Deceptive Ways and Wages
Books on witchcraft, astrology and palm reading joined the Holy Bible as her families guides, however, there was something that never even crossed their minds.
by Kimberly Shumate
Standing at the end of the pier, staring down at the deep, blue water below, I felt as though the weight of the world was about to be lifted from my shoulders. As I carefully unwrapped the crystal ball from the black velvet fabric, tiny streams of color shot out in all directions as the sun's rays danced across its surface. Life is such a gift. And the Giver of that gift was smiling.
||Kimberly Shumate has crossed over and back.
Growing up, I remember my family always having a fascination with what lay beyond the physical realm. We knew the hereafter held greater possibilities than anything on earth; it's where God was, and we expressed our desire to be closer to Him by searching the supernatural. Although we attended a local church and called ourselves Christian, we continued to wander from the doctrine my parents were raised with. Topics such as astral-travel and reincarnation were common at our dinner table.
My mother had a strong love for Christ, although she didn't really have a personal relationship with Him. She hung His picture on our walls and had a Bible on the bookshelf. My father was raised a devout Baptist. It's hard to say what created the confusion or enticed them to stray.
Upon our church's discovery that our family had reassigned its belief system to accept Hinduism alongside Christianity, we were promptly thrown out. And although we still prayed over every meal and said our prayers at bedtime, the Bible on the shelf now had company: a growing number of books on ESP, witchcraft, psychic healing, astrology, transcendental meditation, telepathy, palm reading, tarot cards and pendulums joined the family library. On the desk next to the picture of Jesus, was a statue of a Buddha. Beside the cross was a crystal ball. My choir meeting turned into classes on clairvoyance, mind over matter levitation, numerology, dream interpretation, spirit channeling, and psychic surgery.
All the while, I felt this was absolutely normal behavior. It never dawned on me that we weren't Christian.
When I was 17 years old, my mother lost her battle with cancer. As I watched the paramedics carry her out of the house, my father crumbled. It's the first time I can recall my Rock of Gibraltar utterly shaken. And out of the ashes and anger began my love affair with black magic.
After dropping out of school, the streets of downtown became my sanctuary, where I found refuge in a circle of juvenile vagabonds. Stephen was a warlock (male witch), and under his tutelage I embraced the occult wholeheartedly. He taught me a great deal about demonic energy and evil entities. As he helped to hone my skills as a black witch, my love for good diminished. Voodoo, hexes and curses were cultivated and refined. It became easier to deal with people on a mystical level instead of an earthly one.
And with every spell I cast and demon I employed came a sense of control, of power from a force darker than anyone could imagine. It was compelling and frightening. As my heart grew colder my black magic practices became more outrageous. If a spell called for graveyard dirt, off I would go in the middle of the night to fill the order. Nothing was too strange at that point in my life.
Before I new it, my physical appearance had changed to involve purple hair, black clothing, a white face, black lipstick, and eight piercings in my ear. My vampire looks and intimidating glare would inspire restaurant patrons to switch tables and mothers to grab hold of their children's hands. My occult involvement made me feel as though nothing could hurt me anymore. I was untouchable.
In my twenties, the demonic practices gave way to a ritualistic New-age, ultra-spiritual lifestyle. I moved around, finally arriving in Hollywood. I began a job as a manicurist in a Beverly Hills salon. There I was meditating daily like a good "Christian" girl, giving tarot readings for free (God would want it that way). I even said the Lord's Prayer beforehand to make sure I would have access to accurate information. With a weekly income of about fifty dollars to start, my credit card was taking a beating and it was difficult scraping up rent.
By 1989, a strange and unexplainable health condition (Benign Positional Vertigo) descended like a black cloud. As I waited for the city transportation each day in the hot California sun, the sky, the sidewalk, and buildings spun around and around. Yet numerous doctors and specialist couldn't figure it out. My father sent money in hopes that they would find a treatment, but to no avail. I spent my extra time at a Christian Science Reading Room searching for the answer that would heal me.
Despite all the study, seminars, and trips to occult bookstores, there was no relief. The more information I read, the more uneasy I became. There were so many truths. All I was searching for was the one that would make me well. Everything that was once black and white had finally become gray, unanswered, and empty.
A Break in the Clouds
The Woman with the Smile-there she was again, sitting across from me for her weekly manicure, beaming. What was with her? She definitely had her share of troubles, but there was a tranquility that overshadowed everything else.
One day as I sat at my table, room spinning, her smiling face finally got to me. "Joyce, how can you always be so happy?" I asked. And with that shining expression she answered, "You need to come to my church."
Do I really? I thought to myself. After all, the word church spoke of an organization that held no great love for me or I for it. Nevertheless, she gave me the address, and we left it at that. Shortly after that, on a sunny Sunday morning, I showed up.
What was this congregation doing-hands raised, standing and swaying to contemporary music? And what was this place? Who has church in a gymnasium? After listening to only half the sermon, my blood was boiling. The message was everything I detested. There's only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. Period. The words seem to shoot through me like bullets. Needless to say, I promptly left.
Six months later I found myself back in that auditorium, seething as I listened to the "good news." These people had to be brainwashed! I left once again, vowing never to return.
The next Sunday I sat a few rows closer. Maybe if I rubbed elbows I could get some of my questions answered. It was difficult, but I made it through the entire service. I couldn't resist foisting a couple of my own spiritual principles to the pastor before departing. He was utterly unmoved by "The White Light" theory and "God being in everyone." The next Sunday, there I was again. And the next Sunday, and the next. Now I read the Bible, primarily searching for a little ammunition for an occasional theological exchange. I had to know what I was fighting. But all I really wanted was the Truth, and God knew it.
