The Desert

Question: What demons do I wrestle with?
Fear: The demons will win.

When Jesus asks the demons to name themselves in Mark 5, it’s interesting that they answer, “Legion.” More than likely, Mark was the first to write down this story of Jesus, and it’s also probable that his audience was the congregation in Rome very soon after the Neronian persecutions. In other words, this was the time when Christian homes were invaded by Roman soldiers and entire families were carted off and thrown in prison. Some of them met violent ends in the Coliseum. Credible stories exist of others enduring torture by being impaled, covered in pitch, and ignited. And still others were fed to wild dogs for the entertainment of Nero’s guests.

It stands to reason that the biggest fear of the moment for Mark’s congregation was that members of the Roman Legion would show up at their doorstep. When Mark’s Gospel was first read to them and they heard the demons answer Jesus by saying, “Legion,” a current of fear must have run through them. In crafting the story this way, perhaps Mark was trying to help his congregation name their own demons to get them to face their fear.

Naming one’s demon has long been the proven strategy to begin an exorcism. It sounds overly simplistic, but you’d be surprised both by how difficult and how helpful it can be to figure this out. Some of us have made friends with our demons, and we don’t realize how they are slowly eroding our lives away. Some of us have suppressed our demons deep in our psyche, where they are waiting to manifest themselves at the worst time when they can do the most damage. This is where journaling can help. Begin by asking, What are some of my worst fears? Then try to find the source of those fears. Often, that’s where your demons lie.

The next step, when you are ready, is to identify how your fears are manipulating you, holding you back, or leading you to self-destructive behavior. For some, this is a journey best taken with a trained counselor.

Going Deeper

C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters
Athanasius, Life of St. Antony
David G. Benner, Soulful Spirituality