Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Caves

. . . And though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places (Luke 8:29).

It is the nature of our demons to isolate us, to drive us from the land of the living and the company of those who love us. Our demons isolate us because their survival depends upon our being beyond reach, seemingly out of control.

Before we explore this story further, let’s be honest about the word “demon.” Some will read the word and dismiss this story as the best efforts of a primitive mind to explain behavior that everyone feared and no one understood. When Luke tells us that Jesus “stepped ashore and was met by a demon possessed man” we can take that at face value and let it mean exactly what it says – but we’re wrong to feel superior to the story or to Luke who just didn’t know better.

Demons were and are real. However, they do not always appear in ways that are obviously frightening. Their most well-practiced strategies don’t make for box-office hits. One such strategy is to isolate, to drive us into solitary places.

A spirit of shame can do this, isolating us with secrets we can’t share, shortcomings we simply will not acknowledge.

A spirit of driven-ness can do this, forcing us to prove ourselves day after long day, keeping us from those we love while we chase the approval of those we resent.

An accusatory spirit can do this, keeping others at a distance with a sharp tongue and ready word of criticism.

A spirit of lust, a spirit of anger, a spirit anxious care – all of these can drive us to isolation. Our demons thrive in darkness.

When Jesus shows up he enters the isolation. Jesus finds us in those solitary places; his presence draws us out of the caves where we’ve hidden. Luke tells us that Jesus sailed to the region of the Gerasenes (Luke 8:26). By proper Jewish standards, this is a rough neighborhood. This is no place for a respected Rabbi to hang out. It’s Gentile territory; the pigs that inhabit the land are unclean and the people aren’t much better.

But that’s where Jesus goes. Luke is telling us that the presence and power of Jesus are at work even here. Jesus has a way of finding us, even in those dark unclean places. Others had tried to intervene with this wild boar of a man, but only Jesus could show up and draw him out and make him whole.

Only Jesus can step into those solitary places of our lives and shine light on what we’ve kept hidden. Paul asked it like this: “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” Nothing can. But some things will try. Are there any “demons” driving you to isolation today? Invite Jesus to that place. He’s looking for you even now.

Lord Jesus, you ask us to name our demons. You invite us to identify what it that drives us from you and from others. Sometimes we wish you’d leave us alone, and yet being alone is what we fear. Find us today, wherever we may be, and draw us from the shadows. You are the light of the world. Shine on us we pray. Amen.

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