FACING YOUR DEMONS
“but it is up to us to decide if they linger within us or not"
Evagrius Ponticus referring to the "Eight Evil Thoughts"
And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
The "Markian silence" is a term that scholars use to describe how in Mark's gospel, Jesus goes out of his way to keep quiet his miracles and his identity. It is an an implied "between the lines" Christology It almost takes on comic proportions in that no one seems to honor Jesus's request and the more he commands the healed and the demons to be silent, the more his fame grows. Running parallel to the "silence" is the fact that no one really understands who Jesus is- from the pharisees to his biological family (see Mark 3) Even when Peter gets the right answer (Mark 8:29), Jesus tells them not to tell anyone (vs.30). And then three verses later, in response to Peter trying to silence Jesus's talk of death, Christ calls Peter Satan. So much for Peter's class participation grade.
The fact that the demons knew Jesus indicates that they had some inside information. Perhaps they had seen him before (Mark implying Jesus's preexistence?) Regardless, there are a lot of reasons why Jesus did not want demons proclaiming his identity. Just because they knew what Jesus was (Son of God, Messiah, etc.), did not mean that they did nor could they ever know who he was. That knowledge belongs only to God.
The "demons' we face in this life are the "what" of our shadow side (childhood issues, trauma, tragedy, failures. addictions, diagnoses, deficiencies, etc.) The "fallen" state of humanity is a complex conglomerate of being sinned against, genetic predispositions, the sins of the ancestors, and our own sin and mistakes. For Christians this situation is neither to be denied nor embraced, but rather faced and given to grace. It certainly is a life-long Lenten struggle that from our perspective is never finished, but one God has already won.
Which leads us back to the "who." Our demons may be well versed in the what of our lives and vices, but they do not get to define the "who." Like Jesus and because of Jesus, that belongs to God alone. This might sound dangerously close to Luther's similar justus et peccator (simultaneously righteous and sinner) and I am certainly influenced by the good doctor. But the paradise gained is far greater than the one that was lost. When we face our demons we are not looking in a mirror; we are looking at the ongoing script of our life; regardless of the drama and tragedy of the story line, the ultimate ending is a blessed one.
Our true selves are hidden in Christ and given back to us. You may want to be the person your dog thinks you are, but you are the person that God holds in crucified hands. So the next time your demons start their noise, tell them to shut the hell up.
Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!
From Who Am I? by Dietrich Bonhoeffer