Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Driven to Isolation"

Luke 8:29b NIV

“…and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.”

The Good Earth describes the plight of a peasant farmer, Wang Lung, and his family somewhere around the turn of the century in China. After enduring unspeakable poverty, Wang Lung finally achieves a measure of success and wealth. He becomes arrogant and loses his moral bearings. Driven by lower instincts he pursues his lust for a young prostitute…
“…fevered, filled with a sickened hunger, he followed slavishly, bit by bit, her unfolding, until the moment of crisis, when, like a flower that is ripe for plucking, she was willing that he should grasp her wholly.
“Yet never could he grasp her wholly, and this it was which kept him fevered and thirsty, even if she gave him his will of her. When O-lan [Wang Lung’s wife] had come to his house it was health to his flesh and he lusted for her robustly as a beast for its mate and he took her and was satisfied and he forgot her and did his work content. But there was no such content now in his love for this girl, and there was no health in her for him. At night when she would have no more of him, pushing him out of the door petulantly, with her small hands suddenly strong on his shoulders, his silver thrust into her bosom, he went away hungry as he came. It was as though a man, dying of thirst, drank the salt water of the sea which, though it is water, yet dries his blood into thirst and yet greater thirst so that in the end he dies, maddened by his very drinking. He went in to her and he had his will of her again and again and he come away unsatisfied.” [1]
Pearl Buck’s hero is unexplainably determined to destroy himself. What compels a smart person to do stupid things? Ask New York’s Governor Eliot Spitzer[2] or an Islamic suicide bomber or a compulsive gambler or a guy hooked on endless hours of internet porn or the abused wife returning home for more of the same. There is no answer beyond pointless rhetoric, pathetic excuses, or empty apologies. Like the Gerasene demoniac, they are “driven by the demon into solitary places” of personal destruction.

The same man who forced a “Legion” of devils into a herd of pigs, offers you and me “authority over all the demons” (Luke 9.1). Are we, like Wang Lung, driven by personal demons down the path of isolation and despair? We must face this truth and take Jesus up on His offer before we do something irreversibly destructive.

[1] The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck, Washington Square Press, 1931, p. 181.

Don’t let your life slip away without reading this 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner and Oprah’s Book Club selection in September 2004. The book was adapted for use in a major motion picture by MGM in 1937 and seen by an estimated 23 million viewers. Peal Buck’s work offered Americans of the 1930’s a glimpse into Chinese culture and may have paved the way for consideration of the Chinese as allies in our war with Japan a decade later. Pearl Buck was a civil rights and women’s rights activist and a great humanitarian. She grew up in China and served as a Presbyterian missionary to that country from 1914 to 1933. Buck founded Welcome House®, the first international, interracial adoption agency which has placed over 7,000 children since its inception in 1949.

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the-sting-the-fbi-the-prostitution-ring-and-the-governor-794488.html.

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