II – The Journey begins
I feel like Frodo, without the ring though, but a journey awaits nevertheless, even if I don’t know it yet. I would have been discouraged if I knew which way or how long it would be so God in His mercy showed me only one step at a time.
I wait happily to savor the meaningful and abundant Christian life that I’ve found. I’ve always known that there was something missing in all the rituals. I’m glad I was shown the way because there are no biological Christians. Whatever religion you belong to or even if you are born into a family that attends the best church, in the Master’s words, -you must be born again! There is indeed a transaction which must happen between you and God! It is written that the iniquity of us all was laid on Him.
Happily I tell Eagle eyes when walking down the flight of stairs leading down the railway bridge to Byculla railway station, “I think I’ve been born again”. I don’t know whether I heard him use those words or whether I read them in the Bible when I was sick at home, but I just knew for sure that was what happened to me. There was a brief period of peace and rest like stopping at an oasis on a desert journey, then God started shaking things up and made me uncomfortable in spirit and I became like Abraham the wanderer.
Along with Eagle eyes, there was another elderly friend who was spiritually inclined. Ex air force, a ex great lover of whiskey, the Lord had delivered him of the same. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to get anything out of him in black and white. He’d always prefer to err on the side of caution. There were no shady spiritual experiences for him. His motto was Judge Not. if someone in Jesus name performed a miracle, or a prayer was answered, then Hallelujah, it must have been from God no matter how shady the character was. I now feel that his discernment was on the lower side as the Bible exhorts us to test every spirit. If you asked him if it was okay to marry someone who had an allegedly bad character, He would immediately chime, yes brother, God allows such things in life, remember God asked Ezekiel to marry a harlot.
In spite of such niggling differences, they were still fervent pray-ers, maybe that was their ministry or maybe they missed the mark. As for me, I was having an increasingly tough time compromising at Church, they were quite comfortable continuing there. While walking down the staircase that day, I also told Eagle eyes that I had a very strong desire to be baptized by immersion. I have absolutely no idea where this came from. He said he was happy with his sprinkling and did not feel led to do this. It is quite possible their calling was different and they served the Lord there.
Even as I attended the same church with more and more questions, and also attended Bible studies at Eagle eyes house conducted by a missionary (Was this where I heard about immersion baptism?) I was growing frustrated with the compromises. I was aware that I was not being obedient to the word. At the same time I didn’t know what else to do and where else to go… One day out of sheer frustration, I climbed into our 90 liter plastic drum in the bathroom and baptized myself even though I knew that this wasn’t it.
This was when I met another friend from my community working in the same company as me. He stayed closer to my house so we travelled together in the local train whenever possible as we couldn’t rendezvous as and when we wanted to as there were no mobile phones at this time and phone calls were expensive. He too was wandering but not as badly as me. He was in two boats like me and I think he stayed like that (I’m not sure of his current status as it is at least 20 years since we met). In his search he had got mixed up with the wrong guys, the Jesus only group, but thankfully had managed to come out before he was totally sucked in.
He told me about a guy from our community, who had started a church near Santacruz and that he also baptized people. I was very excited. When I went for the meeting, it was in a kind of village like an East Indian settlement next to my house and very difficult to find. His mother told me that as she walked in the morning Jesus would walk beside her and talk to her. I thought wow! I wish I had such experiences. This was my first of several charismatic meetings including that of new life fellowship and some other small groups. I avoid them now as I hate the noise and the speaking together all at once and the speaking in tongues without interpretation… but to each his own…
There were exorcisms and manifestations, alleged prophecies and on comparing it with my previous dead and dry church experiences it felt great. I went there for about a month or so. One fine day in spite of going round and round for over an hour, I was unable to find the place. It was only later on I realized that God had blocked me from going there with good reason as I would find out about a decade later. However I did get baptized through this church in the Badlapur river.
10 years later, I met my friend again, I had resigned my job and moved to Delhi by then. He told me that the charismatic pastor now claimed that only people who came to his Church would go to heaven. He also told me that there was a Hindu woman still wearing her talismans and charms speaking in tongues and prophesying. In addition something about someone prophesying on the phone from the US about who should get married to whom. By now I was sure that this was all hokum. Some other spirit had taken control there and I told him this was not from God.
Keeping all these things in mind, and learning of a meeting in Kalyan itself, I thought I’d meet up with my friend who was still working for the same company. This was when he told me that the pastor now had a meeting in Kalyan as well. I thought I’d attend it as I wasn’t sure when I’d come to Mumbai again. After all I did go to his Church and ultimately, it was he who baptized me… So I went and squatted on the ground on the mat like everyone else. In the middle of the service I saw a woman rocking back and forth twittering like a bird. I immediately connected her with what my friend had told me about the Hindu woman. During the message, the pastor stood up and said someone in the congregation had fever because they had said something against him. He said that about a few others too and then he suddenly looked straight at me and said that some people said his miracles were not from God and that was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and would not be forgiven. I wonder how he knew… I know now, he was knowingly or unknowingly channelling a spirit of divination and probably thinking it was the Holy Spirit. He had been ensnared, trapped and taken and would soon be (sadly ) broken.
He was sincere, but sincerity is not enough. It is possible to be sincerely wrong!
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