Lately I’ve been enjoying a book by Jan Johnson titled Meeting God in Scripture: Forty Guided Meditations. I highly recommend it for those seeking to be transformed by the Word through a slower more meditative reading style. This week, I came across a meditation on Luke 8: 26-39. I have to admit that I have never felt like I could relate to the demon-possessed man from Gerasenes before today. I’d always looked in on this passage from the perspective of Jesus or His disciples. Today was different as I felt my heart pierced by these verses, “For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out in a loud voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me?’” Yes, my heart was pierced and I wanted to believe that it was out of compassion for this man. While I do think that compassion was a part of it, underneath that sense of compassion, I related and it hurt.
It’s not that I relate to demon possession…this would be a different blog entirely if that were the case. No, I related to the tragedy of living in a tomb for a home. I related with the feeling of being alone and confined with no place that felt safe to be loved, seen, and enjoyed. Twenty three years of abuse will do that to a person and I found my heart breaking again with the memory of it all. I wonder why today? So many years have passed since my freedom came and so much time with Jesus breathing new life into me. Why today? I think it’s because old habits and beliefs can rear their ugly heads in times of uncertainty and loss. These past eighteen months have held some significant losses and uncertainties for me and, if I’m honest, I’ve gotten a bit sideways with myself and with God. I have forgotten how He loves me, sees me, and enjoys me. In the forgetting, I’ve also been hiding. Hiding from letting Jesus have at this pain till it was fully transformed into something with wings. I had forgotten how much Jesus wants to be life, home, community, and refuge for me. How is it that getting a bit sideways can cause so much forgetfulness?
Sometimes when I forget all that my God is and has been for me, I can forget that when He comes to me it’s not to torture but to set me free. Yes, I could relate to that part of the Gerasene man’s story too. The question, “Jesus what do you want with me?” and the plea to be dealt with kindly resonated within my soul today. I realize that I had been wincing and holding my breath as if Jesus were coming to do anything other than heal. Old habits and lies emerge under pressure of pain sometimes. But that’s not the end of the story for this man, for me, or for you. You see, Jesus had come to set this man free but all he knew was aloneness, torture, and confinement. He couldn’t see that truth and compassion incarnate were approaching him because he looked at Jesus through the distorted lens of all he had experienced. I can do that too and it keeps me from seeing clearly. How about you?
The passage nears conclusion with the man sitting at Jesus’ feet, restored and clothed. I can’t help but wonder if this took some time. I don’t think clothes appeared out of thin air even though Jesus could surely have done so. No, I think they had time together, they shared words and stories. I wonder if Jesus showed him the mountains and the seas and told the man how much God delighted in creating them and in creating him. I wonder if Jesus told him that His love would never bind him but would always set Him free. I think Jesus invited him home, to make his home in The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit even as he sent him on with a mission and purpose to “go and tell” and to experience home in his own community. Full restoration; that is what God does…for the Gerasene man, for me, and for you.
I invite you to read Luke 8:26-39 or any other passage from the Gospels that you feel drawn to and ask the Holy Spirit to give you a holy imagination so you can enter the story. Allow yourself to be there, to taste the dust, to hear the words uttered. Where are you in the story? What stands out for you? What in your life is needing restoration and healing?