People who have it all together — what does that look like? What do you see in someone who, apparently, is healthy and in the prime of their life? Nothing major is wrong. Everything seems perfect and proper and good. What do we expect to see?
I don’t think I’m the only one who as witnessed this social phenomenon of being completely surprised about people you’ve known, when their lives fall apart. These can be your neighbours, regular acquaintances at church or the soccer field, they can be family members. The shock comes when everything seemed normal, even perfect, on the surface; But then the floor falls beneath them, and suddenly they are mired in terrible circumstances. How could that happen to THEM? And we shake our heads in disbelief. And lick our wounds. And covet a life we don’t have.
We live in a culture that tends to place a heavy onus on ‘image’ and ‘making good impressions’ and ‘conformity’, according to a perceived criteria of good living — a house in the ‘burbs, two cars, a nice little family, great jobs, perfect health, financial security, etc.
But who are we, really? And do we recognize our authentic, true selves? Do we have the courage to be who we are, even if it bucks the norm? And how do we discover that ‘true self” without getting totally self-absorbed and self-centered?
The Garasene man filled with a host of demons didn’t know who he was. The word, ‘Legion’, in the Gospel text from Luke 8:26-39 suggests a multiplicity of forces pulling him away — distracting him — from his true self. This is evil. He is literally beside himself.
And people knew that, and chose to collude in separating him from the community, to live in the tombs. They saw in him the broken, dirty window pane. And what the city folk people wanted was the stained glass window (see post, “Window panes”).
This was the famous Decapolis region on the other side of Lake Galilee. Among the Gentiles, the culture here was attractive and industry was prospering. This region of a secular society looked very good, on the outside. People aspired to its economy and riches.
The people of the Decapolis rejected Jesus and his healing gifts. They were afraid, and sent him away. They, too, didn’t know who they truly were. Because when Jesus turned the tables on their lives and restored the man they once knew as the outsider, the crazy, the broken — they were scared to see what life can be about for them, should they let Jesus shine in them.
The stained glass window is not, in the end, about the beauty of the stained glass. The broken, dirty window is not, in the end, about the distractions that lead us to sin and woundedness. There’s something more, something essentially simple. Yet, seemingly so difficult.
The healed man, at the end, was tempted once more, to be something and someone he was not. He asked Jesus if he could go with him. But Jesus sends him back, to “return home”. To be who he was created to be, among his own people and in his own community. Restored human relationships is a first sign of healing.
Our restored relationship and intimate communion with our Creator God, is our ultimate healing and wholeness. This is the place of our true selves. Jesus calls the man to “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”
Are we not called, in the end, to be that clear and simple glass pane, reflecting what God has done in our lives, and for the sake of others? When the focus is neither so much on what we think is so glorious about ourselves, nor obsessively on our brokenness and wounds, but on the work and presence of God in our lives — are we not healed?