What a Ghost Hunter Taught Me about Trust in God
On Halloween 2003, my freshman year of high school, I sat in my dorky costume in Chemistry class and waited for class to begin. But today, my teacher, Mr. Ronnie Nixon, had something else planned. Mr. Nixon had previously been a scientist of the paranormal before he became a high school science teacher. On Halloween every year, he would share with his students stories and information about his “ghost hunting days.”
Mr. Nixon was also well-known for his puns and “dad jokes,” so when he first introduced his anecdotes about going into haunted houses, I may have literally rolled my eyes. I always knew ghosts, haunting, paranormal activity, and everything like that was not real. He was just making this up to have some fun on Halloween.
But he was serious. I don’t remember now a lot of the specific stories he told us, but here’s one I do remember clearly: one time, not for a job but for a vacation, he had gone to Gettysburg, the battleground of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. He took some of his equipment with him and went on a tour of the battleground in the early morning. The sun was coming up, and there was fog over the tall grass. He didn’t hear anything except the tour guide talking. But when he went back later and listened to what he had recorded, he could also hear a clear sound of a bugle and someone yelling, “Company halt!”
He played this audio for us in Chemistry class that Halloween, and it gave me chills. I was still skeptical, though. He could have easily planted that audio, or maybe it was a reenactment happening in the distance. But there were several other recordings, measurements, and pieces of evidence he shared with us that, he was convinced, showed some sort of otherworldly activity.
After chewing on this information for a few days, I talked to Mr. Nixon after class to get a little more clarity. “Can I ask you a personal question?” He welcomed it, and I think he may have known where I was going.
“Are you a Christian?” He answered that, yes, he was. “Then how does all of this correspond with your faith?”
Mr. Nixon explained to me that the way we talk about “ghosts” is not how the Bible talks about spiritual beings. We think of them as these scary or violent people who are stuck between life and death and are looking for some sort of revenge, but the entities in the Bible are not like that.
He referenced the witch of Endor calling Samuel back from the dead to speak to Saul (1 Samuel 28:7-20), the variety of accounts about demon possession in the New Testament (Matthew 12:22-32, Mark 1:21-28, Luke 11:14-26, etc.), and even very familiar spiritual beings like angels, the Holy Spirit, and even God Himself.
“What I know is that there are actual, tangible, readable measurements that show me something beyond what I understand is going on,” I remember he told me, “and I’m using what I can to learn more about that.”
As a scientist, he used his skills, intellect, and logic to research. As a Christian, he used the Scriptures to guide his understanding. And as a believer, he used his faith to trust God.
I remember him telling me that he would probably never fully understand–and he didn’t think he was supposed to. Ghosts, spirits, or whatever you want to call them are not part of our fight. God’s in control of that, and we need to trust that He’s handling it, even if we don’t understand it.
Mr. Nixon taught me several lessons by explaining his rationale to me.
First, he showed me that it’s okay to not understand. I have always been a rule follower, and it sometimes is uncomfortable when I don’t know exactly how everything breaks down because then I feel like I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. The thing is, though, I’m not God. I don’t know everything, and I never will. I don’t even know a little bit of everything.
Can you imagine how long the Bible would be if it discussed every single thing we wanted to know about the universe? It takes just a quick look into Job 38 and 39 to see how insignificant we are in comparison to the workings of God. His most foolish moments are still wiser than our wisest, according to 1 Corinthians 2:5. And yet, I think about Jesus when he approached Thomas about his doubts in John 29: Because Thomas saw, he believed, but Jesus said that the ones who believe without seeing are blessed. There just have to be some moments when we say, “I don’t know, but I trust God.”
However, Mr. Nixon also showed me that it’s okay to try to understand more. Of course, the Bible is the ultimate authority, and several essential truths are clear in Scripture: God is the Creator, Jesus is His Son, He died for us, He is the only way to salvation, etc. There are important elements, like the teachings of Jesus or the examples set by various followers throughout Scripture, that we can logically understand to make us better ambassadors for and disciples of Christ. And there are personal opinions that are unclear in Scripture or maybe not discussed in Scripture.
When these unclear issues come up, when I have doubts about something, or when I don’t understand something, how do I address that?
I first look at the Scripture to see what God says. I think about the Bereans in Acts 17, who searched the Scriptures daily. It’s also a good idea to pray for God to help you understand as you read; think of a “help my unbelief” mentality, like that of the father in Mark 9:24.
Apart from Scripture, we are blessed to have a wealth of other resources to help us understand: wisdom from others, other ancient texts, deeper word study, historical perspectives, scientific research, other disciplines, etc. These may not present answers–only God knows all the answers–but they might be able to shed some new light on the topic.
Not knowing is not a bad thing, and it can lead to a higher, more active dependence on God.
I had Mr. Nixon for three other science classes in high school, and he became a close family friend. It really meant a lot to me how much he supported me through my studies and passions. He has since passed away, but I think of him often–especially around Halloween. Mr. Nixon taught me about the importance of balancing logic and faith. He showed me that not knowing is not a bad thing, and it can lead to a higher, more active dependence on God. And he showed me how to use the tools God has given me to better know Him and His creation.
I think it was one of the first times that I saw trust in God as more than just a last resort, and it was definitely one of the first times I realized that science and faith were not mutually exclusive. The 2003 freshman-year me didn’t know these things very well yet, but 2020 disciple me has taken these lessons to heart.