2051) Leslie (part two of three)

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The Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac, James Tissot  (1836-1902)

Luke 8:26-39  (see yesterday’s meditation for the text)


   (…continued)  One day last Spring I received phone call from a guy named Brad wondering if I knew where Leslie D. was buried.  Brad said he was probably some distant cousin of mine, and that Leslie was his great uncle.  Brad had been doing some research into his family history, and had come across my name as someone who might be able to help him locate the grave of that long lost relative.  He had discovered an old obituary for his Uncle Leslie which had listed my father as one of the pall bearers.  Brad was wondering if my father was still alive, and could help him locate the unmarked grave. 

     Brad probably could have just found whoever had the cemetery records, and checked with them.  But Brad had many other questions for anyone who knew anything about his uncle Les.  I told that both my parents were living, and that I also remembered a little bit about Leslie.  Mom remembered all the details of the story I just told, and Dad remembered being the pall bearer.  He was quite sure he could find the location of the grave.  When I told that to Brad he asked if we could meet at the cemetery, and when we did, we located a plot without a stone just where dad remembered it to be.

     Then we each told what we knew of the story.  I told him the part I just told you.  Brad then said Les was his grandfather’s only sibling.  Les was doing well back in the 1920’s.  He could fix anything and had a good job in the big city.  He was a likable guy, had many friends, and he was engaged to be married.  And then everything changed.  Leslie’s fiancé committed suicide just days before the wedding, and Leslie fell apart.  He could not get over his grief, he became a danger to himself and others, and he had to be institutionalized.  A few years later, it was said that Leslie had died. Who said that and why, is not known; as many of the details of the story are lost.  But from the 1930’s until just this year when Brad found the obituary, the family, now in the next two generations, had no idea of what happened to Leslie.  That is why Leslie never received any company.

     I think about Leslie when I read Luke 8:26-39 (see yesterday’s meditation), the story of another deeply troubled man.  In both, something dramatic happens to cause the distress.  For Leslie, it was the tragic and heart-breaking death of a loved one.  For the man in the story, it was being possessed by demons.  At first, the man in the story had to be restrained, his hands and feet chained, and kept under guard so he could not harm himself or others.  Leslie, at first, had to be closely watched, and was institutionalized.  Then, the man in the Gospel chose to live among the tombs, or in other words, among the dead.  Leslie chose to treat everyone as though they were dead, withdrawing into himself, into a ‘solitary place,’ to use the words from Luke 8:30.  Leslie’s family was even told that we was dead.  Maybe that is what he wanted them to think.  And then, finally, both men received some help.  The man in the story was cured by Jesus, and his mind was made well.  Leslie found some meaning and purpose in life by running that loom.  He never told anyone he liked it.  He never told anyone anything.  But he must have liked it, because he was always working on it.

     There is, of course, one huge difference in the stories, and that is in the spiritual aspect.  There was no way of knowing what was going on between God and Leslie’s inner spirit.  Perhaps Leslie had turned away from God like he turned away from everyone else, and there was no connection.  But perhaps there was an inner connection there, and that thread is what kept Leslie from making the same tragic choice as his fiancé.  And perhaps that was the best that the Holy Spirit could do in that damaged heart and soul.  In our sin we all limit what God could do in us and for us.  So who knows about Leslie?  We cannot know what is going on in the heart of another, even if they are talking all the time– much less if they don’t say anything at all.

     But the point of our Gospel story is that the troubled man was healed by Jesus.  Verse 35 says the man was found sitting at the feet of Jesus and in his right mind.  The next verse says that the people could see that the man had been cured.  And in verse 39 it says, “So the man went away and told everyone, all over town, how much Jesus had done for him.”  Jesus healed the man’s mind and spirit.

     There are many Bible stories about the healing of the body.  There was healing of the crippled man by the pool of Bethesda, the blind man whose sight Jesus restored, the deaf man who Jesus touched and healed, the man whose ear was cut off by Peter’s knife and then put back on by Jesus, and so many more; not to mention those dead bodies that Jesus brought back to life.  And, there are a few stories about the healing of the mind.  This is one.  Also, there was Mary Magdalene, troubled by seven evil spirits, and the despairing father’s son troubled by seizures and convulsions.  Both were healed by Jesus.  And there is a comfort in knowing that, because  we all struggle with a mind and a will so often in conflict with itself(continued…)