Being Jairus’ Daughter: What Was It Like?

The Raising of Jairus’ Daughterpl

William Blake (1757-1827)

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A note:  I wrote this piece before the tragic shooting in Las Vegas several nights ago.  So while it’s not a response to that horrible event, the question I believe must have been in the mind of Jairus’ daughter as she lived through her life is a question we all share.  And it’s a question that becomes more urgent after a tragedy like that in Las Vegas.  The question is simply “what is the meaning of life?”  What is the meaning of life for those who were killed or wounded in Las Vegas?  What is the meaning of my life?  Of your life?  So I offer this piece in quiet memory of those who were killed and trust that it will offer hope to their loved ones and to all of us who grieve with them.  

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Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying…While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.’ When Jesus heard this, he replied, ‘Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.’ When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, ‘Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.  But he took her by the hand and called out, ‘Child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat.  Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened. (Luke 8:40-56, selected verses)

***

          I’ve often wondered.  Whatever happened to this unnamed girl whom Jesus raised from death when she was but 12 years old?  We never hear of her again in any of the gospels or in the story of the early church, so I suspect her life was probably quite ordinary.  But ordinary as it may have been, I suspect that it may not have been either a very easy or a very comfortable life. 

          I imagine that many of the people of her village were eager to name her as their village saint, and I suspect that with such elevation came many high expectations of how she should live her life and of what she might be able to do for them.  Some perhaps even now and then gingerly tried to touch the hem of her robe in hopes that something of the power that had brought her back to life would rub off on them. 

          And then I’m sure there were others who did not see her as a saint at all.  They saw her only as a reminder that the Miracle Worker hadn’t chosen to save their loved ones, and they were angry and jealous of her.  Was she so much better than their sons and daughters who had been left to die?  Why had she alone been brought back from the dead?  They wanted to have nothing to do with her.   

          Not easy!  But through all of this, I hope she had her moments of joy.  I suspect she did, but I’m also quite certain that, like all of us, she also experienced difficult times of personal illness and loss.  And I can’t help but wonder if during some of these times she may have wished that Jesus had just let her be.  What, after all, was the meaning of her life?  Why had she been brought back to life when others had not been?  What did it all mean? 

          “I simply don’t know,” I imagine her thinking often to herself.  “I don’t know why I was given a second chance at life when I was 12 years old.  I don’t know if God expects something extraordinary from me.   I know many fellow villagers expect something extraordinary from me.  Think I ought to be perfect, think I ought to be able to perform miracles for them, save their children, whatever.  And my father, God rest his soul, I know he certainly expected my life to be extraordinary.  I don’t know the specifics of his hopes, but I often saw the gleam in his eye when he would look so tenderly at me in my teens and early twenties and whisper those words the Master had spoken to me as I lay deathly cold and still, ‘Child, get up!’

          “Lots of expectations.  But do I expect an extraordinary life for myself?  Sometimes I have hoped I would accomplish something very special in my life, but I haven’t, and much of the time I simply go about my daily tasks.  What I do know is that those words, ‘Child, get up’ left a permanent scar on my soul.   A positive scar.  A profoundly deep sense that my life, tiny and ordinary as it is, is a life treasured and valued.  That my life matters to God and to the Master who spoke those words to my lifeless self.  I’ve heard that some are saying that Master was actually God wrapped in our human flesh.  I don’t understand about all of that, but I do know that God was with him.  That in that moment, God scarred my soul with a searing love.”

          Theologian Emil Brunner in The Christian Doctrine of God writes of God regarding each of us “from all eternity, with the gaze of everlasting love.”  An eternal gaze, he says, that gives to each of us a sense of “eternal meaning,” a sense of “eternal dignity.” 

          Maybe something like that is what Jairus’ daughter felt.  That gaze of everlasting love focused on her.  That gaze of divine love infusing her days with a sense of extraordinary meaning and dignity, ordinary as they might have been.    

