If you would have told me I would one day write a Christian fiction novel I would have laughed.
I was raised Catholic and knew of God, but I eventually got to the point where I just didn’t want to know Him anymore. I was fine being me, putting me first.
In fact, it was the only thing I lived for.
For those who aren’t familiar, living like that eventually catches up to you. You can ignore it, push the dark feelings back into your mind’s closet. But it’s still there. An unsettling undercurrent that just never goes away.
My breaking point? Five years ago. We were living in Louisville and had managed to rack up $70,000 in debt. Mind you, we had previously been pretty flush and co-owned a growing business. But God allowed our missteps and greed to get the better of us, and soon we were looking at a whole mess of debt.
During this time I, of course, was writing the Great American Novel. It was going to be the best thing anyone had ever read, and therefore, was much more important than my friends, my family, and the niggling feeling that I should honor anything other than myself.
Ha. Fat chance.
I poured my entire soul into that book. I had landed an agent. It was sold to a small publishing house, a group of fellow writers I knew online who started their own literary imprint because every other “big time” publisher had turned down my glorious masterpiece.
Needless to say, the book wasn’t a stellar success. It got published and even got some favorable reviews.
But it just seemed to…fizzle out.
So there I was: in debt, a literary failure, and nobody to blame but myself.
I turned to yoga to “chill out.”
It became my religion, and it helped to numb the pain of the reality of my life, but there was still something missing.
Enter my sister-in-law.
She became extremely adamant that we go to church with her. Her church was a mega church, a ginormous building that I lovingly nicknamed “the monstrosity on the side of the road.”
There was no way I was going to set foot in there.
Which I held true to…for a while.
Something strange started to happen. I started having demonic attacks.
I told you it was strange.
They happened at night when I was still awake. My body would become paralyzed, and I would will every cell in my body to move, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t scream. I could move my eyes only to glimpse my husband sound asleep as something that looked like a scaly gargoyle or alien being (I totally believe when people say they see aliens. I just don’t think they are what they think they are) would slowly make its way toward me across the bedroom floor.
There was also the spinning.
I had been doing hardcore yoga up to this moment, and I think I nudged open some sort of “portal.” I know that sounds like absolute lunacy (trust me), but I truly think I gave my heart to something other than God, and that particular thing found a way to weave its way in.
So sometimes, I’d be paralyzed and this feeling of buzzing energy would come over me, and the next thing I knew, it would feel like I was on top of the ceiling spinning around. My body was on the bed, I was aware of that, but I was not. That part was more frightening than seeing the demons because something about that power felt very wrong.
And yet, some part of me didn’t want it to stop.
This went on for some time, and every evening, I’d say Jesus’s name to make it go away. Yes, me. The girl who denied God and wanted nothing to do with Him. But oddly enough it all did go away whenever I said His name.
I just pretended it was a coincidence. You know, like any level-headed human who’s being attacked in her own bedroom and spends her evenings spinning on her ceiling.
I decided to go to my sister-in-law’s church. I told myself it was just to placate her, but I knew it was something I needed on a very deep level. And the message I heard was an instant hit to the hurt: Jesus loved me.
A selfish thirty-year-old wannabe best selling writer who had absolutely no space in my life for Him.
It was the question I continued to chew on as the days wore on and the demons continued their onslaught. I convinced my husband that we needed to keep going on Sundays, something he was reluctant to agree to at first, but eventually decided it couldn’t hurt. What else were we doing on Sundays?
A change began to occur in me. My heart softened. The old bravado of who I was and everything that defined me began to melt away.
Finally, for the first time, it was just me and God. And there’s not much posturing you can do when you realize the immensity of something like that.
So one night, three months in, I gave my life to Christ. I was in my bed, covers to my chin, deeply terrified of the night ahead. But I knew innately that I didn’t have to keep shouldering this burden. So I gave it all to Him.
That night? I slept soundly for the first time in a long time, and I haven’t seen the demons since.
One of my biggest roadblocks to ever considering following Jesus was the corny, sugar-coated American Christian lifestyle one seems to adopt when making this decision. Rest assured, that facade is a total lie. My life has been nothing but a deep commitment to Jesus and the gritty endurance it takes to sacrifice for others.
There is nothing sugary sweet about denying yourself for the glory of God.
But what does exist is the covering of His love and protection and the promises He affords us. At the time I gave myself to Christ, we had gone from being on top of the world financially to living in debt. I knew that as soon as I submitted to Christ, He was going to open doors for us to get back in good standing.
Today? We’re out of debt completely and set to pay off our house in the next three years.
No magic wand. No prosperity gospel. Just a good Father that’s equipped us every move we’ve made in His name.
I could go on and tell you all the unbelievable things that have happened since that night when I was terrified and gave it all to Christ. But then we’d be here for days. Instead, I leave you with a prayer. That you will search your own heart, give up your own pretenses and the idea of what you have to be in this life. This world is nothing if not a liar and will do anything to keep its claws in you. Release them through confession and following Jesus alone.
Because weeping may come in the night, but joy comes in the morning.
Ericka Clay is a published author who is working on her first Christian fiction novel, A Violent Hope. She writes relevant, gritty fiction that has a heart for Jesus who can redeem even the worst of sinners.