Mark 4:35-41, 5:1-20
In college, I was a Young Life leader. I worked with inner-city kids, suburban kids, and even international students in Paris. If you’re not familiar with Young Life, it is a program to reach un-churched kids. It is not for kids who have heard about Jesus. It is for the kids who will not go within 100 feet of the church. It is for kids who are too scary or too scared for a traditional type of venue. Young life is very non-traditional. It is a food-fight, loud song, shaving cream war, gallon-challenge, eat a bug, wild and crazy kind of club. I am not joking about the eat a bug thing. I had a friend who promised the kids that if they brought friends to club that he would eat a cockroach. He ate lots of cockroaches.
I did not eat cockroaches, but I sang loud songs. “Build Me Up Buttercup” was my favorites. Each Monday night club have games and songs and a talk. In the three years that I was a young life leader I gave one talk. It was on Mark 4 and 5. I read to the students the story of Jesus crossing the water and calming the waves, and I read the story of Jesus speaking to the madman and healing him.
I told the YL kids that story because they were like Legion. They did not fit in. They wore chains on their clothes or they had cuts on their arms. These were not the kids who sat in church. They felt like they were chained to the wall. So I read them that story because I wanted them to know that Jesus would get into a boat and across a stormy sea to heal them. My favorite part of the story is the end, when the man is calm, and he is sane, and Jesus gets back in the boat, and he leaves.
I love that story because Jesus would cross the ocean just to heal one person.
I didn’t know that I was talking about myself when I spoke those kids.
I have recently hospitalized for having suicidal thoughts. On August 4 I came back to church and I thought about walking into traffic. I was having a psychotic break. I felt that the world was ending. My world was ending. I was about to go through my worst nightmare. Or at least what I believed to be my worst nightmare.
When I was in fourth grade, I visited my mother in a closed ward. I remember hearing a woman scream into a payphone that she might blow her head off. I saw my mother sitting, folded into a chair in a white room.
I went back to that same hospital Sunday night. I signed over my rights. I signed over my privacy. I signed over the right to control my own body. Because I was no longer safe, from myself. And I didn’t even understand. I was cold and was hungry, and I was shivering and I was left to staring at the painting of the flower. I was given antipsychotic drugs, and the next morning I thought that they would read my journal, and so I tore it apart. The then, they took my clothes.
It wasn’t until I saw the kindest confusion on my nurse’s face when I told him, it wasn’t until the meds kicked in that I knew that I was crazy. I am Legion I wrote in my journal. A madwoman full of demons. I am insane as my mother, and to make it worse, I am as insane as my father. I had a traumatic childhood. Everything I have done since was to protect myself from the truth, the truth that I am mentally ill.
Tomorrow I will be 38 years old, and finally I know that I’m bipolar.
I am not Legion. I am not my mother. I am not my father.
I am me. And I am different from my parents. I have made different choices, and continue to do so. I have faith. I believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
Jesus heals me. He gives me hope in the darkness. He gives me joy behind a locked door. He help me make friends among the broken and to see the goodness of God in frightening face. I know that I’m sick. I also know that God made me in his own image. I am a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, and I am broken from the fall of man. I am a sinful, broken person. And I am filled to the brim with the love of God.
I have never felt closer to God than now, as I begin to get well. As I take my medicine, as I follow my doctor’s course of treatment, I know that God loves me.
I know that God loves you.
That Jesus is the kind of man who would leave heaven to come to earth so that he could catch sick and make them well. He is that one who casts out many demons.
I am thankful for every sleepless night, for every panic attack — for even the self-harming thoughts. Thankful, because this experience has helped me understand who God made me. I am broken, and I need a Savior.
His name is Jesus.
In Mark 5, we learn the name of the demons: we are Legion. We don’t learn the name of the man who sits calmly, once restored.
I think that’s intentional, purposeful. We all have moments that feel like madness. Stress, anxiety, rejection, loss, betrayal – these emotions can overwhelm the most sane of us.
But, we can all go to Jesus to be healed. Jesus comes across the waters for us. He makes us whole. He did it in the Gospels, and He does it now, today, here, wherever you are.
The man is unnamed because he has all our names. We are all someone broken and abandoned, at least once in our lives.
God has sent healing for all of us. His name is Jesus.