Monday, October 5, 2015

Demons & Pigs (A reflection on Matthew 8:28-34)

There is a song that plays on the radio sometimes. The first few verses follow:

When the days are cold
And the cards all fold
And the saints we see
Are all made of gold

When your dreams all fail
And the ones we hail
Are the worst of all
And the blood’s run stale

I wanna hide the truth
I wanna shelter you
But with the beast inside
There’s nowhere we can hide

No matter what we breed
We still are made of greed
This is my kingdom come
This is my kingdom come

When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

The song is almost too raw. I mean do I really want to acknowledge my failures, or the failures of those who I have looked up to? I mean those people who had it all together, or at least I thought they did. But they didn't. They failed too. Some grander than others. And then I know deep down the truth of this song--demons prefer to be hidden. It's where they do the worst work. 

I am in a phase of life, nearing the end of my 43rd year, when I am growing into my weaknesses and strengths. This whole vulnerable thing is honestly whipping me. 

Most often in my life, I've run hot or cold, or mediocre warm. 

An old country song tape begins in my head, "My give a d*** got broke!" It's so much easier, that little girl thinks, just to climb into a corner, away from the world, lick her wounds and play Coldplay for hours. But then this too is not the answer, she knows. She's done that before, and it didn't work then so I hear Dr. Phil's voice in my head too (a child of our culture, right?), "How's that working for ya?"  So the victim, who licks her wounds, declaring the world is against her--she's inside me.

Or in the heated moments, I am astonished to see the kind of horrible person I can become. I have witnessed her. She is dangerous. Her tongue can slice a person in half, if given an millimeter of opening. She learned that from her upbringing; a household filled with verbal debates that trained a young child that the way of winning in this world is to be the loudest and the rightest. Exaggeration is fair. The more dramatic it sounds, even better.  And with a proper facial expression you can quiet a room. It's all in delivery; words can cut when they're properly sharpened. Words are far worse than actions sometimes; only sometimes though. Because honestly that actions of others is what trained me to hide behind this girl; the times I was ignored, set aside, or simply left to my own devices.  But that horrible loudmouth, demanding truth despite the cost, wants to be the winner, "don't you dare say I'm weak", girl--yeah, she's inside me too.

But the worst moments, are in mediocre warmth, when I desperately want to be valued, to be seen as okay enough. That's when the fake girl shows up. Pretending. Acting like she's impervious to pain. She's suddenly someone else. She'll do whatever it takes to keep control of the situation. To appease. To rescue. To make the situation better. She's inside me too. I really don't like her. But she's inside me too. 

These are my demons inside. Their nourishment? Shame. (Brene Brown nails it again and again!)

I've identified all of those "me's" with the help of a darn good therapist and some circumstances that have happened (I call them Divine Intersections) to help me apply my learning. 

Therapist calls it "reparative work". I call it being punched in the stomach, over and over. Whoever tells you that therapy is about encouragement is only telling you half the story; it's tough, internal work. 

It's like every coping mechanism I learned to survive this time on planet earth (the three "me's" I shared above) was being deconstructed. And well coping mechanisms are cool; our brains learn how to feel better by leaning too far into those roles. 

Therapist called it the triangle.  And I needed to get out of mine. 

Enter today's reading from Matthew 8:28-34: (this version is from the paraphrase, The Message)

The Madmen and the Pigs

They landed in the country of the Gadarenes and were met by two madmen, victims of demons, coming out of the cemetery. The men had terrorized the region for so long that no one considered it safe to walk down that stretch of road anymore. 

Seeing Jesus, the madmen screamed out, “What business do you have giving us a hard time? You’re the Son of God! You weren’t supposed to show up here yet!” 

Off in the distance a herd of pigs was browsing and rooting. The evil spirits begged Jesus, “If you kick us out of these men, let us live in the pigs.”

Jesus said, “Go ahead, but get out of here!” Crazed, the pigs stampeded over a cliff into the sea and drowned. Scared to death, the swineherds bolted. They told everyone back in town what had happened to the madmen and the pigs. Those who heard about it were angry about the drowned pigs. 

A mob formed and demanded that Jesus get out and not come back.
I love Eugene Peterson's translation of the "madmen" being "victims of demons".  In many ways, I was unable to travel into the deepest parts of me--the true me--because of the demons. Yet, I also supported their existence, in the sense that I never really knew they were there. Demons hide, remember? 

Until Jesus. And then the story shifts. The demons recognize Jesus--and know exactly who he is. And the weirdest part of the story for me is the "pigs".  I mean, what did those pigs do to you, demons? And Jesus, for real?! You're going to let them go into the pigs?!

But here's the irony for me. The madmen had survived with these demons. Had lived. Had also been a great harm to the people around them because of these demons. The pigs chose to go over the cliff, rather than live with that version of crazy. 

This is not saying that we should all go over cliffs because of our crazy. Not what I'm saying. 

But it seems to be that we live with demons that Jesus simply did not come to earth, live amongst us and die on the cross, and then be resurrected for us to have! Jesus came, lived and died so that we would have life. 

Jesus invites you and I to consider another way. And he provides Divine opportunities to look within and begin to navigate through the brokenness and shame of our souls.

So my triangle--the three me's inside of me. They're still there. But what's different is that the demon of shame is being dealt with. Like Brene Brown says, shame hates being called out. So I'm calling it out.

By living wholehearted. By living vulnerable.