I love playing games and often do pretty well at them. Honestly, this is so much the case that multiple people have said, “Lang ALWAYS wins.” The problem with this is it’s because I’m quite competitive … though I’d like to think I’m recovering from this. 🙂 One reason my competiveness is a problem is there was a season in life where a group of friends and I would get together for dinner and to play games quite regularly. It was fun and glorious to connect and celebrate … unless I lost, in which case I’d be bummed and grumpy! Another tipping point for me was when some people would refuse to play with me, because gaming with a guy whose too in it to win it (i.e. ME) wasn’t fun for them.
It’s said the way you do one thing is the way you do everything, and I think they’re onto something because I’m biased to compare and compete in all aspects of life. I do it when it comes to success at work, life decisions, sports teams I cheer for, fitness, our house, our toys, and more. Whether we believe in literal demons or not, this is certainly an inner demon I wrestle with. This spirit keeps me enslaved and steals my joy because winning is expected (so no big deal when I do), losing is deflating and a big time bummer for me, and it’s hard for me to be glad for anyone who betters me. This brings me to an ultra weird Jesus story found in Luke 8.26-39.
In this passage Jesus encounters a demon possessed man who had been cast out of society and was living naked in the tombs, because whenever the spirit overtook him, for everyone’s safety his friends/family would try to bind him with chains, but he broke them every time. When the Christ meets this man the demon is in control and says its name is “Legion” because there were many evil spirits in him. In keeping with what Jesus came to do for anyone and everyone, he then saves and frees the man from the forces enslaving him in isolation, fear, and violence… by casting the demons into a nearby herd of pigs, which promptly rushed down a steep bank into a lake and drowned!
As crazy as the story might seem, I’m convinced Jesus also wants to help us kill our “pigs”. What I mean by that is, as with my drive to compete and compare, often there are beliefs, stories, experiences, situations, and/or spirits, which limit our thriving and flourishing, steal our joy, and keep us enslaved to a smaller, more fearful, and less loving life than we were made for; and the Christ desires to set us free from these!
I think something super interesting and applicable to us from this Jesus tale is the demons’ name, Legion. The legion was the primary military unity in the Roman Empire, which ruled the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and beyond in Jesus’ time. Rome was the dominant super power of the day, and its imperial position had come pretty much entirely from the violent might of its army. In the Roman way of doing things, success, expansion, peace, prosperity, etc. all came through military strength and victory, which was achieved by legions.
By naming themselves “Legion”, it seems these demons are indicating the afflicted man was possessed by the Roman Empire’s view on life and “liberty”, while Jesus’ teaching, healing, and actions were proclamations of a different, far better peaceable kingdom. I find this relevant because just as Rome trained its people to think and behave as if power, possessions, and prestige was the point of life and to be obtained by force, so too does the U.S. and other countries today. Meanwhile, the realm of the Christ is marked by connection, care, service, kindness, peace, and above all love.
I’ve been enslaved by the compete and compare mindset, a very American way of being, but breath-by-breath Jesus is killing this “pig” and setting me free. I say “breath-by-breath” in part because practicing yoga has been essential in my journey toward freedom. When we do yoga and the like, we have no one to be withbut ourselves, which makes us increasingly aware of our inner stories, patterns, fears, hopes, biases, etc. This helped me realize my sometimes dark predisposition to compete and compare.
The beauty of yoga is not only does it radically confront us with the darkness, light, and weirdness in our thoughts, but it also teaches us our thoughts are NOT who we are. In the same way we’d change a radio station in the car, we can breathe our thinking out (killing our “pigs”) to uncover the peaceful, joyful, and loving Spirit of Christ within us. The practice of yoga is freeing me from the need to compete and compare, because as my mind quiets I tune into and feel the blissful divine Light and Love that’s within each and every one of us. What could you use freedom from?
Grace and peace,