Thursday, June 20, 2013

Clothed... and In His Right Mind

They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind...  Mark 5:15

November, 2011.  It was a sunny but chilly day with a stiff east breeze.  In that season of the year, there is nearly always a stiff, chilly wind coming out of the Columbia Gorge when we are fortunate enough to have sun.

I was on the phone with a colleague as I looked out my home office window overlooking the cul-de-sac north of our house.  I blinked, and my eyes confirmed what I had seen first.  Yes, indeed.  The muscular man, appearing to be in his mid-30's, was indeed walking down the street buck naked.

He seemed to be conversing with, or responding to, things I could not see.  At one point, he stopped as he entered the alley between the fence of my yard and the chain link fence around the school athletic field.  Then he walked to the school fence and began to climb it, fingers and toes gripping the diamond-shaped holes in the fence.  He was as agile and strong as a chimp on his play structure.

When he reached the top rail of the fence, the man squatted and rested up there a bit before he leaped down into the schoolyard.  I cringed.  The soles of his feet had been resting atop these sharp, twisted wires supporting the man's full weight...  but he appeared to feel no pain at all. 

Next, he walked in a circle.  Then he returned to the fence, climbed back over and came walking down the street in front of my house.  He came down my driveway, stood in my open garage for a few minutes, before returning to the street, going back to the schoolyard and climbing the fence for yet a third time. 

Oblivious of pain...  oblivious of the chilly wind...  oblivious of all that most of us are attuned to in our daily relationship with the world. 

I had been on the phone to the police dispatcher minutes before, and at last a police cruiser sped across the athletic field and stopped.  The officers kept their distance, not threatening the man, thankfully.  They engaged him in conversation before finally convincing him to enter the warmth of the back seat of the patrol car. 

The man of Gerasa (Mark 5, Luke 8) was clearly in another world from most folks, an alien to them.  Jesus apparently engaged him in another way from most people in the man's life.  The results are stunning.  And I have no doubt that the encounter also changed and informed the way Jesus and his students engaged and related to people after that.

What if we did the same?

Sarah Thebarge did.  It changed her.  It changed a family.  It changed the world.  For good.  For goodness.

The divides of culture, class, language and life experience can be every bit as formidable as the divides of mental health and mental illness.  Likewise, the divide of mental illness can be as formidable as all of those other things that clearly exist but are not seen as being so formidable as mental illness. 

Jesus paid attention.  He engaged the person first, always before the labels. 

Sarah paid attention to the invisible girls she met.

What if we did the same?  How much more of the world would be clothed and in its right mind?

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