Stunned that my friend was found dead, I sat motionless at her wake. Staring at her in the casket, I thought, Tell me what happened to you! There I was: talking to the dead. I had been taught as a child that there was no such thing as ghosts. We were Christians, and we owned a funeral home. Christians weren’t even supposed to discuss ghosts; that was of the devil. Being around dead people much of the time, I knew it made no sense to be afraid of them. The dead were dead. Harmless, they could do nothing. It was those alive who could do you harm, we were taught.
So how did I end up talking to the dead? You see, as a young girl, I overheard my grandmother tell my mother that I had a “gift.” Her comment was based on a supernatural experience in our home. Minutes earlier, I had seen a ball of fire on the door leading to the bedroom at the end of the hallway in my childhood home. The only way to describe it is the way Moses described seeing the bush that “burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” (Exodus 3:2) I screamed, “Fire!” My mother and grandmother ran toward me, but they found no such thing. Yet clearly I was shaken and had seen something, they must have thought. I stood at the opposite end of the hallway, pointing toward the bedroom door. They saw nothing. But they proceeded toward the bedroom door anyway. And once they opened the door, they immediately began fighting a fire. Two stacked boxes had been set too close to the gas floor heater. They were burning. The fire was put out very quickly. Only the burned carpet in front of the heater supplied evidence that a fire ever existed in that room.
We were awestricken. We knew that night God had used me to save our rural home from burning up. My grandmother decided from that experience that I had a gift from God. I was scared. I didn’t want it. I was about the age of seven. I was 21 years old the year my friend was found dead. There was nothing normal about where she was found or how she was dressed. It was a huge and upsetting mystery. Then I heard a news story that nearly sat me on a deadly course. That news story, I thought, could be the answer to our problem. It temporarily changed my belief in the dead. I saw how I could help the family. And that made the difference.
The news story featured a woman with the so-called gift of communicating with the spirit world. She was helping detectives solve a case, according to the report. It is only then, when I saw how this gift could be “helpful,” that I submitted to the idea of having it. I felt very deeply about the loss of my friend who had been like a big sister to me. And I wanted to help any way possible, even if it meant talking to the dead.
Also, around that same time, I was led to a Christian radio station from the only station I ever listened to: a Chicago jazz station. The pastor spoke of the disciples of Christ. I compared them to the church people of the day. I determined to be a disciple of Christ, not simply a member of some church or denomination. I knew I had to begin by reading the Bible more diligently. So I packed my Bible for my trip to Atlanta for my friend’s funeral. And I decided that if God would use me to help reveal what happened to my friend, He could. I would not hinder the “gift” any longer.
At the wake, I stared at her in silence and wished she could tell me what happened to her—who killed her. Suddenly, a spirit sat up in the casket, looking exactly like her and smiling widely at me, just as she would have done. Then just as suddenly, I knew it was all wrong. It felt wrong. It looked wrong. There was nothing right about this scene. Chilled, I ran toward the door. Family members followed me and surrounded me in an attempt to comfort. I could tell no one what I had just seen.
Later that same night, I overnighted at her brother’s home. The sofa was prepared for my bed, and I promised myself I would not sleep. I would read the Bible the whole night. With only a lamp on near the sofa, I began reading. At some point I was awakened. The room was extremely bright. I looked around and there suspended in midair was a bright shining angel in dazzling light. I knew he was there to protect me. It looked right. It felt right. It felt safe. I simply returned to sleep.
Within six months of that night, I was baptized. My life and lifestyle changed. Still, I told no one about the experience. I didn’t understand it myself, until the next spring when in Bible study, we learned about the ministry of angels. We also learned about the deceptions of satanic imps, demons impersonating images of the dead and appearing to their loved ones with supposed messages. It was only then that I shared my experience. I knew that since I had seen a demon and responded appropriately, the LORD pulled back the veil to reveal one of His angels to me. I know firsthand that “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” (Psalm 34:7)
“So what’s wrong with speaking to the dead?” you say. You have heard many others share their experience of being “helped” even saved by the advanced warnings of their dead loved ones. You may have had similar personal experiences. Even the Pope and his followers pray to the dead, including Mary, the deceased mother of Jesus. What could be wrong with that?
The Bible tells of a king who was a believer in God. He had been anointed by a prophet of the Lord. His life had belonged to God, and he expelled those who tampered with witchcraft. Later in his life as king, he became proud, impatient, and jealous for power and favor. He became rebellious. Then in his crisis, he sought the help of a witch. In the end, King Saul was rejected by God. His kingdom was stripped away from him and given to another. (See 1 Samuel 15 and 28.) Long before King Saul or any pope was ever born, God had made it clear that His people were not to be among those who consult with familiar spirits. Make no mistake. It is an abomination unto the Lord. (Deuteronomy 18:9-12)
Audrey Stovall is a Florida-based freelance writer and editor and a member of Saved to Serve community of believers.