Courageous Listening

If only there was not a crowd. Spot him quicker, reach him more easily, have his undivided attention. But there was a crowd. A large one, in fact.

When wasn’t there when Jesus was around?

For Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, if there was time he needed the full attention of Jesus, it would be now: his 12-year-old daughter was desperately ill and dying.

Fighting his way desperately through the expectant and curious crowd, Jairus finds Jesus and immediately falls at his feet. He pleads with him to come to his home and heal his sick daughter.

Jesus comes. It’s not a swift walk, though. The crowds continue to hustle, circle and follow. For Jairus, every halted and obstructed step was another step closer to his worst fear: the death of his beloved daughter.

You can just imagine the words screaming in this anxious man’s mind. ‘Please, please hurry!’

The cry yearned further when Jesus suddenly stopped and asks a question. ‘Who touched me?’

After a few perplexed comments highlighting to Jesus the numbers pressing against him, a trembling and humble lady, who for twelve years had suffered bleeding, hesitantly came to the fore to admit it was her. The crowd quietened.

‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’

Amidst the excitement of this lady’s sudden healing stood an anguished yet silent cry. ‘But what about me?! You were coming for my daughter. What about peace for her and me?!’

It was too late. Your daughter is dead,’ a friend informed Jairus. ‘Don’t bother the teacher any more’.

Jesus overhears and immediately counters: ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed’.

The girl was not dead; she had simply been asleep. Jesus promptly heads for Jairus’ house. Through the wailing sounds of mourners, Jesus reaches out to the young girl.

Talitha koum!’

The words mean ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise’.

Photo 11-02-2015 20 20 55 (1)Reading this story, trying to picture myself as one of the excited onlookers, I marvel at the way Jesus was so attentive to the words Jairus desperately wanted to avoid hearing: news of his daughter’s death. Amidst the curiosity and noise of the crowd, busily reflecting and debating on another miracle, Jesus did not just somehow hear the words informing Jairus of the death of his daughter. He also heard the impact these words would have on him.

Grief. Disappointment. Fear. Anguish. Pain. Hopelessness.

And yet, before these words could settle, Jesus immediately interrupts with words of comfort, authority and hope. The man brought words of death, which seemed all so real and inevitable to Jairus, but they were not true. The reality was life.

Though these words are spoken in the context of a sick young girl being healed, I cannot help but be struck by the way in which Jesus’ approach here has relevance in a wider context.

I am over-analytical to the extreme. I can consume much time imagining the worst that can ever happen and believe it to be true. I absorb shame, regret and guilt, all of which seem so real and true. I can tangibly feel, at times, worthless and useless. Difficult and complex situations can seem like one big wall, so high that I can see no hope of climbing it. I misunderstand how people see me and think of me in response to something I have said or done. Again, all so real.

These voices, these imaginations, spoken as if through a piercingly loud microphone, are sometimes heard so clearly in my mind, drowning out all other voices and puncturing any hold of peace and joy. But I am not the only one who hears the sounds of accusation, fear, anxiety and hopelessness. Jesus overhears, like he attentively did with Jairus. He comes in quickly, offering words of truth – perspective over wild imagination, grace over shame, love over worthlessness, breakthrough over high walls, peace over fear, joy over despair.

‘Don’t be afraid; just believe’.

The thing is, I can be so enticed into hearing the voices I believe and fear to be true, that I fail to hear the true voice of Jesus. I don’t always know why. Perhaps what I fear seems all too real and certain, that any offer of hopeful countenance seems impossible. Or perhaps, like Jairus may have seen things, I feel Jesus is too preoccupied with the crowd to ever be concerned with me.

It requires courage to dismiss the inner voice of fear, accusation and worthlessness and lay hold of the voice that offers warm love and hope. We need to somehow push aside the lies that unmercifully steal our joy, all which can seem so certain and real, and tune our ear in faith to the voice who speaks truth. Initially our feelings will seem so divorced from what we are desperately trying to lay hold of, incomparably so, but in time the two will marry.

‘Arise!’, Jesus said to Jairus’ daughter. And so she did. As we heed the words of Christ in our own lives, we too will arise on the wings of truth and life.

‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ – Romans 12:2

‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things’ – Philippians 4:8

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2 thoughts on “Courageous Listening

  1. I understand that over-analysis! It took a long time for God to lead me past that ‘what if’ fear, and to recall the need not to worry when that temptation returns. Really enjoyed this, lots to ponder on.

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