I’ve been doing some trauma work lately in therapy. It’s been pretty intense as I have a lot of repressed anger, and processing that is actually harder for me then processing the trauma itself. Those that know me well know that I don’t do anger. Anger is one of those emotions that was pretty frowned upon in the Christian circles I grew up in.
Although anger was not explicitly forbidden, the basic teachings were that righteous anger, like Jesus’ was permitted, and then if you did get angry about anything else, well, “in your anger, do not sin.” But no one ever really explained what that looked like. Obviously, physical violence, threatening, and/or name-calling (Raca!) was not okay (unless of course you’re Jesus flipping tables and calling the Pharisees a brood of vipers). But what about thoughts? Well, even thoughts were to be suspect, because really anything you were thinking was basically you doing it in your heart. Or so we were taught from the words of Jesus in the Bible when he commented on lusting after a woman in your heart being basically adultery. And so we had to watch our thoughts, lest we do something horrendous in our hearts! And on top of that, if someone did something that injured, we were always encouraged to forgive pretty immediately. Afterall, Jesus forgave us for those awful thoughts and other sins we have done against him, so there’s no room for anger against others. In my young mind, the only answer I had when I got angry – in order to keep from sinning – was to deny I had the anger. The problem with that is emotions don’t just disappear when you don’t process and work through them. My anger got buried deeply in my brain and body, and for a while that was okay. Friends would comment on how calm and happy I always seemed. But eventually, the mask started to slip, and I found that in order to deal with the anger that just wouldn’t be shoved anymore, I started turning it against myself, working hard to numb this emotion that I had been shamed for.
I have done this for years, so fast forward to now, and my therapist and I have come to the conclusion that the repressed anger has got to come out. It’s a very slow work in progress, because I still feel a great deal of shame and fear when it comes to allowing myself to feel anger in my body. My therapist thinks I fear that I’m going to “hulk out” and turn into a giant green monster that destroys everything in sight. He reassures me that it won’t happen, but my anger feels like something so dark and violent, that I can’t trust that it won’t happen. In my mind, that kind of deep rage that is buried there is evil, so I carry a lot of shame and I want it to stay hidden. But it’s killing me, and my therapist assures me that it’s okay for it to come out. He won’t judge me.
I’ve been praying about this, asking God to help me heal, and He keeps bringing me back to the story of the demoniac from the Gerasenes region. I’ve pondered it for a while now and there are some interesting points that have stuck out to me.
Basically this man was possessed and as the story goes, no one could control him. He would break ropes and chains. He lived amongst the tombs and would scream and slash himself with stones. In the story, Jesus had just stepped out of his boat when the man saw him from a long way off and came running up to him, bowing down.
The interesting thing about this is that Jesus didn’t come after him. Jesus didn’t command him to come to him. The man and his demons came running to Jesus. The demons knew who he was, and as we will see later in the story, they were afraid of what Jesus would do to them – and yet, they still came and fell before him. This is not the first story where a demonized person comes to Jesus out of their own free will, terrified, and yet, they come to him. There is something about Jesus, that draws even demons to himself. As he’s on the ground, the man shouts at Jesus, asking what he wants because he knows who he is – the Son of the Most High God – and he starts begging Jesus not to torture him.
Then Jesus does something interesting and quite compassionate – he asks the demon his name.
Really let that sink in.
This demon has been torturing this man, and Jesus has the power to bring the demon out, condemn him and send him to what the demon calls “the bottomless pit.” Jesus has the power to give this demon what for, but he doesn’t. He asks the demon his name. Names are important. Names identify us and connect us. Names allow us to be seen. One could argue – if Jesus had the power to condemn the demon to the pit – he likely already knew his name. And even if he didn’t – he was a demon – an enemy of God and humanity – why would his name matter?
But somehow, it did matter. When Jesus called the demon out of the man, he made sure that the demon was seen. Named. Acknowledged.
And the demon was still scared. He knew what Jesus could do to him, and so he begged Jesus not to punish him, not to send him to the pit, but instead begged to be allowed to go to the pigs on the hillside.
And Jesus listened. He listened to the pleas of the demon, and he had mercy. He had to have known that casting the “Legion” into the pigs would free them to go somewhere else, or maybe even come back, but he did it anyway. There was no condemnation of the demons or the man – just freedom for all of them.
Jesus reminded me – if he didn’t condemn demons, he’s not going to condemn my deeply buried anger. Like the demon, he will call it out and it will name itself, and he will acknowledge it, listen, and set us both free.
He has reminded me that I need not be afraid of my darkness, because he doesn’t condemn it. He accepts me as I am, and loves me into healing and wholeness. Darkness and all.
Psalm 139: 11-12 “If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”