I HAD A HUNGER FOR GOD FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE….
Even though I never attended a VBS, never heard the gospel, or had any sort of orthodox Christian teaching growing up, we’d visit my cousins in Huntsville, Alabama for Christmas and inevitably attend a midnight mass at the Catholic church. I didn’t understand much of what was said, but I could sense the presence of God drawing me.
Maybe I can become a nun….
While that may sound like a silly response to the Lord’s drawing, in that environment, it certainly seemed like “the way” to get close to Him. The thought haunted me for quite some time…that is, until I started noticing boys.
Looking back, I can see that the enemy used that hunger to draw me into his lies. Since my parents weren’t Christians, they modeled a lifestyle that put great importance on money, success, ambition, and notoriety. And with my strong-willed personality, as I entered my teen years I moved in directions that were anything but honoring to God.
I tried many ways to satisfy that hunger…proverbial boy-crazy wild child that I was, I became an expert at looking for love in all the wrong places. When that didn’t satisfy the God-shaped hole in my heart, I was drawn to the new age…especially with my grandmother’s involvement in Unity, Eastern meditation, and various metaphysical teachings.
After graduating from high school and heading off to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps, I found myself running with some unseemly characters, which led to being sucked into Scientology by Hollywood actor Wings Hauser and his wife. That longing in my heart that was hungry for truth was finding all sorts of counterfeits for it.
ESCAPE FROM SCIENTOLOGY
I spent seven years heavily involved in Scientology’s elite Celebrity Centre, where celebs the likes of John Travolta, Al Jerreau, Chick Corea, Karen Black, and Priscilla Presley gave us credibility and, for all intents and purposes, proved the organization was credible. For the first five years I was involved in Scientology, I spent my time promoting the ideals of the organization as the answer to all our problems on planet Earth. A failed marriage riddled with domestic violence, both physical and emotional, moved me on to building successful businesses as my way to self-medicate for the pain that engulfed my soul. In an unconscious attempt to numb myself, I worked tirelessly, most often 70 and 80 hours a week. I hired many Scientologists to work for me as I experimented with the heady and addicting drug of success.
Marrying another Scientologist in 1982, by 1984 we began to see the controlling and unhealthy practices of the organization and took a stand against it. From there I dabbled in many other new age practices, from channeling, to the 12 ascended masters and the Great White Brotherhood, and “new wisdom” spoken through Elizabeth Clare Prophet. None of those practices ever really filled the need in my soul…the hunger that God had placed there.
Even after becoming a Christian in 1986, the enemy used that hunger to draw me into unhealthy churches. Part of the reason I was vulnerable was the lack of a solid foundation. It was only six months after becoming a believer that my then husband, Chuck, and I found ourselves in full time ministry to Vietnam veterans and their wives and families. That matured into ministering to women who’d gone through their own trauma and were struggling with the effects.
I’d realized the same symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) we saw in combat veterans were evident in those who’d survived sexual abuse, alcoholic parents, domestic violence, rape, abortion, and scores of other traumas. Bringing the emotional, physical and spiritual elements of PTSD all together was a fruitful time of ministry, even as it distracted me from the firm foundation I needed to focus on.
While Jesus radically changed my life when He took over, I failed to learn enough about the Word of God to be able to discern when scriptures were being used out of context. Even though I was busy in ministry helping women realize that wounds, if not healed completely, can become idols, my own idolatry left me open to deception…and I didn’t even know it.
I found myself being easily deceived by leaders who could quote a lot of scripture… forgetting that satan did that too, and that certainly didn’t prove that he was trustworthy! It’s a little scary to realize how easily we make assumptions based on someone’s voice.
I’ll never forget traveling to a ladies retreat back in the early 90s when I was attending Westgate Chapel up in Edmonds, WA. At the time I was building a large networking business and had commercials on Christian radio all across the country. I produced the commercials myself, starting each one out with “Hi, I’m Athena Dean, and I lost 40 pounds in 4 months with Lite & Rite!”
A woman on the bus was introduced to me, and she said … “YOU! I’ve heard you on the radio… Hmmmmmm… I always thought your name was Atheeen Adeeen (that still makes me giggle)… but you also don’t look anything like the picture I had of you in my head… I expected you to be much heavier with long dark hair!” At the time, I was pretty skinny with short blonde hair, so her assumption based on my voice was nothing close to reality. How true it is that satan can speak through people and if we are not grounded we can come to a completely wrong conclusion.
DECEIVED BY THE ENEMY — EXPOSING THE ENEMY
From 1998 to 1999 I found myself being deceived by the enemy through two different wolves in sheep’s clothing.
One was a home church leader named Tom Spencer who controlled, manipulated, and spiritually abused a flock of about 70 people in the Enumclaw area. He used scriptures out of context and accused women in the church of being Jezebels…shaming and shunning those who wanted to love God and serve Him wholeheartedly. Having access to the financial books, when I began to see and hear deception and lies about how the money was being spent, I exposed it to the members and the flock was scattered.
The second was Tim Williams, founding “pastor” of Sound Doctrine. This was the man whom the enemy used to hijack WinePress Publishing and emotionally, financially, relationally and spiritually bankrupt me over the following 12 years.
After walking away from such dramatic deception, I’ve learned that our own vows, made out of hurt or trauma, if not repented for, will come back to haunt us. Reflecting back over my life, I remembered when I was 18, being distraught over a relationship gone bad… I vowed to myself, “I’ll never let anyone use me again!”
Matthew 7:1-2 says: Do not judge lest you be judged. For the way you judge, you will be judged, and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
I made that vow only to have a wolf in sheep’s clothing spend 12 years using me up and spitting me out. The enemy used my hunger for God with reckless abandon (normal for a Type A) to draw me into what I finally realized was a bona fide Christian cult. That hunger for God was misused by a person I allowed to become a spiritual authority in my life, and misusing that authority the enemy robbed me of:
- My marriage
- My family relationships
- My house
- My car
- My credit
- My 3.5 million dollar publishing company
- And almost my faith