          I wish we knew more of her story.  But perhaps we know enough, just enough, to help us ponder our own lives, our own stories.  Just enough to help us realize anew that our tiny lives, too, are steeped in that loving gaze of the God who has looked upon us from all eternity.  Just enough to hear the voice of that God calling to us in every moment of our lives, “Child, get up.”

 

 

 

Late Summer Afternoon

 

The air is leaden, thick, and

shadows creep across my silent deck;

the sun arcs slowly toward the west,

the moon, a tiny splinter in the haze of blue,

whispers the dark of coming night; rusty

leaves hang limp, the birds are hushed;

I sit alone, swallowed in the empty vastness

spread across my tiny deck.   

*

A gentle cooing sudden lifts the heavy air;

my eyes look up, and there she sits,

a mourning dove atop the rail, stretching  

her silky neck this way and that; she holds

my gaze, her eye attentive, pensive,

soft; then stretching yet again towards me

across the brooding silence of the day,

she coos once more and lays a gentle

peace, a quiet kindness in my soul

before she softly flows into the endless

hours of this late summer afternoon.

My Summer Travels with Thoreau

          “I have traveled a good deal in Concord,” Henry David Thoreau once famously said of his frequent walks through his home town.   Usually when we think of “travel,” we think of visiting places away from home, places remote maybe, or ancient; places filled with history, with art; places to awaken our imaginations, relax our often over-busy lives.

          But for Thoreau, who never ventured far from his native Concord and his Walden Pond, travel simply meant a careful observation of all that lay immediately around him.  Travel meant having eyes to see what can be so easily overlooked in all the familiar places of our lives.

          These days, living as I do with CFS/ME, I no longer travel much beyond the street on which we live.  But I am learning to travel with Thoreau, learning better to see and appreciate the immensity that lies right here on our little street.  Here’s a bit of what I’ve seen in my spring and summer “travels.”

not the Arc de Triomphe

just a simple arch celebrating

life ever-renewing

inviting us to walk beneath its bower

to mini triumphs of our own

***

lantana basking in the summer sun

reaching beyond its confines

to dance and frolic

in its tiny corner of the world

***

nature’s votive candles

tucked in a niche of the Cathedral of the Wind,

lit, perhaps, in memory of earlier

leaves and flowers that have come and gone,

sanctity of all of life

***

tiny green beetle

bulging black eyes

legs stippled and striped,

antennae extending into the unknown;

mystery of life

***

 

delicate lace tatted perhaps

by Belgian fairies working late

beneath the sliver of a silvered moon,

each tiny stitch a miracle of love

***

a piece of bark shredded from a tree,

limp, but yet alive

with ancient memories,

nature’s sculpted art displayed

on shelf of bright green grass 

***

a lone pine cone

seeds of new life expectant held

in soft green sheltering arms

beneath an endless sky

beckoning to new horizons

here and after here

***

Yes!  I have traveled a good deal on my little street and am thankful for each marvel that has brightened my summer days.

  

All Thumbs

This morning I’m all thumbs,

scrambled as my too-dry eggs,

twisted as my knotted

necklace chain; I drop a pill, lose a

thought, ill at ease with the garbled

verbs and adverbs of my life.

*

My larger world feels scrabbled too,

justice tangled in the skirts of power,

truth slips between fingers grasping

flimsy straws of status and esteem.

*

Meanwhile, a finch sits quiet,

nipping at our thistle seed;

two chickadees meet at the suet;

leafy branches glimmer in the early

morning sun; the stillness holds me

close, an almost holy sigh, whisper

of a somewhere time, God’s thumb

to wipe away the tangles of our tears.

Lest We Forget-5; A Monthly Reminder

(A father cradles his dead child after a bombing raid in Aleppo in 2016)

his arms full of emptiness,

his mind blank,

his heart shredded

in a thousand pieces

mirroring the rubble

of his shattered life

          Let’s not let ourselves forget the horrors that so many refugees experience.  Aleppo.  With all the terrorist attacks around the world, Aleppo now seems so long ago and far away.  But the ruins of Aleppo remain, reminding us of the 4 years of horror and devastation endured by the citizens of this ancient city.  It is estimated that 31,000 people were killed during the years of fighting, until Aleppo finally fell to Syrian government forces, aided by the Russians, in December, 2016.  Thousands more citizens of Aleppo became refugees in search of a new home, a new life.

