This morning, Father B’s homily rankled…at first.
The priest at St. George’s message was taken from the Gospel story in Luke about Jesus commanding the “legion” of demons to leave the long-time tormented man. Father B started out by asking what makes people, such as successful rock stars and actors, commit suicide? He posed that many people need more than money and fame to be happy. (So far, so good.) Then the priest made a rapid shift to call those ‘things that make us unhappy’ …those needs and addictions…our demons.
Now, before I go on, I would like to fill in what immediately came to my mind: I was correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder around 1998. Many people, myself included, often think that the demons referred to in the Bible are actually what we today call mental illness.
Father B’s next point was: “These are demons of our own creation.” What!?!
The power of a sermon is largely due to the tradition of sitting there quietly and listening…all the way through.
While he was talking, and I was taking notes, I was also recalling other aspects of the issue: A fellow blogger wrote recently about how diseases (including mental illness and cancer) are physical manifestations of spiritual brokenness. He received a great deal of disagreement from his readers. In fact, I wanted to disagree…but could not; last year, after I prayed fervently but clearly to be healed of bipolar disorder, I was. My healing required that I concurrently forgive myself and all people who had abused or neglected me from birth to the present. I had also been through several exercises in spiritual healing (described on my blog “A Ward of Jesus.”) The spiritual cleaning resulted in my physical healing of bipolar disorder. I cannot deny it.
The priest went on to say, “our demons exist because we are comfortable with them.”
I have struggled with the question Jesus posed to the crippled man who lay at the side of the pool in the temple. Jesus asked him: “Do you want to be well?” When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was prescribed Lithium, the classic medication for bipolar mania. But my initial concern was, who would I be…if I were without my disorder? I had known for over 30 years that I was unstable, emotionally, but it was a known entity to me…unpredictable, but known. Father B had me hooked.
A habit I picked up while bipolar was the tendency to spend money I either cannot afford to spend or do not need to spend. The reasons I have given (to God and others) for this habit, have to do with how I was raised. But, I have been healed of those issues and I have been healed of bipolar disorder. So, the question stands: Am I more comfortable with this residual demon…than I would be without it?
I also know how easy it is to become attached to labels and sound-bites; it saves time (“I am bipolar.” “I have a spending addiction.” “I’ve had a hard life.” “I’m a single mom.”) and covers a lot of territory. But, are those labels, demons, too? Father B suggests we love our demons. I suspect they help identify us…for better or for worse. Father B suggests that we like our demons because they make us comfortable; I would say we like them because they are familiar. An abused wife will stay in the bad marriage because, while it is a hell, it is a known hell.
Once again, and ultimately, I have to agree with Father B. The only thing I would add is to ask for Jesus’ help. Ask the Holy Spirit to help identify demons and for help in shedding those demons. There may be some ancillary confessing and forgiving to be done to allow the release of demons, but Jesus will highlight what is necessary.
Thanks be to God, and to Father B, and to God be the Glory.
(Challenge: What are your demons? What is holding you back? Smoking? Weight? Mental illness? Prejudice? Poverty? Hate? Not sure? Ask God to reveal your demons. If you are ready to be well…post your demons in a comment here…or just say, “in process.”)