Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.     -Ephesians 6:10-12

I would be remiss if I didn’t speak plainly and openly about the spiritual aspects of our journey. I imagine some might refute our experience as gibberish. And I believe others might read too much into it–creating of it a sort of water-shed moment in our spiritual discernment. Neither is accurate. But to ignore the reality that we are fighting against opposing forces of evil is to quietly sit back and allow the great enemy of truth to have another small victory. If this blog, and my testimony, and our family’s pain have taught me nothing else, they have taught me that lies and evil must always be combatted with the truth. No matter how hard or what the initial cost.

Our children are raised to believe and understand that Satan is an actual being, and he is the very real adversary of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When we are going through a challenging situation we are open to the possibility that evil forces may be working against us. But we steer clear of throwing the “devil made me do it” card each time we encounter a tough truth. Our own hearts, deceitfully wicked and wholly depraved apart from God, are quite capable of leading us into mischief. The world, and the lusts held within it, are equally capable of catching our eye and enticing us to satiate our desires with forbidden fruit. However, we do also have an enemy. That enemy is likened to a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). If you were taking a joy ride through the African Sahara, I’m pretty sure you would keep your eyes peeled for this formidable creature. Spiritually, we must be willing to do the same. And pretending Satan is only a small, red humanoid with a pitchfork and bifurcated tongue leaves us exposed and ill-prepared to meet a snarling beast who wants to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

Our family is coming face to face with the hard reality that Satan was engaged in an extended playdate with my children and in our home. Asher and Nathan’s room was the first place we detected the oppressive sense of darkness. Joseph and I both recall feeling a physical aversion to hanging out inside their room. I regret not being more tuned into this sensation. It wasn’t merely a tweenage boy aroma but an odor that expressed itself in more than smell. I cannot rightly express the tangibility of feeling “off” when we went to speak to one or both of the boys. Nathan’s therapy is showing more and more the horrors that he suffered in that room. And we are fully convinced that Asher’s treatment of Nathan was also rooted in projection towards himself as he relived the disgust he felt towards Drake. When we began repainting the room, I was astonished to find untold marks of damage done to the walls from Asher chucking his knife and throwing stars against them.  There was writing and scratched out sayings placed inconspicuously behind dressers and the bed frame. I knew spiritual darkness had been genuinely present.

Several months before the phone call, I had a disturbing realization rush through me. Asher was being visited by a demon in the guise of an imaginary older brother. This is one of those things that sounds like so much sensationalism when it is taken out of context. And honestly, without a full picture of our lives with Asher before the abuse was discovered, I would dismiss such assertions without thinking twice. But Asher was engaged in an epic battle against us, himself, God, and demons long before we learned so many of the whys. The abuse was an answer that clarified innumerable questions that we held. One of those biggest questions was Asher’s unquenchable insecurity.

He constantly spoke about wanting a brother. We tried to help him see Nathan as a playmate in the making. Sure, they were several years apart, but that wouldn’t always matter. However, Asher was never able to view Nathan as the fulfillment to the brother he believed he needed. We are only beginning to fully grasp the ways Asher’s brokenness inflicted deep, scarring pain onto Nathan through his constant rejection, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The depth of depravity necessary for the mental torture that Asher inflicted upon his innocent younger brother can only be found in pure evil.

But while we were still in the dark about the abuse, we definitely recognized that Asher’s preoccupation with an older brother was unhealthy and even a bit weird. I finally asked him if he did more than imagine this brother. The answer was chilling and validating. Asher believed he had created an entire being that often visited him. The “brother” was always so warm and encouraging of Asher. He understood Asher’s frustrations and misfortunes. He provided Asher with support and validation. The hair on the back of my neck went straight up as my son told me of his interactions with something that seemed far more real than a daydream.

We spoke for several hours about this “brother.” Joseph and I sought counsel, and we agreed that Asher needed to understand our concerns for his spiritual wellbeing. We do not believe he was possessed, but we do believe he was being oppressed by a real demonic force. Asher was taken aback by the conversation and even appeared genuinely scared. He agreed to cease all interactions with the illusion. Whether he successfully did or not is unknown to me. What is known, is that his behavior continued to spiral out of control to the point that we were already in prayer and conversations regarding a solution for removing Asher from our home before we ever knew that it would be to imprison him.

And now we face this battle while Asher is in an environment that is not always spiritually ideal. We are fighting the impact of that demonic activity in our other children. We see ways that our family is being ripped apart by rumors and misconceptions. People who should be loving and supporting us are making idiotic choices and assumptions. And Asher is fighting with everything he has to avoid facing the truth. If Satan couldn’t have us through the abuse, then he will satisfy himself with owning us through broken hearts and misguided anger. If we never heal from this he won. It doesn’t really matter to him whether Asher is in our home abusing his siblings or not. He only concerns himself with the end goal–and there are many ways to skin a cat.

So, we pray, and read scripture, and remind ourselves that we are not bound by a spirit of fear. When my children are all biting at one another for no apparent reason, Joseph and I call upon our God and remind ourselves that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). When Asher refuses to acknowledge any of the truth behind his abuse, or his perpetration, we speak God’s word to ourselves. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. But Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10). And when the darkness appears to saturate our every moment, we speak this truth:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.     -John 1:5