A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary – Day SIXTEEN

Mark 5:1-10, Today’s New International Version

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
 
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
 
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
 
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
 
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
_______
Lent is a good time for confronting demons.
And here’s the thing about demons – they’re tenacious, they’re manipulative, and they’re scary as hell. Literally.
We might tend to read this story through our 21st century, western cultural eyes. We might want to think that the days of literal demons are behind us.
Maybe.
But I think the powers of evil have found lots and lots of new ones with which to entangle us, to ensnare us, to hiss and snarl and sweet-talk us away from the Truth. 

I have a few that I do battle with, sometimes until I feel exhausted and exposed, just like this wild man on the edges of town. How about you?

Do you think maybe you’re ready? Ready to do a little confrontational work?


Perhaps the language of the psychologists might be helpful as we confront the things that demonize us in this time and place:

Addiction.

Anger.

Anxiety. 

Attachment.

Compulsion. 

Control issues. 

Egocentric ego. 

Fear/phobia.

Family of origin issues.

Narcissism. 

Insecurity. 

Perfectionism. 

           “I have met the enemy and s/he lives inside my head.”  

So said the very wise father of a friend of mine, and I think he nailed it.

Because everybody does battle with several of the personal demons on this list – and all of them hit us hardest where we spend about 99% of our time – inside our own heads. 
But then, just like the Gerasene demoniac, these demons inside our heads break through, frightening us and the people we live with, too often leaving us isolated, ‘crying out and cutting ourselves with stones.’

So, I ask you today:
     If Jesus were to stand in front of the naked, quivering you and say, “What is your name?”  
     Who do you think would answer?

Do you believe that Jesus has 
     the authority
     the will and 
     the power to release you from the grip 
        of whatever it is that holds you? 

Do you trust him…
     to do what is best for you, 
     to clear out the things that hold you captive,
          using whatever means will be most effective – from
               scripture to 
               prayer to 
               psychological or pastoral counseling to
               healthy eating to
               regular exercise to 
               the good words of friends to 
               a 12-step program?

Do you believe that Jesus is able to

               help you to find new clothes, 
                     seat you at his feet as a true disciple,
                          invite you to be a witness to his goodness?

Lent invites us to do exactly that: 
     to trust this time in the wilderness with Jesus, 
          or more accurately –
     to trust this Jesus in the wilderness  
          with all of who we are and 
          to invite him to make some deep changes in us.
_______
I’ll admit, Lord, that I find this picture of you both captivating and terrifying. I so want to trust you, to hear you tell the things that hold me, “Get the heck outta here!” But these demons are so familiar to me, and I am so dang scared of change. Help me to trust in your goodness, to recognize your authority over the things that isolate me, to open myself to the life-changing work you want to do in me and through me. For your sake, Lord. And for mine, too.
 



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Comments

  1. Oh Diana, what words of hope and healing, to people like me who feel the breath of these demons on my neck any time I stop and rest. Oh, but I need to stop and rest and lean into Jesus and just trust Him, to believe we travels with me in these wildernesses. Thank you for this series and these beautiful thoughts.

  2. Diana Trautwein says:

    Charity, you cannot know how grateful I am to read your comment. I know very well the particular demons you mention (I think!).  That wilderness of recovery…with a never-ending question mark, right? Anxiety, merging into fear, merging into downright terror. I have found the Jesus prayer extremely helpful when that demon rises up and assaults. Coupled with slow breathing, it really calms me. Do you know it? 4 phrases – 2 breaths in, 2 breaths out: “Lord Jesus Christ – Son of God – have mercy on me – a sinner.” It slows me just enough to remember – to trust – to lean. Thank you for stopping long enough to let me know that these words have been helpful to you. That means a great deal to me.

  3. There is someone in my home who seems to be battling something demonic, and I can tell you the exact day things change. So far, we’re all still stuck. I’ve often wondered, if Jesus showed up and cast that thing into a pig (or in our town, it would be a goat or a deer), what would it do?

  4. Patspreng says:

    getting into the work… this is as much for me as it is my friend… make no mistake about it.

    and it’s here I keep asking myself this same question…

    Do you believe that Jesus has the authority,
    the will and
    the power to release you from the grip
    of whatever it is that holds you?
    Is there such a thing as a demon of unbelief?  Like the Roman soldier… you know the prayer.  I wonder why I so often believe for everyone else, and less often for myself?  It’s a big question… and I’m kind of afraid of whatever the answer is.

  5. pastordt says:

    Oh, Megan – I am sorry. My dear Abbot would say – go for the psychological first (find a good talk therapist and try 2 or 3 until a good fit works out – preferably someone who would explore the spiritual aspect to the problem as well as the psychological) and then, if that does not help at all, more seriously pursue the spiritual (a priest, if you seriously think this is demonic.) 

    And I wonder, too, if Jesus showed up and cast out all in us that is disturbing and difficult – where would they ‘beg to go?’ Coyotes? Bobcats? We don’t have pigs ’round here neither!

  6. pastordt says:

    That is a prayer for most of us, I think, Pat. I thank God often that it’s found in the gospel record! I think it’s much harder to believe for ourselves – and I don’t have the answer to the ‘why’ of that. But I would say – it is nothing to be afraid of, not really. We tend to think that our emotions, our fears, our doubts, are bigger and stronger than we are (and sometimes they are). But they are NOT bigger and stronger than God. That is truly the safest place for them. Praying for you as you seek answers and as you ‘do the work.’ And it is work, too!

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