Our newest sermon series, Jesus and the Other, explores the revolutionary way Jesus interacted with people, breaking the human-constructed barriers of class, race, gender, religion and marginalization due to physical or mental health. The following monologue depicts the perspective of the "other" in such an encounter: the self-harming demoniac (Mark 5:1-20).
Written by Rick McKinley, Read by Don Jacobson
The fits started when I was a teen and only grew worse as I got older. My mother’s love for me was torn between wanting to take care of me and the daunting reality that she was unable to. In tears I was taken away one day by the men of the town. Caged like a wild animal because no one could control me, and I could not control myself.
Despite the screaming voices in my head and the blasphemous images that streamed, dream-like through my mind, I could see my mother’s love for me through my glazed-over eyes. Her love penetrated my mental and spiritual chaos for just a moment as her image faded down the road. The road that lead from the home and village I was banished from forever.
That journey must have ended badly for the men who had lead me away, I only remember coming to what must have been days later. I had nothing but my clothes, which in my worse moments I tore at and ripped apart, trying to keep my skin from crawling. I retreated to a hill just outside a small town. It was a cemetery of sorts; tombs where the living left their dead.
Looking back it was a fitting place for me to roam because everything inside of me felt like death. My mind, my emotions, my spirit. I had lost control of them, or something else was running and ruining my life.
Rabbis had come many times over the years at my mother’s request. They prayed and spoke Hebrew words over me, put oil on my head like I was a young king David. On a few occasions, things inside me calmed down, but it was always short-lived.
Up in the tombs, however, I was beyond hope. Living among the wild animals, living like a wild animal, treated like a non person, I became a thing that gives you nightmares.
This is what I had become.
The townsfolk would occasionally make their way up to the tombs. Sometimes they would leave food for the dead, and I was able to sustain a meager existence living off scraps.
I ventured into town on a few occasions when food was scarce, only to be driven back to the tombs by the crowds of fearful people. They wielded fire, and they wielded farm tools. They feared me even more than I feared myself.
My soul was a barren wasteland; death haunted me day and night. The teachers spoke of Hades, that place of death, and Gehenna the place of fire. But I was living proof that Hell lived on earth and its dark and sinister forces were constantly gnashing away at my mind and body.
The nights were the worst, there are no words for the torment I experienced during the night. Nothing but hopelessness and darkness outside and inside.The end of hope is the scariest thing. Believing that the pain, the yelling voices in your head, will never stop.
I would scream out at night trying to release the pressure inside my brain. Once while I slept they chained me up and threw me in a cave. Terrified they back to the village. I was overcome by hate-filled anger, it just flowed out of my body in a strength that I had never known. I broke those chains as though they were weak twine.
Day by day I continued to haunt the town and rest with death in the tombs.
Cutting myself was my one relief. The numbness I felt inside would be awoken by the burn of the slate rocks ripping into my skin. The trickling blood a reminder that there was still life pumping in my veins.
Then one day it all stopped.
Something stirred inside of my head early that morning. The tortuous voices that shrieked hate-filled blasphemy inside my head night and day were shuddering in fear. I was trembling; every inch of my body was trembling.
“He’s here! He’s Come! We’re ruined! We’re ruined!”
Playing on repeat in my mind over and over, the fearful chants thudded away inside my brain. Something holy had arrived, a presence whose very being caused all that was evil to shudder and quake in fear.
I don’t remember running down the hill toward You. I can’t recall my body being thrown down at Your feet. The screaming though; I could never forget that horrible screaming.
“What do you want with us, Son of the most high God! Don’t torture us!” The voices were begging for Your mercy, while I was left seizing on the ground. And then with a simple phrase, it was over.
“Come out of this man.”
This man. You were the first person who saw me as human in what seemed like forever. Despite the screaming and the seizing and my tattered clothes and mangled beard, You didn’t see a wild animal. You didn’t see the walking dead.
You saw ME! A person. A man.
There were over a thousand evil spirits that left me, I am told. And once they disappeared my mind and body were calm as a glassy sea.
Sitting up, I watched as herds of pigs stampeded like buffalo and leaped like lemmings off the cliffs to their deaths. The townspeople I saw standing near ran back to tell the others, and they came as fast as they could to see what had happened to me.
Staring at me in unbelief, still too afraid to approach me, they just gawked. Rather than being filled with joy for me, or filled with faith that You, the only One whom every Spirit must bow to, were standing among them, they were afraid. In fact they were more afraid of You than they were of me all those years that I was up there screaming in the tombs.
Maybe it was the fact that You sent their livelihood off a cliff. Maybe there was something amiss in them that feared Your holy presence just as the demons inside of me had feared You.
I’m not sure why they demanded that You leave, but they did. Oh but I didn’t.
I was standing there, clear-eyed for the first time in as long as I could remember, and all I wanted was to be with You, to follow you. I had no friends. I had been run out of my own village. I wanted to be with You because you had literally saved me from the hell I was living.
I believed You were the Son of the most high God, and I was almost destroyed by your enemy. You rescued me—my mind, my soul, my body and my spirit.
But You didn’t let me come with You. I was disappointed, of course, but You had other plans for me. You sent me home. You chose me and sent me to tell Your story. My story. Our story.
Walking back into the village that I had grown up in was like returning from war victoriously, but my war was spiritual and internal and won by another. As people slowly recognized me, dropping what they were doing and running out to greet me, I told them just as You had asked me to. I told the story over and over a hundred times to every person in that village. I told them everything that You had done for me that day.
That day when You showed the world that there are unclean spirits and unclean animals, but there are no unclean people.