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JOE LAGUARDIA: Let God lead you out of the place of broken dreams

"Graveyard Shift: A Devotional in Three Acts"

Act 1:The Tale of Judas

You know old Judas, right? He was Jesus' treasurer; and like the other disciples, he believed that Jesus was going to overthrow those Romans once and for all.

Then Jesus started talking about all of that suffering and dying. That was not the war cry of the long-expected Messiah.

Judas read the writing on the wall and betrayed Jesus. He gave up Jesus for $30, a lot of money back then.

When the religious authorities had more in store for Jesus than just arrest, Judas felt remorse and wanted out. He went back to the priests and asked for forgiveness, but they turned him away.

So Judas killed himself. The priests used Judas' money to purchase a cemetery for outsiders. Akeldama, they called it, the "Field of Blood."

Akeldama is a place of broken dreams. It is a place of anxiety, despite the fact that graveyards were places of rest in the Jewish way of seeing things. It represented all that Judas went through: dashed expectations, lost hope, failure to find grace and forgiveness.

Akeldama is a reminder that all of us spend time in the graveyard shift a time or two. You know the place. It's where forgiveness--or at least the permission to be forgiven--is hard to come by.

Act 2: The Tale of Alice.

Alice was a caregiver in despair. Several years ago, Alice cared for her mother while her mother slowly died of cancer.

But Alice's mother left her with more than grief. She left Alice with a grandfather for which to care. You see, Grandpa lived with Mom, and Mom cared for him. He had Alzheimer's and he certainly couldn't live on his own. Now Grandpa was Alice's responsibility.

Alice, a young gal with dreams and aspirations fit for a girl her age, was thrust into a situation for which she was unprepared.

When Alice came to me for a chat, the caregiver role had consumed her. Every time she looked at her grandfather, she saw her mother's eyes staring back at her.

She was grieving the loss of her mother and all those dreams. It was a living nightmare.

She felt like a failure for having all of those negative feelings. In other words, she didn't give herself permission to let those feelings go. Instead, she lived in Akeldama and was stuck working the graveyard shift.

Act 3: The Tale of the Gerasene Demoniac

There was a crazy man who lived in the cemetery up the road. Some say he was possessed; others that he was a monster of some sort.

Every night he howled over the village. The children learned long ago to ignore him, but the youngest among them still awoke at his incessant cackling.

It was strange to find a man so crazy in a graveyard, a place of rest and peace. But that's where he chose to live.

Last autumn, some local dock workers tried to put chains on him hoping to shut him up, but he always broke free.

Then, one day, a Divine Healer came over from the other side of the lake and confronted the man. That's when we learned that the crazy man had all these demons living inside of him.

"I am Legion," the crazy man said, "And we are many."

The Divine Healer cast those demons out, and we hardly recognized the crazy man after that. There he was: a man at peace, fully clothed.

There was something that caught my attention in all of this. When this Divine Healer freed the man from all of those demons, the Healer simply sent the man home. But the man, as crazy as he was, could have gone home any time he wanted.

Those chains didn't hold him, but he chose to stay in the cemetery anyway. He got so used to working the graveyard shift, I guess he was just too comfortable to live elsewhere.

All it took to be free was that Divine Healer to give the man permission to go home, to enjoy the results of forgiveness, to find absolution and restoration. To receive what God had offered him all along: peace and grace.

You know, all this storytelling brings up an important question: What will it take for you to get out of the graveyard shift? If it is simply permission to move on, to "let go, and let God," then it's granted.

Be blessed and live in God's peace.

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at trinitybc3@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.