone “Did he rape you?”. I shook with suprize and replied with a loud “No!”.

The police arrived with a K9 unit and attempted to track the man. The officer who came to talk to me was very kind and very patient with us. My niece and I were frustrated that we could not give a better description of the man who had stood right in the living room with us. The only identification I could make was that his face was swarthy, with kinky stubble on his cheeks. That is not terribly helpful. The K9 unit was not able to find him.

Another part of the events that I have trouble remembering is exactly when I was told that I was not the first attack that they had responded to in my neighborhood that week. I think that it was mentioned that day while the officer was there, but I am not certain. I do know that I did not find out full details of the other attack until later when I had the chance to talk to the victim.
The attack had come on December 23rd. The day before Christmas Eve. The next two days passed with holiday celebrations and the return of my husband. The attack had shaken him and we decided to give our marriage another try. It was between Christmas and New Years that I found out that the other victim lived within sight of my townhouse and that she had been raped by this same man who had come into my house.

When we were able to talk, this sweet brave young woman shared her awful experience with me. I will call her Chris. Chris shared her 2 bedroom townhouse with a male roommate. They came home from work about 5pm and had not left or went to the basement throughout the evening. They went to bed about 2am. Both went upstairs, but her roommate returned to the kitchen downstairs to get a drink. There he encountered a man in his kitchen who grabbed him and subdued him with his gun, telling him to be silent.

Chris heard something downstairs and stepped to the top of the stairs and called out to her roommate. The 2 men came into view and she saw the gun and was filled with terror. The man told her to go to her room and be quiet. He walked her roommate upstairs and into his bedroom. He made the man lay face down on the floor and told him that if he got up or made any noise, he would kill Chris. He then went into Chris’s bedroom and raped her.

The man stayed in their townhouse for several hours. He went through Chris’s jewelry box, through their bathroom cupboards, etc and returned to her to rape her again. He had raped her three times before he finally went downstairs and left the house. It was some time before they realized that he had truly left and was not coming back again. They finally were able to phone police.

Hearing all of this answered the question about what the man had wanted with me. I had told myself that he was probably just a thief trying to rob me and that he had never intended any real harm. This news was disturbing, but that alone was not enough to shake me. The real clincher was to follow.

The police never found any sign of forced entry at Chris’ townhouse. Both she and her roommate were absolutely certain that they had locked up tight before going to bed. So, how did the man get in?

This brought me back to the day of my attack. My outer doors were the kind that you do not have to unlock to open from the inside, so I had been fairly sure that I had not unlocked my door when I let the dog out. But, since the man had simply opened the door, I assumed that I had indeed unlocked it; or that my niece had unlocked it earlier when she let the young cousin in. She didn’t remember unlocking and neither did I, but we didn’t pay it a lot of attention.

Until now. Now, I was putting the two stories together and we were wondering if it were possible that this man had some kind of master key that had allowed him easy access. One of the theories that Chris had was that the man actually had came into the house during the day and had waiting in the basement until they went to bed. These two possibilities were devastating to me to consider.

Suddenly my sense of personal safety was shattered. Even after the attack, I had determined that all I had to do to avoid another attack was make sure my door was locked. Now I had to face the possibility that a locked door was no barrier to this man coming back. It was with this new information that Fear was born in my heart.

I began to run possibilities through my mind constantly. I began to believe that this man was going to come back and finish what he started with me. Because I believed that he had a master key or some other silent way of opening locks, I had my husband install additional locks that can only be operated from inside. I believed that once they were installed, I would feel safe. It didn’t work.

My husband slept deeply and snored loudly. I found it hard to lay in bed with him. I didn’t believe that he would hear if someone tried to get into the house. I didn’t feel secure and began to sleep downstairs on the couch most nights.

Before long, this wasn’t enough. I begged my husband to have a security system installed. I believed that once that was installed, I would feel safe. For a little while I slept in our bed again, but the sense of security didn’t last. I went back to sleeping on the couch. By this time, everyone agreed that I was experiencing more fear than was normal given the circumstances.