          Let’s remember to pray for these refugees.  Remember to encourage our government to be responsive to the needs of these desperate people.  Remember to share some of what you have with those in need.  Here again are some agencies through which you can offer help:

               Church World Service     cwsglobal.org/our-work/refugees-and-immigrants/

               International Rescue Committee     https://www.rescue.org/

Growing Season

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk so that by it you may

grow into salvation I Peter 2:2

          Summertime.  Growing season. 

          I’m remembering a summer day long ago now.  The memory is still so vivid.  I stood behind my desk at the Williston Park Reformed Church on Long Island, and I felt so small.  I had arrived the day before, fresh from a beautiful ordination service in Michigan, and I felt so blessed to be starting down this new road of pastoring.  But I remember calling a friend on the phone and saying, “I feel as though I’m wearing a dress that’s two sizes too big for me.”

          I thought of that time recently as I read St. Peter’s encouragement to the recipients of his first letter to “grow into” their salvation, to “grow into” their faith.  “Grow into.”  In that little phrase, Peter reminds us that faith is not a stagnant commodity.  Not something we either “have” or “don’t have.”  Faith is more like a dress or a suit that we put on—one that is two or three sizes too big.  Faith is something that requires our constant “growing into.” 

          I think I grew a bit into that two-sizes-too-big-for-me dress during the years I served as a pastor, but I know I never fully grew into it.  I think, too, that I’ve grown into my dress of faith over the years, but I know I never have and never will fully grow into it.  There’s always so much more of God to learn about.   So much more of God’s creation to learn about.  So much more of Scripture to learn about.  So much more of myself to learn about.   (And please forgive all those sentences ending with a preposition!) 

          It’s always been interesting to me to note how eager most people are to grow in so many different areas of their lives.  Eager to learn new skills.  To hone old skills.  To develop new interests.  To read more.  To listen more.  To travel and/or explore more.  But all too often I’ve also noticed that many people remain “stuck” in a faith they learned in their childhood but have not really explored and developed in their adulthood.  For so many, as J.B. Phillips reminds us, their God is simply “too small.”  And the problem is that a “too small” God often disappoints us.  Such a God “will often prove inadequate in the tests of real life.”* The problem also is that a “too small” God does not challenge us to be all that God intends for us to be.

           “Growing into salvation.”  Growing into faith.  Not just a summertime task, but really the task of a lifetime.  A task that requires honesty, diligence, commitment.  A task that calls for patience  and humility.  A difficult task.  At times a heavy task, because of all the questions and doubts we must confront.  But nevertheless, a most rewarding task.  For it’s a task that calls us into an ever deepening relationship with ourselves.  Into an ever deepening relationship with others.  And most especially, into an ever deepening relationship with the immensity of the God of our faith, a God who is always so near, yet always just beyond our grasp.

***

*Robert Corin Morris, Wrestling with Grace

 

 

 

This Little Light of Mine

 “This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine;”

my husband hums the familiar

tune as I sip my morning tea; later

he will sing with the church choir

this syncopated psalm of thanks

for little lights that bravely shine

in all the darkness encroaching

on our deeply troubled world.

I will not hear that joyful sound, but…

*

outside my window, a little

light shines quietly for me, a floral

candle of delicate, shimmering filaments,

lacy whiteness whispering its quiet radiance;

so unlike the neons of our gaudy

world of celebrities and ego tweets,

so unlike bright chandeliers

aglow with pomp and pride that

only shadow deeds of darkness.

*

Bless you, little light; shine on

in your wee corner of this vast

and anxious world; few will see

your radiant smile, but those who do

will quiet sing a psalm of thanks; will even

shine, perhaps, a little brighter themselves.