Have you ever had a dream where you feel this urgent need to scream to warn others of something, but when you open your mouth, your voice falls silent?
This is the type of eerie feeling that I would wake up to when I was eleven years old. When these episodes occurred, I felt as though I could not move when I first woke up. I also couldn't talk for a short minute, which was incredibly frightening. I would literally feel paralyzed. It wasn't even until this past year that I learned through a friend that others experience this circumstance as well. I looked up this phenomenon and the very definition of "sleep paralysis" is "A temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or upon waking." Even though I couldn't put how I felt about this occurrence into words at that age, I think I always knew that there was something more behind these events than just a physical side. I didn't know much about the spiritual realm (besides who God was) until much later, but every time I experienced sleep paralysis, it felt as though some actual thing (or force) was trying to prevent me from speaking, and it was a very frightening experience. Perhaps that's why I still prefer nights to mornings!
I tried my best to use my eleven-year-old vocabulary to explain to my Mom what was happening to me in the mornings. I don't think I did a very good job at explaining, but still, after I was done I asked her if she knew what I was talking about, half expecting that this happens to others too but also feeling like it wasn't a normal thing to have happen. With a concerned look on her face, she said that no, she didn't know what I was talking about but we would go to the doctors to see what we could do. Thankfully, I outgrew those episodes very quickly and while I never heard the doctor throw out the phrase "sleep paralysis" he did discover that I was also experiencing the effects of petit mal seizures. Again, the enemy was trying to attack my voice and even more my mind, is what I believe. And while I thought at the time that the doctor was exaggerating what was going on with me, it did feel as though something was trying to have authority over me, that shouldn't. I thought he was exaggerating because I thought the term "seizure" was too big of a word for what I was experiencing. Haha, I thought I knew better too. I like to think I've become more humble. What I was experiencing was moments where again I could not talk and I could not pay attention to my surroundings. They only lasted for a minute or two, but they were annoying nonetheless and I hated the feeling that I had no control over myself in this area. I could feel when one was coming on, but I couldn't prevent it from happening. Unfortunately, these episodes lasted up until almost exactly two years ago. But I haven't had another one since.
I had this same sort of feeling, like I was unable to speak, when I started Middle School. I have always believed that if I could imagine something in my mind, then it could be a possibility in real life...except when it came to speaking up in school. I kept imagining myself going up to another student and initiating a conversation with them, but when it came to actually doing it, I genuinely felt like I could not. I feel like I've told a lot of people about how quiet I used to be and how God helped me to open up when I got to college, and many people have said that they see me as being extroverted and they're surprised that I was so introverted. But for me, it was about more than just being introverted. There's nothing wrong or harmful about being introverted. Oppression from the enemy is very real and I believe that's what was going on. But the enemy also doesn't have any right to win.
Because I had no one to talk to at school, or chose not to, my time right after school was spent drawing closer to God. At times I would thank God for making me introverted because it allowed me to talk to Him more. And at other times, it was aspect about myself that I despised. Sometimes we mistake the enemies oppression in our lives for "who we are meant to be." Again, while there's nothing wrong with being introverted, God did not intend for me to be oppressed. I still have aspects of my personality that are very much attributed to being an introvert but there is no longer the oppression there that once was.
It wasn't until I learned about hearing the voice of God that something about this situation began to change. My first home church talked a lot about being confident about hearing from God and approaching God and they based this on John 10:27, which says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." The pastors would explain that this verse doesn't say that we CAN hear His voice, it says that His sheep DO hear His voice and you are His sheep and so you do hear His voice. I took this verse to heart and I began hearing God all of the time, in my mind and in my heart. I would thank God for answers to my prayers and I saw the answers to them all of the time. And what was even better is that eventually I looked back on my past and saw that God was speaking to me even before I knew that He could. When I thought back to those visions I had of going up to other classmates and initiating conversations with them, I now understood that those weren't just my own thoughts. It was God speaking to me and telling me that I could talk to others. I could break through the oppression. And because I knew that it wasn't just me trying to conjure up some false hope but rather it was a loving God who believed in me, that changed everything. I knew that I could win in this situation. It wasn't a question anymore. There was a knowing that I was going to be able to get through this.
I've heard some people describe God as an imaginary friend, and not in a positive light either. When you have experiences with God, there's not always a way to prove that your experiences are true. After all, you have to take someones word for it that what they say happened actually happened. But there is still so much power in a story, a real life story. When you experience God as a real person and as a powerful God, no one will be able to convince you that the healing that took place in your life isn't real. And if you feel like you haven't had many (or any) stories with God, just know that He is incredibly desiring to write one with you!