My inability to trust him to protect me and my crippling fear was tearing our already weak marriage to shreds. My husband moved out again. This time we did not reconcile and ended up divorced almost a year later.

I got a gun from my brother but I didn’t believe that I could aim it properly so he got me a sawed off shot gun instead. This I kept loaded in my bedroom closet. I adopted a german shepherd from the pound in another effort to “feel safe”. I continued to sleep on the living room couch. I felt more secure there because I could see both the front and back door from the couch and I could hear any attempt to gain entry. All this did was make me sleep very light and jump at every small sound in the neighborhood.

In the daytime I felt reprieved from the fear that I lived with every night. But, as darkness came, the fear was gut wrenching. I dreaded bedding down for the night so I would stay up as late as I could with all the lights on and the television blaring. Once down for the night, at the slightest noise, my entire body would tense up and my breathing would become very shallow. I would literally feel my uterus contract with fear.

If my son were gone to be with my ex-husband for the weekend, I would keep my gun at my side through the night and this did afford me some small security. But when he was home, I had to keep it in the top of my closet so that he could not come across it in the night.

The dog did not prove to be a good guardian and I took him back to the pound and adopted a wonderful little poodle that was a better watchdog than the shepherd had ever been. Truth be told, her barking worsened my edginess at times, but her companionship was still priceless.

Almost eight months after the attack, the man was arrested and charged with Chris’ rape. He never admitted to my attack, but we were sure that it was him. It turned out that he lived on the other side of the city park that my townhouse faced. He had probably sat under the park pavilion at night and watched Chris and I in our homes. His arrest and imprisonment should have had a positive affect on my fear of another attack, but it didn’t. I instead feared that one of his friends would come and harm me. The fear was absolutely irrational. My friends and family did not know how to help me and more than one person suggested that I get counseling. I refused. I could not imagine how counseling could help.

The one good thing that came out of the attack was that I started a Neighborhood Watch in our townhouse community. I felt that if there had been a way to know about my neighbor’s rape, I might have done something to safeguard my home and avoided the attack. Through Neighborhood Watch, we were able to keep one another informed. The area was revealing its true colors all the time. There were other attacks, break ins and increased gang activity. A pizza delivery boy was robbed and stabbed outside of my townhouse. I determined that I had tried everything to overcome my fear and that the only thing left to me was to move away.

I put the townhouse up for sale only to discover that I was one of dozens of my neighbors with the same idea. It took nearly two years from the date of the attack for me to finally secure a buyer at a terribly low price for the townhouse. I packed up and moved away.
I didn’t just move out of the neighborhood, I moved three hours north to a small city where my best friend had been relocated by her husband’s job. A small community where most know their neighbors and gangs are in downstate newspapers, not on your street.

The house I rented had been the main house of a old run down lake resort that was being converted into rental houses. I only had three neighbors and met them all that first week. It was November and the lake was soon frozen. From the first night, I was amazed at the peace and quiet and sense of safety. I slept well in my own home for the first time in two years. My niece moved up to live with me and I enjoyed six months of wonderful peace in that house. I did not fear being alone. I did not have to sleep on the couch but went upstairs to my room with ease every night. I did not jump at the sound of my neighbors old car in the driveway.

I thought that I was free from fear forever. But, I wasn’t.

In April of the next year I moved from the rental into my own house in a small subdivision outside of town. It was a very nice little neighborhood with lots of kids. There was another big change going on in my life at the same time. My real estate salesperson was a Christian who was witnessing to me faithfully every day. I was working as a receptionist in the office and spent a lot of time with her. It took her many months of patience on her part and it was not actually until she had moved out of the area that summer that I finally accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and found a local church to attend.

Just before this my niece had moved back downstate and it was just my son and I in the house again. Sean was now five years old. I had started to do child daycare again once I was in my own house again and I was enjoying settling in to our new life when I began to experience visits from my old enemy fear.

