I Don’t Want To

by E. M. Gregory

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“I don’t feel well.” I whimpered to my mom.

My mom brushed the back of her hand against my forehead. “You do have a slight fever, but it’s probably just a cold. You should go.”

“But, mom…”

“Elena, this is too important. One day, you might look back and regret not going.”

I sighed, knowing that she was right.

A month before, I had accepted an invitation to attend the All-Michigan Academic Team awards’ banquet in Lansing, Michigan. With my severe head cold, or flu, just beginning, I was not feeling up for a six-hour trip, much less a weekend away.

My heart wrestled with her counsel, but I conceded. Besides, I knew that if I didn’t start packing, my mom would do it for me.

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Growing up, I sometimes thought my parents were cruel. They made me do hard things. Illness was not an excuse for not keeping commitments like not going to school or work.  Excuses were a waste of breath. Those days, I often wished to be an adult. Able to change my mind. Make my own decisions. Then, I wouldn’t have to do so many “hard” things.

I laugh thinking about this. How foolish I was. Little did I know, that as an adult, I would have to make decisions to do hard things on a regular basis.

Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) says “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Even though Jesus was talking of ultimate, eternal matters, these principles can be applied to everyday living.

Do you notice the contrasts in this scripture? Narrow versus wide. Hard verses easy. Life versus destruction. Few verses Many. In this dichotomy, easy doesn’t equal life.

If you have been fortunate enough to reach adulthood, then you have learned, many times over, these scriptural truths.

For instance, we all know that not going to work every time we are not feeling well, would equal not earning a paycheck, and possibly losing our jobs. Not cleaning our houses would equal chaos and possible bug infestations. And the list goes on. Often, choosing the easy route in the immediate equates to negative outcomes later.

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Even though I felt brutally ill, I survived the weekend in Lansing. I returned home with my award and a copy of a photo taken during the event. Whenever I look at this photo, I am reminded of my sense of accomplishment, not for the award that I was given, but for keeping my commitment despite being ill.IMG_20190213_122825913

I can’t say, in this instance, that had I made the decision to stay home that weekend, that complete destruction would have been the result. I know, though, that I would have disappointed others, my character could have been in question by canceling short notice, and I would have regretted not going.

My wish to be an adult has come true. However, instead of struggling with my mother’s constant counsel, I now struggle with making God honoring decisions.

Striving to live a Christian life, means we must decide daily whether we will choose the easy path that leads to destruction or the hard path that leads to wholeness in Him. When we live with heaven in mind, our choices should become easier, even if the road is hard.

My Name is Legion

by Jan Coles

My name is Legion. At least it used to be.

I don’t know exactly when it started, but a few years ago my wife started noticing some unsettling changes in my behavior. At first I didn’t notice anything that concerned me. A fit of bad temper here and there, but I thought it was just the stresses of life. We were raising four children. We had recently lost two babies shortly after they were born. Twin boys. And jobs were getting further and further apart. Money was getting short.

Soon, however, I started to see the changes. My outbursts of anger were getting closer together and more intense. I couldn’t help it. No matter how hard I tried, the outbursts still came. I started to get scared. We went to the healer, but nothing worked. I feared for the safety of my wife and children. 

At some point I stopped caring. My wife was terrified. And with good reason. I was getting violent during my fits of rage. The men in town started stepping in. It took three of them to restrain me until I calmed down. 

The fits of anger started lasting longer and longer. It wasn’t safe for me to live in town, so six men finally dragged me out to the burial tombs, my hands and feet shackled. I watched the rage consume me until I no longer recognized myself. 

There was no respite from the anger now. Many times the men, with fear and trembling, shackled me, but it was no use. I had grown strong enough to break the restraints. Eventually they gave up on me, except for the occasional ones brave enough to leave food for me. 

Demons. I now know that’s what it was. Demons. Thousands of them. They had taken over my mind. Now, in a twist of irony, they were trying to destroy my body. I screamed. I hit myself with large rocks. I cut myself on sharp stones. 

When a man came up onto the shore from his boat, I immediately recognized him, even though I’d never met him. Driven by the demons within me, I ran to meet him. I couldn’t help but bow before him. “What do you want from me, Son of the most high God?” I screamed. “Don’t torture me. Please don’t send me away.” The man’s voice was steady and calm as he commanded the legion of demons inside me to go into a nearby herd of pigs. The pigs panicked and ran, falling into the sea and drowning while their herdsmen watched in horror and helplessness. 

Immediately I returned to my right mind. Realizing I was naked, I asked for a tunic. As I put it on, I learned the man’s name: Jesus. He had come to this harbor with the sole intent of setting me free. Such amazing love. 

I had been plagued by the demons for years. What little I remember from those years consumed me with sorrow. I had destroyed my family and my reputation. I had nothing to go back to. I begged Jesus to let me go with him and his companions, but he refused. I pleaded with him to take me along. “Go home to your family,” he said. “Tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” I reluctantly agreed.

To my delight, my family was overjoyed to see me when I walked through the door of our home, as sane as any man. My wife had nearly given up hope that I would ever be restored to the man I had once been. My children – they had grown so much in my absence. They all gathered around me as I told them what had happened. As the news of my return spread, I told the story of God’s goodness and mercy to me again and again, not just in my town, but throughout the entire decapolis. 

It’s been three years since I met Jesus. Rumors about him have circulated in our region for quite some time. Healing all kinds of diseases. Giving sight to blind men. Restoring broken bodies. I rejoiced with all the news about him. I continued to tell anyone who would listen about what the Lord had done for me. My reputation had gone before me, so people were eager to hear my story. Many of them believed after hearing how God had mercy on me. 

The most recent news, however, has been disturbing. A group of high-ranking Jewish officials had convinced Pilate to put Jesus to death. How could anyone deliver such a man as Jesus to death. Especially death on a cross? How could this be? I was racked with grief for days. 

But just last week, I heard that Jesus was no longer in his tomb. His followers are claiming that he had been risen back to life from the dead. This news is astounding. How can anyone go from death to life? Yet each day brings more news of people encountering the risen son of God. 

The risen son of God. The risen Son of God. That must be it. I’d heard that he told his followers he would die, and then raise again three days later. Does this mean that Jesus was God in a human body? If this is really true, I need to know what all this means. There has to be more to it than what is relayed in the news we’ve heard. 

With my family’s blessing, I’m on my way to Jerusalem now. I have a feeling that when I return home, I will again come back as a changed man.