When working with schizophrenic youth I noticed that they could be excellent mirrors in which to see who you really are. In moments of distress my charges would sometimes shout terrible things at me – things that were uncomfortably accurate.
The Gerasene demoniac from today’s Gospel reading knew who Jesus was, knew more clearly even than Jesus’ closest followers. In classic come-here-go-away fashion, he fell right at Jesus’ feet and shouted, “Jesus, Son of the Most High God, what have you to do with me?” You’d think his demons would have taken him anywhere but there.
Jesus drove the demons out of him. In a way, it’s kind of a funny story. I imagine Jesus thinking, when he saw the angry pig owners coming, “Oops! I forgot that in this country those animals are valuable.” And then there were the thousand or so animals floating, dead, in the lake. The hazardous waste clean up must have been enormous. No wonder everybody wanted him out of the country.
On the other hand, this is a spooky tale that is truer than true. Take a moment to consider the things which torment you. I would imagine that they can make your life absolutely miserable. The more powerless you are to change them, the greater the suffering they cause.
Now imagine that you are driven by them to find the one you know to be the actual Son of the Most High God. This happens all the time. The very demons who are shouting, “get away from me,” are the impulses that lead us right to Christ, to the transformative, healing, creative energy that is God’s incarnated love. You do know you can call on this love, right?
Don’t put yourself in chains; you will always break them and run howling into the tombs. Cultural values, the plans your parents had for you, the gentle tyranny of your family and friends, none of these things can hold you in your torment. The raw suffering is always stronger. But the very demons who drive you have another side. They alone can peer into the depths. The wounds that we breathe into – that we really allow to have their say – will guide us beyond social conventions and constraints to power a profound, authentic creativity and spiritual understanding.
Find a companion who will help you listen to where the demons are pointing. While they scream against God they will at the same time drag you into God’s presence. There, miraculous transformation may occur. After awhile you may find yourself sitting, clothed and in your right mind, at the feet of the Master. And out there beyond you may be a whole bay full of dead pigs.
Laurie Gudim is an iconographer, writer and spiritual director living in Fort Collins, Colorado. Visit her website, or drop her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.