When I was a teenager, I believed I had a special gift. I imagined I could sense the forces of good and evil.
For me, unseen spirits were everywhere: behind the sofa, hiding in corners, perching in rafters, standing at the foot of my bed. Some were good, some were evil. I could feel them watching me. When they went past me, they made my skin ripple into defense mode, shooting my hairs into attention as if they were spiny quills that could function as armor. One of Fear’s cruelest jokes.
Anyhow, angels and demons filled my adolescence, thanks in large part to my radical Youth Group. Based on ancient biblical text, a full one-third of the angels were thrown to this planet from the spiritual dimension after a little disagreement between Lucifer and God. Not knowing the starting number of angels makes it a little tricky to estimate at what count this puts the planetary-based demonic forces, but I imagine they’ve got a fairly hefty camp down here. In the church of my youth, for example, we were well aware of demonic influence in our daily lives. Temptation could occur – and did – nearly every minute of the day.
Wish you had her car * think about sex * don’t be the first to say you’re sorry * you are better than her * wish you had her boyfriend * tell your boss you’re working * watch PG-13 * think about sex with your boss * buy a lotto ticket * (sex) * speed * tell the officer you weren’t * say damn * think about sex with the officer * tell her she doesn’t look fat.
I’m telling you, every damn minute.
If my feelings back then were any indication of reality, of course, that would mean that each person has a demon around them pretty much constantly. Perhaps they are extraordinarily zippy and go from person to person at a rapid rate, but if what we as a congregation felt was any gauge, it stands to reason that each person must have at least one demon next to them at all times. Taking into account that demons probably enjoy other activities from time to time (coffee breaks, bone fire dancing, volleyball, etc.), then it is also reasonable to assume that they rotate around a bit.
For the sake of factoring in a life for the demon, let’s just say that the demon spends on average 50% of his or her existence on matters of human temptation. At nearly 7 billion people on this planet, it is reasonable to assume 2 demons per person for full coverage, making the total demonic headcount somewhere around 14 billion. This does not, of course, factor in any Hell-bound demons—which may or may not be counted in the one-third evicted from Heaven’s gates after aforementioned power struggle—nor does it factor in the exclusion (or inclusion, for that matter) of any sort of union type benefits.
So, at 14 billion demons, the one thing I could count on was that there were 28 billion angels. Which brings to light an obvious problem: The Bible never said how many of those angels resided on planet earth.
Think about it, God threw 14 billion (or thereabouts) demons to the earth, but how many angels do you see in the Bible? There’s the chorus that sings when Jesus is born. There’s the one who wrestles with Jacob. A couple show up in the town of Sodom once and nearly get gang raped. One delivers some sort of news to Mary once. Aside from a few other mentions, that’s about it.
So, what was I supposed to believe? Sure, there could be two angels for every demon here on earth, but there is certainly no guarantee of this. Do half reside down here to match the demonic forces while the other half live heaven-side where they can attend regular choir practice and be on hand for spontaneous profound trumpet blowing? Do some of them simply have summer homes here, but their main residence is up on high?
To make things even more problematic as a teenager, I knew that if I wanted the help of an angel, I had to ask for it. And I don’t mean a general “protect me today” type prayer, oh no. It had to be specific. Please go with me today to the corner of 15th and Pearl and protect me from anybody who may wish harm on me or my wallet and who also happens to be wearing leather chaps and a ballet tutu.
Consequently, I had angels and demons on my mind a lot. I was in tune with them. I felt them. Being from a church born in the Holiness Movement and a close cousin to the Assembly of God, I was pretty sure I knew that angels were all protestant Holy Rollers. When my parents took me to the Notre Dame Cathedral in France, my skin got all jittery when I was surrounded by Catholic demons. Later, at the Hill of Cumorah in upstate New York, an educational pilgrimage to see what the Mormons were up to, I felt the dark cloud of oppression weighing upon me. On the trip to Manitou Springs, CO, passing by a porto-fountain outside a New Age bookshop with Yanni playing over the loudspeakers, my very soul nearly shuddered to ash.
I began to educate myself. I read books like Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness in which angels and demons battled over control of the Illuminati’s lair, an unlikely small town in the middle of the US of A. I watched television shows like Michael Landon’s Highway to Heaven and Touched By an Angel. I learned that angels don’t always have wings, sometimes wore lipstick and even occasionally fall in love.
But even so, with all of my knowledge and premonitions, I wanted a sign that what I was feeling was, in fact, real. I spent hours on my knees by my bed at night begging God for just a peek.
Please God, I’m going to open my eyes now. And when I do, please let me see an angel. It doesn’t have to be a long look because I think I might wet myself, but I really need to know that you’ve got me covered here. Ready…go.
And nothing ever happened.
OK, God. If you won’t show me an angel, then give me some other sign. I don’t know, maybe a quick look at my dead grandmother or something. No wait, that sounds freaky. How about just a flicker. A flicker of an angel in my room and I’ll leave you alone on this topic for the rest of my life. Deal? Ok, ready….
When that didn’t work, I attempted to find signs in inanimate objects. You know the kind I mean: the Mother Mary on tortillas, Cheetos that look like Jesus on the cross (Cheesus!), paintings that weep blood…things of that nature.
And still, nothing ever happened.
All of my questioning and a lifetime of doubts has been put to rest by this one glimpse into the spiritual realm.
Without further ado, I present to you:
Jesus on my pumpkin.
I have received my sign.
(And just to clarify, his face is in the upper left corner – in profile. It is NOT the weird tramp looking guy in center under the hat.)
So why now? Why when my faith has dipped to an all-time low and I’m nothing but a starving writer has Jesus decided to appear to me on a gourd? I don’t know. But I suspect that the question has something to do with the answer.
For more information, please watch this informative video of me and my pumpkin.
…and when you’re done with that, please go to eBay and bless a starving writer.
(Want more to the story? The Denver Post just gave me quite the endorsement.)