“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” – Ephesians 6:12
We cannot win, much less fight, in a battle that we don’t even know we’re in. We cannot protect ourselves against a weapon we do not perceive, much less understand.
How can I be in the midst of fighting a battle, for my own sanity and not even know it? Easy. In fact, I’m convinced that is the main battle strategy the enemy uses. You can’t win the battle, when you don’t know you are under attack.
Earlier this year, I underwent surgery for my knee. It was supposed to be a very minor procedure, and it was predicted I would be up and running (literally) in about 4-6 weeks…tops. Three and a half months later, I found myself sitting on the exam table in my surgeon’s office awaiting his entrance.
My wife, Shellye, was with me, and I was super nervous. Why? Well, mainly because I was starting to think something was going very wrong with the “simple procedure”.
I had some complications early on that delayed my rehab. OK, fine. I could deal with that. Then, I was slow getting off crutches. Alrighty. Not pleasant, but I could deal with that, too. However, now that I am up and walking, my knee “gives out”. It will just randomly buckle, causing me to flap about like a crazed bird to keep from falling. It’s embarrassing. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious, and I can hide it (although I feel like I’m walking with that iconic 70’s pimp). Other times, it’s so severe that I almost fall. As such, Shellye insists on taking my daily walk with me.
I began to get concerned that my physical therapist and surgeon weren’t appreciating or ,at the very least, fully comprehending, the frequency of the flappy-bird-pimp thing, so Shellye and I thought it would be a good idea to get some raw data to make the picture a bit clearer. One morning, we counted how many times the knee gave way, during our twenty minute walk. Sixty-two. That’s right. Sixty-two times. I can’t imagine how silly I looked flailing about the neighborhood.
Anyway, armed with irrefutable data, I marched into my next PT session and reported my findings. He stared in disbelief and mumbled, “Really?” Undaunted and (I suspect) unconvinced, he amped up the intensity and commenced to torturing me for the next hour. Needless to say, I felt a little invalidated and…well, really sore. I figured it was time to talk to my doctor about all this.
So, that’s when I found myself sitting on the exam table at the surgeon’s office, anxiously awaiting his arrival. I was equipped with information and data, and I was ready to work together to come up with solutions, to get my knee healthy again. I started with the data – and that’s where it ended.
He looked me square in the eye and said, almost angrily, “No. I don’t believe you.”
He went on to explain how if it had really been sixty-two times, my knee would be swollen, and I could not have walked all that way. To clarify what my knee was doing, we asked him to demonstrate what “giving out” should look like. When we confirmed that was, indeed, the case, he only shook his head in disagreement. He was condescending and dismissive.
Shellye, a bit more than irritated, but calm, firmly explained that although my knee was not swollen, it was most certainly doing exactly what he demonstrated, exactly the number of times we reported. He responded coldly with: “I’m not saying that you can’t count, but I don’t believe that happened.” In essence, he told me, in no uncertain terms, I had not experienced what I told him, that my reality was not reality.
I reflexively withdrew, both physically and emotionally. My eyes dropped to the floor. My shoulders slumped. I turned my feet inward and pulled them close.
I could hear my heartbeat in my chest, and the room seemed to be getting bigger, or maybe, I was shrinking. I instinctively detached myself from the situation. I could hear Shellye advocating for me and eventually convincing him to take a deeper look into the situation, but I felt like an outsider looking in.
The ride home was quiet. Shellye, infuriated by the events, talked non-stop, but I sat in silence, staring out the window. She asked me what was wrong. Near tears and feeling inexplicably ashamed, I said, “I’m not sure.”
Gaslighting. I first heard that term about six months ago. I had experienced it a lot in my childhood from my mother, but I never knew there was a term for it.
Gaslighting is a form of covert manipulation where someone distorts another person’s perception of reality, causing them to eventually question their own sanity. Here is a great article written in Psychology Today by Dr. Robin Stern detailing the “Gaslight Effect”.
For example, I remember, as a child, running to tell my mother that my stepfather had hurt me (he would physically or verbally assault me) while she was away at work. She would fuss at me and tell me I was being over dramatic or that it was just a little spanking, but I would have bruises on my arms and legs, maybe a swollen eye. He would bully and intimidate me, and I would be terrified to come home from school or to even hear his footsteps coming toward my bedroom door. It was confusing. I felt unprotected and vulnerable.
On one hand, I knew this was not a “little spanking”, on the other, I wanted to believe my mother. I trusted her. I was left doubting myself, my situation and my sanity…at only twelve years old. It happened so many times, that, I eventually stopped telling her. The constant incongruence had become too much for my mind to handle. I disconnected in order to cope.
In the doctor’s office, I reverted back to that twelve-year old. I disengaged and braced myself for the gaslighting.
I shut my mind down in order to hold on to my sanity. Thank God for my wife, who was having none of that! She made sure the doctor understood that I was indeed a truthful and sane person, and insisted that he address our concerns. You gotta love her.
Do you ever have those situations that seem to instantly time warp you back to an unpleasant period in your life or childhood? Those sorts of instances where you cease being who you are presently, and regress to the person of your past? You are not alone.
Realizing the trauma that doctor’s visit caused, Shellye reminded me of two things:
1. Gaslighting is a weapon.
2. No weapon formed against me shall prosper.
That deserves an “Amen” right there! I never thought of gaslighting as a spiritual weapon, but that made so much sense. I went back to read that part of scripture, but what stuck out to me was the verse right before.
“See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc.”
“Fit for its work.” That phrase jumped out at me.
What does that mean? What is a weapon’s work? I’d always assumed a weapon’s work was to attack and destroy, but attack and destroy what? My sanity? I felt like GOD wanted me to take a deeper look at that. As I pored over that verse again, it occurred to me that this weapon (gaslighting) was indeed created to attack and destroy something. Not me, but something within me. Something that caused me to be filled with doubt and insecurity to the point that I could not even trust myself, the enemy “inna me”.
This weapon was coming against me and somehow allowing a brokenness deep within my spirit to rise to the surface in order to be skimmed off.
It revealed the fear and confusion that manifested when my perception of reality is invalidated or even questioned. It forced me to confront childhood traumatic events and to acknowledge my current mental fragility, in this area, exposing the toxic nature of doubt.
Simultaneously, it provided an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to teach me how to guard myself and take up arms. I became more aware of the warfare, I was unknowingly engaged in. I am growing more confident in trusting myself. I’ve intently studied this weapon, and, now, I can recognize it more easily, thus rendering it unsuccessful.
Now, I get it. “Fit for its work”. Fit for its work to bring forth in us the things that need to be extracted and destroyed. Fit for its work to teach us how to use the supernatural weapons we all have access to as children of GOD. Fit to transform us into the warriors we were designed to be.
As you spend some time with GOD today consider these questions:
What weapons are coming against you? Do you recognize them? Name them.
How have they defeated and crippled you in the past? What things are they bringing to the surface for you?
What do you feel the Holy Spirit is prompting you to learn?