It’s still hard to speak about. To think about.
Even though it has been so many years. I am frequently asked to tell my story. Which I do with some reluctance. I do so only to give others hope. Maybe even you. If Jesus Christ can change my life, He can change yours too.
I grew up in the region of the Gerasenes. We were on the wrong side of lake, so to speak. The Gerasenes is located on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. We are a mixture of Jews and Greeks, farmers and fishermen. We are perhaps best known in Galilean region for our massive cemetery on the rolling hillside, the only one in our community.
People come here to get away from the city. We are loners, fiercely private and very protective. Outsiders are not given a warm reception, often treated with open contempt.
This is the place I call home.
I have fond memories as a child. Working the fields with my father, enjoying the Sea with my siblings. But my life took a different turn in my teenage years. I became a hellion. Lawless. I was a thief, a drunkard and a bully. I brought shame to my family, forcing my father to expel me from our home.
I was cut off from those I loved. I wallowed in my bitterness and drowned myself with wine. I burned with anger towards those who I had perceived had done me wrong. Yet, in the early watches of the morning, I knew I had brought this unbearable loneliness and isolation on myself. I continued to rage against an invisible enemy.
Then I slipped into darkness.
I have no memory of the next five years. Only the scars to prove they actually took place.
The only knowledge I have of those years comes from little sister. She apparently never stopped hoping and praying for me. She says that I lost my mind, wandering aimlessly through our city and yes, making graveyard my home.
I began to terrorize our entire community. When the authorities attempted to subdue me, their chains could not contain me. Cutting myself with shards of clay pots, I howled into the evening. Cursing the day I was born and the breasts that nursed me.
I was a man possessed.
One day that all changed. Jesus of Nazareth had relocated to the town of Capernaum, just a little north of us. Rather than pursuing a large haul of tilapia that morning, He made the unexpected decision to enter our town. I can’t imagine what would make Him think that was a good idea. Looking back now, I’m eternally glad He did!
My sister says that as soon as Jesus climbed out of the boat onto the rocky shoreline of the Gerasenes, I confronted Him. With full force, completely naked and screaming profane words I came at Him. It was a merciless and file display of evil. So I am told.
This is where I begin to remember again. Inexplicably I found myself sitting at the feet of Jesus. Dressed and in my right mind, my heart was racing with joy! What had happened! I felt like was a different person! Here I was, in the posture of a student waiting to be asked by the Rabbi to become a disciple. To follow Him.
I was ready to leave the Gerasenes. I had no life here. I was hated, and rightfully so. I wanted a new life. A second chance. So I asked Jesus if I could join His group and begin a new life. To my surprise, He denied me. Rather, He said, “Stay here and tell everyone what God has done for you.”
That’s exactly what I did. Looking back, I think I may have been the first missionary to be sent by the Lord Jesus. I didn’t want to stay here, but now I see the beauty and wisdom of my Savior. Who better to be a living proof of the goodness and power of God to our community than me, sadly? I was an object of scorn, ridicule and fear for years, and who had been transformed in a moment into an object of grace, love and hope.
If He can do that for me, what can He do for you?
He has done this, and it is marvelous in our sight.