Your story matters.
I was at a family friend’s funeral recently and the priest offered these words of reflection. He recounted how often when someone has endured prolonged illness before their passing, we find ourselves saying: “They were only a shadow of themselves.” But this is not true. It is in this life here on earth that we are in fact “shadows of ourselves.”
Our true and glorious nature is yet to be seen.
Not long before attending that funeral I was reading this curious little story of Jesus healing a man possessed by demons. This man who was a vivid picture of one who was quite literally living in the shadows. He actually lived in the graveyards, among the dead.
The story is found in Mark 5. It’s worth reading in its entirety but this one little phrase in the story jumped out at me.
Jesus had delivered this man who had been tormented by evil spirits. After years of being tortured and bound, Jesus had come and set him free. So naturally, this man asks the One who freed him a sincere and heartwarming request – “Can I come with you?”
But Jesus said no.
Those words took my breath away. I wondered how this man must have felt in that moment. I imagine his heart sank. He must have had to catch his breath with disappointment. He wanted to leave this town that had been his place of torment, and to go with Jesus. He didn’t know where Jesus was going, nor did he seem to care.
He just wanted to be with the One who freed him.
I can relate. It would be easy to not relate. I mean my story is not exactly that of this demoniac man. But when Jesus has set you free, when you have experienced him pursuing you and rescuing you, it becomes a little easier to relate to this demoniac man.
Freedom from the bondage of sin and death looks a lot like what this demoniac man experienced.
Jesus paints this picture of the Gospel so clearly for us, but we can easily miss it. This literal madman who is set free by Jesus becomes among the first evangelists. The kingdom of God is near. Look at what he has done for me.
We are more like this delivered man than we are different.
I was once in bondage.
I was once a slave to sin.
I was once lost.
And Jesus came, saw my condition and rescued me.
But now, as God’s loving servants, you live in joyous freedom from the power of sin. (Rom. 5:22)
Jesus tells the demoniac man he can’t come with him. Instead, he expresses his desire for this man to: Go back home to your own people and let them see what the Lord has done – how he has shown mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)
When Jesus says no to our “righteous” desires, it can be a bit mind-boggling. This man was asking to remain with Jesus. He wanted to go where Jesus was going. But Jesus says – no, you stay here.
The kingdom of God is best expressed through your life lived out right where you are, right in the place that was once a source of pain and torment. Jesus says go there, and bring the light of My presence.
I bet this demoniac man thought his life was insignificant. He really had no life until Jesus came. He was even living in the company of the dead. His home was in a graveyard.
This is the Gospel truth – apart from the saving power of Jesus in our lives, we are like this demoniac man. We are living among the graveyards. We are not living at all.
And then comes this pivotal lesson in our life with God. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal. 5:1). He did not come to free us for ourselves, to ourselves, to live secluded among ourselves.
He set us free to carry the life of salvation to the “walking dead.” I once was dead, but now I am alive in Christ. (Eph. 2)
I wondered why of all the people who asked Jesus to go with him, Jesus says no to this man whose life was so radically transformed. I don’t recall another instance in the Scripture where Jesus says no to someone wanting to cling to and follow him.
So why did Jesus say no to this man? We don’t know exactly how this man felt. The Scripture only tells us that the man did exactly what Jesus told him to do. He went back home and told everyone everywhere what God had done for him.
If you love me, you will obey my commands. (John 14:23)
I believe this man’s life was restored to him again and again, his healing made more complete as he “let them see what the Lord had done.” Certainly this former madman in the community did not need to use many words. People only had to see him to know that he had been changed, set free and delivered.
But he did have to tell them how this happened.
So he shared his testimony and told the people about Jesus, the One who set him free. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. (Rev. 12:11)
Telling the story of what God has done for you is a necessary part of your deliverance.
It is the way of the Kingdom of God – we get to participate and it is always mutually beneficial. Testifying to the goodness of God is redemptive for you and for those to whom you share. Freely you have received, now freely give. (Matt. 10:8)
Do you remember the woman at the well (John 4)? She too, like the demoniac man, had been marred by humiliation and shame living a life apart from her community. But after she encountered Jesus, she went and told everyone about her encounter. She was freed – set free from shame and isolation, and her healing continued to unfold as she shared her story. And in her story, many others were set free to know the Messiah as well.
These two evangelists, a demoniac man and a shunned woman – Jesus commissioned them to tell their stories and see whole communities set free.
Your story matters.
Has Jesus set you free? Has he delivered you from any bondage? Has he met you with his compassionate love and grace?
Then you, beloved, have been commissioned. In your storytelling is your healing and deliverance. And that of many others.
Your story matters.
So go – let the world see you. And tell them your story.
Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:16)
Your story matters.