It started with hearing noises outside the house after dark. Fear would grip my insides and I would stop breathing to listen. I tried to shake myself and remind myself that I wasn’t in the big city anymore and there wasn’t anyone outside. But, it didn’t work. For many nights, my sleep was interrupted by this unreasonable fear. I prayed for God’s help and I often cried in frustration about it. I hated that I was falling back into the old way of life. One night I called the police because I heard noises in my garage, of course they found nothing, but I could not go back to sleep unless they checked my basement first. They were gracious enough to do so although they had to know that I was being ridiculous.
2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

It was at this point that I heard a teaching from the Bible about the spirit of fear. I realized at once that this was what I was dealing with. A spirit of fear had come upon me back in the big city after the attack and although I had had a period of peace while I lived out at the lake, it had never truly left me, it had only awaited a fresh opportunity to crush me beneath it’s weight.

The next time that I awoke at night to that feeling of fear, I prayed out loud and rebuked the spirit of fear in Jesus’ name. I commanded it to leave me at once and never come back. I did experience some relief and thought that would be it. I wish it had been that easy. Fear came back another night. I again prayed out loud as I had before, but this time I did not feel much better. I lay in bed and trembled and muttered over and over “God has not given me a spirit of fear!” until I fell asleep again. This happened night after night on and off for some time.

Surrendering the Possibilities

I had to learn to trust my God before I could get complete freedom from this fear. I had to learn to surrender my fears to him. One night I lay in bed afraid and I felt the Holy Spirit ask me:

“What are you afraid of?”

I started my list. Being attacked, having the house broken into, having Sean hurt, being raped – The Holy Spirit stopped me there and asked me another question.

“What is the worst thing that can happen?”

Sean could be hurt or killed, I could be raped or killed.

“Do you trust me?”

Well, of course I trust You Lord.

“If your worst fear came to pass, could you still trust me?”

This sent me into a cyclone of thoughts and feelings. I cannot put them all into words. It was a revelation of God’s sovereignty. He is in control of my life. If something terrible happened to me, He would still be in control of my life. If He allowed the devil to bring harm to me, even allow me to be raped, He would still be my God (as He is to all of the women who have been raped and live with the consequences) and I would still be his child (as they will always be). All of the worry in the world wouldn’t stop something awful from happening to me.
Matthew 10:28 – “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill you. They can only kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

I had to surrender all of the possibilities to God and trust him with my life. I made a decision at that point to do that. I determined that I would not allow myself to think about what could go wrong any longer. This proved to be a big step in gaining freedom from the spirit of fear. But there was still more battle that needed to take place.

I was growing up in my faith and learning more day by day and soon came to realize that I needed to take a more offensive stance against the fear. It was not enough to tremble under the covers and try not to be afraid. I knew that I needed to get up and face it.

James 4:7 – So humble yourselves before God.
Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

So, the next time that fear came calling, I got up. I was shaking with fear, but I got up. I stood in my room and I said out loud. “God has not given me a spirit of fear! I will not be afraid! I bind the spirit of fear in the name of Jesus and command it to get out of my room!”. When I felt a small measure of courage come into my limbs, I stepped out into the hallway and continued to verbally rebuke the spirit of fear and quote some portions of scripture that came to my mind. “I am a child of God and you can’t be in my house anymore!” I walked into my living room and into the kitchen and stood with serious trepidation at the door to my basement. I was absolutely terrified to go down there and my hand shook as I reached for the light switch. I stepped onto the stairs and went downstairs and forced myself to step into every dark corner of the basement as I prayed “I plead the blood of Jesus Christ over myself and my home. No spirit of fear can stay here. You have to leave my house right now!.”

After I had covered every inch of my house downstairs and upstairs I opened my garage door and rebuked the spirit of fear from there as well. Then I began to thank God for setting me free from fear. I don’t know how long I was up and praying, but finally I felt peaceful and went back to bed and slept through the night.

That wasn’t the last visit from fear. But I never lay trembling in bed again. Every time that spirit came to try to oppress me I got up and went through my house again, commanding it to go in the name of Jesus. Some nights were harder than others, but they always ended the same way with me taking authority over fear in the power of the name of Jesus Christ.

I hope that my sharing my experiences will help others who struggle with the spirit of fear to draw close to God and find their victory!