In our Bible study at Barnett’s Pub we are reading through the Gospel of Mark. As I make my transition out of St. Alban’s, I’ve been asking some lay folks to lead our pub bible study. Last night, Jack led us through chapters 5 and 6 of Mark. And even though I’d read these passages dozens of times, Jack pointed out something new to me. I suppose this young dog is still learning tricks.
The passage was Mark 5:1-20. In this story, Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee and heals a man possessed by demons. It’s a funky story, and I’m sure you don’t have the patience to read my take on the whole thing, so let’s just look at the first 8 verses.
This poor man, possessed by demons, lives among the tombs. Though he was once shackled, he is now free to prowl about, howling and “bruising himself with stones” (v. 5). Seeing Jesus, the man runs and bows down before him shouting, “What you have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (v. 7).
In our conversation, Jack pointed out the odd nature of the man’s request. Here he is, bruising and tormenting himself with stones, yet he asks that God not torture him. How bizarre!
Many of us stay out among the tombs, bruising ourselves. We beat ourselves up over our failures. We dwell on how terrible we are. Our minds are fixed on our own pain and shortcomings. But this is what we know.
It is downright scary to say to God, “I am done with that. I am done with that sad life. I desire your healing.” What’s so scary about this is that we are trading our normalcy for chaos. True, our normalcy, bruising ourselves with stones, is not healthy. But this is what we know.
Stepping out and bowing before God will propel us into a chaotic life, a life that we do not know. Yes, it will be healthier and holier, but for a time it will be chaotic.
What stones do you use to bruise yourself? What are the marks and the scars of your self-centered fear and anxiety? Would you rather live a normal, hurtful life, or a chaotic, holy life?
“Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what he has shown you” (5:19).