Week after week, from the pastor to the co-pastor and through several elders, I made my way down the ranks with my New-age questions regarding spiritual evolution. Slowly, I began to sing the songs and soon after that I stood up. I sure wasn't raising my hands: only Jesus freaks raise their hands. Despite my unwillingness to discard my life-long belief system, I was beginning to come around.
Every Sunday I would watch people walk forward and accept the Lord. Since the church was quite young and ministered to the hookers, strippers, and wannabes of Hollywood, it had quite an impact on me to see these young people turn their lives over to Christ. Give your own will up and follow God? Let Him run your life? It terrified me just thinking about it. Still, these people were broken to the point of tears; and this God, this Jesus, was happy to have them. He accepted them just as they were, imperfect as could be. Did He, could He, feel the same way about me?
It was on a Friday night that my new (Christian) friend Lisa and I went to a small Bible study hosted by a kid just 23 years old. His Bible was worn with pen marks and masking tape across every page. He must have read that book a hundred times to create such a condition. As the six or seven of us gathered in his parents' living room, we sang worship songs and afterward, he led us in a strong study. The message was hard, and my soul groaned. As we closed our Bibles and people began to leave, something made me stay.
The kid, Scott, knew me from church and knew that I was still struggling with this Christianity thing. We sat down at a picnic-style dining table and opened our Bibles side by side. I brought up everything I could think of to punch holes in his uncompromising view. But with every stab at his doctrine, he would patiently and lovingly show me three Scriptures to the contrary. Over and over we did this; again and again he read three Scriptures to prove me wrong. The truth kept shining through. It was blinding.
As I sat in silence listening to him explain God's character, His plan, and why Jesus was the only way, I wondered how this sweet, loving, wimpy guy had gotten the better of me?
Suddenly, an eerie feeling came over me. If this Book was written over the course of hundreds of years and by many people, how could it all sound the same? It was all the same voice, the same heart. All the pieces of this puzzle called the Bible fit perfectly together from start to finish. I sat limp, staring at the Book in front of me. It was time for me to leave.
Sitting in the passenger's seat of Lisa's car, I stared out the window, utterly lost in thought. Was it true that I'd been deceived for the last 29 years? Was my life filled with empty props? What in the world had I been following? I felt sick to my stomach. It was at that preordained moment in time that God opened my eyes and the scales fell.
And as I looked up, in my mind's eye, I saw Him standing there, arms outstretched. He was smiling like I was a friend-a close friend He hadn't seen for a very long time. He knew I was avoiding Him-that I had denied and refused Him all this time-but it didn't seem to matter. I felt the blood rush to my face.
What do you do when God stands in front of you and introduces Himself-not in words but in irrefutable, unconditional love? "Hi Kimberly. I'm Jesus. I made you. I've watched you grow up and I've loved you forever. It's so good to see you, but what's better, it's so good to have you see Me."
It was then that it hit my heart and became real. He was real. My mind swirled. The chains forged from childhood fell, and suddenly, I was a new creature.
There are no tears heavier with the pain of repentance than those of a believer converted from the other side. At church the following Sunday, all I could do was cry. Standing in front of the congregation with a group of amazing Christians huddled around me; I embraced Christ as my Savior. I wept 29 years worth of grief. It was as if someone had died. Then I remembered, someone had.
Gift of Obedience
With salvation comes an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I wanted to show Jesus I meant business. Everything went; the books, cards, stones, wands, all the devices of the enemy. The last to go was my mother's ball. I considered selling it, as I was still very much in need of financial relief. But that still, small voice inside of me said, "You know what to do with it." The Holy Spirit was right. With a gulp and a breath, I called Lisa for reinforcement.
As we drove to Malibu, we were filled with excitement. The black bag resting in my lap represented a lifetime of oppression. We parked at a dock and walked to the end. The water was glistening with the late afternoon sun. What a perfect day to give an offering to the Lord.
As I unwrapped the crystal ball from its velvet cloth, the sun's rays reflected colors streaming out like tiny rainbows. We opened the Bible and read from Ezekiel. I dropped the ball, and it fell-as if in slow motion-to the water's surface. A sacrifice to the One who saved me. I never imagined letting go could fell this good.
I'm still overwhelmed by what Jesus did and continues to do for me. Where there was cursing, there is now blessing. Where there was hopelessness, there is now a future and a purpose. The Enemy once controlled my every thought; now I have the mind of Christ. Speaking these truths enables my faith to grow and brings me closer to His will. It's a reminder of the most important thing I've learned from the Lord: with God, anything is possible. He waited patiently, knowing I would return some day. From the beginning, He was aware of the end: that the New-age tarot reader would someday write her testimony for you. We serve a God of restoration and I'm living proof of it.
No Easy Road
After I was saved. I endured several months of demonic attack. The enemy was unwilling to let go without a fight. My pastor urged me to read Psalm 91 aloud every night. After doing so, my dreams were peaceful and my days were less turbulent. When all seemed quiet again. I would forget to read the psalm and the assault would begin again. There is something about this passage and the promises of protection within the verse that stop the Enemy dead in his tracks.
This article first appeared in Today's Christian Woman magazine (September/October 2002, published by Christianity Today, Int'l. Carol Stream, Illinois.