” . . . the unclean spirit returns home.” – Matthew 12:43
Many people imagine that unclean spirits are a thing of the past. So quaint. So primitive. So forgetful of the latest research on disease or addiction. Permit me to differ. Unclean spirits inhabit more space in the 21st century than we imagine. We think disease is something that needs a pill or a chemical or a drug company. What if disease was more appropriately defined? The Old French etymology of desaise means des (without) aise (ease.) Many of us are perfectly healthy chemically, but lack ease.
Another redefinition of a health issue might help as well. Consider addiction. There is a sense of being inhabited when we are addicted. We don’t need to go into “dirty” notions of bodies or anti-body thinking to reimagine a meaning for addiction. Addiction, many argue, is the inability to ask for help. What is remarkable about Jesus’ encounters with people who say they have unclean spirits is that they know how to ask for help. And Jesus knows how to give it. Wellness might actually be the presence of ease and the ability to ask for help.
So many people tell me that they can’t believe I preached a sermon about “blessing out” a hairdresser for mistreating me. I know I shouldn’t have. I just lost it. The more we tell each other about our “losses,” the more ease we will have. We will return home to ourselves and discover that the unclean spirits are gone.
Please don’t tell the drug companies that help is closer than we could ever imagine.
O God, drive us to wellness, the wellness of asking for help, the wellness of ease. Help us to clean out our own homes. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her latest book is Prayers for People Who Say They Can’t Pray.