I didn’t see Gremlins when it first came out. I didn’t like scary movies. But being a pre-teen in the early 80s meant I couldn’t avoid hearing all about cute little Gizmo and the evil Gremlin rampage. Gizmo was a cute little pet with a dark secret. He had the potential to become something horrible.
I’m a fairly nice human being. Most people seem to like me well enough. There are even a handful of people who seem to think I’m pretty wonderful. But there are some people who don’t think I’m wonderful. Some don’t know me and their judgement is arbitrary. But some do know me and choose to keep their distance because they know what I’m capable of.
I don’t blame them. Gizmo and I have this in common: there are insidious parts of me that should never, ever be fed.
Some things are easy to change. Well not “easy” but certainly within my power to change. Eating habits are within my power to change. Other consumptions too, like TV and other things that can affect my mind and mood. But something are very hard to change. They seem out of my reach. Tucked deep in my heart are things like wounds of rejection and growths of arrogant unforgiveness. They are hidden well. Mostly I can avoid coming across them but every now and again they surge from my heart and boil to the surface.
So gross. So embarrassing. Like a Gremlin. Like the Hulk. Like Jekyll.
For years I have tried to resolve those issues but nothing has helped. And so I try to stay away from those parts of me. I’ve become fairly good at knowing the triggers. I try to guard against fingers pressing my buttons. And I know… (no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight…) what feeds those parts of me. I work hard to keep them tucked away and weak.
Am I alone in this? Or do other humans have this battle? Little parts of ourselves that are hidden away. Like Edward Rochester’s wife Bertha kept secretly in the attic? An inner dialogue we try to ignore? And when those things seep to the surface, do we hide away from our community and try to regain composure? Do we each, at times, disappear from view until we can get things under control and reapply our varnish?
I’ve been thinking about this for months. As I shared in “You Only Know What You Know“, I had an encounter with Jesus that brought healing to some unforgiveness I’d wrestled with for years. That touch from God changed something in me that I’d been totally unable to change myself. One of my personal Gremlins was gone.
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These Gremlin musings led me to think about the stories of the bleeding woman and the cemetery demoniac.
For twelve years the woman had been ceremonially unclean. (Mark 5:24-34, Luke 8:43-48, Matthew 9:20-22). Because of the Laws, it would have been difficult for friends and family to be part of her life (Leviticus 15). She had suffered a great deal from many doctors through the years and had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she was worse. (Mark 5:26) This woman was suffering. I doubt she would have been on anyone’s guest list for social events. She would have been not allowed at temple activities. She was alone.
The man lived among the tombs. He was violent and strong and naked. People had given up trying to restrain him. (Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:27-39). All day long and throughout the night, he would wander among the tombs and in the hills, screaming and hitting himself with stones. (Mark 5:5) Clearly this was not a guy who had any normal relationships. He was alone.
Today’s reading in Luke 17 made me one more to list: the story of the ten lepers.
The guys were a huddle. A pack of dirty, unwanted vermin. A mob that had to shout out a confession of their state where ever they went: “UNCLEAN!”. The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46) Sentenced to live only with people who were just like them. Stuck in their decay. They were alone.
These three stories move me because that Gremlin part of me relates to their isolation. Each story speaks of desperation. None of them chose their state. Ostracized. Unacceptable. Un-palatable.
Craving community. Hoping for an answer. They were bound up but hadn’t given up. They are my heroes.
She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched the fringe of his robe. (Mark 5:27)
As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. (Luke 8:27)
As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him;and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:12-13)
What a gutsy move! She pushed through the crowd and reached with all her hope. What courage! He left the dark safety of the cemetery and approached the enemy of his captors. What fearlessness! They shouted beyond the cage of the Laws that required distance and separation.
After years of hoping and trying… they were all healed. The whole crowd heard that she was healed and her standing in that community started on a new trajectory. Jesus sent the newly sane and clothed man back to his family and he told his whole city about Jesus. The guys went to the priest for official healing confirmation and permission to return to normal life.
I’m so grateful for the encounters I’ve had like these. For years I hoped for healing and then one day it was like Jesus passed by and I finally got to reach and grab his hem. And an issue that held me captive was struck down. But there are more. Little issues hidden away. I’m not at all inflicted like the woman or the man or the guys. They were utterly isolated. But I do have rough ugly things that keep me bound.
And I’m not okay living in fear that my Gremlins could get fed after dark. I’m not okay with the way I hurt people when my buttons get pushed. I’m not okay with having to lurch into isolation.
The question I am asking myself, and now you too: How shall we live?
Overcome by our suffering like the woman? Controlled by the torment like the cemetery man? Grouped with others in misery like the lepers?
Or, as each bravely did, come out from isolation to meet Jesus? It seems like a daily choice.
I know the answer is not to try to handle these things on my own. I know the answer is to run to meet Him. I know that He is able to heal and free me. And I won’t give up hope. I know all the layers of my Gremlin onion will be peeled away.
What are your thoughts? Your thoughts are valuable in my journey too!
Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are Psalm 31; Luke 17: 1-37