While we're on the subject of demons, let's talk about the demonaic for a minute. This is the naked guy in the graveyard that Jesus finds when He crosses to the other side of the sea. Mark tells us that this man has been bound with chains that he keeps breaking off, yelling and screaming like a madman, and no one can subdue him.
Which raises the question...how does he keep getting chains on him, then?
How does a raving lunatic, an absolute maniac, keep finding himself in chains if no one can subdue him? Who's holding him down to put chains on him in the first place, chains he keeps breaking? And then, who's coming back to do it again?
The truth is that a guy like that, he has to submit himself to the chains. He has to let them do it to him. And I bet after awhile, he even started begging them.
See, that's what hope does.
This guy is completely out of control. He feels it. He knows that he's not in his right mind, and he's nowhere near the person he once was or the person that he wants to be. He's lost it. And the only way he can think of to get it back is to somehow control himself, but he can't. He must be controlled. He must be chained. He must, for a moment, be able to stop the downward spiral and get some semblance of control back, even if it has to come from the outside. So he lets himself be chained, hoping that if he can just calm things down, just for a minute, his whole world can change.
It's easy to think that he wasn't even in there any more, that the demons took so much control of his soul that he, as a person, was long gone. It's easy for us to think that about anyone, really. We look at those who struggle with mental illness, and we think there's not even a person in there any more. All we see is the struggle. We look at the addict, and all we see is the struggle. We look at disease, and all we see is the struggle. The person is gone, overtaken by whatever's taken over them.
But I tell you - I have never met anyone, no matter how far "gone," who wasn't somewhere in their own soul. I've never met anyone so overcome by brokenness, burden, disease, addiction, grief, demons, whatever, that wasn't in there somewhere, scratching and clawing and trying to get out. Or at least to hold onto themselves. To hold onto whatever sliver of who they were that they have left. In my own darkest moments, I knew...I knew there was this part of me that hadn't died yet, and it was all I could do to keep her, but I was determined to do so.
This demonaic, for whatever we think of him, had something left of himself. Something he was desperate to hold onto. Desperate enough that he kept letting himself be chained, if for no other reason than that it would limit his ability to be the person he didn't want to be. It would stop him, for a time, from hurting himself or hurting others or doing wrong. It was the only way he knew to hold onto himself.
And it's how, when Jesus sets him free, we see a man completely transformed, just like that. What he's held onto, he gets to hold again, and in the blink of an eye, he's clothed and sitting in his right mind, begging to follow Jesus. The fullness of the hope that he's fought to hold onto is now his, and all it takes is that little bit...just that little bit...and he's got it. Just like that.
It's the story of more of us than we care to admit, than we care to confess. We're so clouded by...all these things, whatever they are. And we're just...holding on. We're holding onto whatever we can, whatever little bit of ourselves we've got. That's hope. That's what hope does. It makes us hold on.
Because we believe that we can be that again, that we can be us. That we can be ourselves. That we can be free of whatever it is that's holding us back.
And you know what? We can.
That's what Jesus does.