As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Mark 5:18-19 (NIV)
Tomorrow I celebrate another year on this earthly journey. The earth has made another trip around the sun. It’s my plan to take the day off and have a little personal time. We’ll see how that plays out.
Along the journey I’ve perpetually spent time in the quiet with God contemplating three questions:
- Where have I been?
- Where am I at?
- Where am I going?
As a young man, the answers to the first two questions typically resonated with discontent. The third resonated with hubris.
A little further in the journey, the first two questions resonated with anger. The third resonated with confusion.
Yet further down the path the first question began resonating with gratitude. The second question began resonating with clarity for the first time. The third question began resonating with hopeful longing.
Some mornings as I read the chapter, I find myself meditating on a character in the story. There are so many people we meet in Jesus’ story, but I rarely give most of them more than a passing thought. They are two-dimensional bit-players who make a quick entrance, speak their line or two, and then exit to the Great Story’s Green Room.
When I trained as an actor, I was taught that even bit players have a story. I was trained to study each character that I embodied with equal depth and attention to detail whether I was in the lead role or a bit player. And so, I sometimes like doing a little character study of the bit players I come upon in the chapter. Today it was the man who had spent his life possessed by demons, living amongst the dead and rotting bodies in the local tombs. The locals continued to tie him up and shackle him with chains because he was so raving mad and out of control. Talk about an interesting answer to the introspective question “Where have I been?”
The answer to “Where am I at?” is radically different than it had ever been before. It’s suddenly “normal” like everyone else. The demons are gone. His chains are gone. His spirit and his mind are his own for the first time in how many years? He is a walking miracle. He’s still the one everyone is talking about, but in an entirely new way.
“Where am I going?” he asks himself. His life is suddenly open to endless possibilities. Why not follow this teacher who delivered him? Why not dedicate his life to going wherever Jesus goes, doing whatever Jesus says, and serving Jesus in life-long gratitude? He seeks out Jesus and begs to follow.
It was Jesus answer that resonated in my soul this morning. Jesus could have taken on another disciple. He could have sent this man on any mission to any land Jesus named to accomplish any task no matter how seemingly impossible, and the man would have gladly done it.
But, no. Jesus says, “Stay here, my friend. Stay here in this little village on the shores of Galilee that you call home. Go home to your family and your community. Channel your gratitude for me into loving and serving them well. Love, and be loved. Get a job and support these neighbors who have looked after you for so long. Get married, make love, have children, and experience the joy of a simple life. That’s my mission for you.”
As I heard Jesus saying this in the scene I envisioned in my imagination, one of my life verses came to mind:
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV)
As I meditate on entering another year in the journey tomorrow, my heart meanders back, yet again, to the three questions. Amidst the Divine Dance I toss the questions out and open my spirit to the answers.
“Where have I been?” The answer resonates with gratitude more than ever before.
“Where am I at?” The answer has begun to resonate with contentment.
“Where am I going?” The answer is surprisingly soft and still compared to the chaotic resonance of hubris, anger, and longing I’ve known my entire life journey. Wait a minute…
Is that peace?
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.