Friday, October 17, 2008

A Distracted Deity

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked (Luke 8:45).

My very first assignment as a hospital chaplain was on the maternity floor of Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Texas. For the most part, this was fun work that involved a clearly defined task. It was my job to present a little New Testament to the mothers of newborns. Mine was a ministry of celebration.

However, there was one wing of the floor where the patients were moms who were not celebrating. Childbirth for them had been accompanied by complications. The complications sometimes spiraled into full blown grief.

Some rooms on the floor were places of thanksgiving and blessing and joy. Here families gathered to welcome the newest member. Other rooms were places of waiting and questioning and even weeping. Here parents wondered what went wrong and why.

And these rooms occupied different places on the floor, kept at distance from each other. There were certainly medical or nursing reasons for this. But it’s also difficult to mingle grief and joy. The blessed and the less-blessed can be awkward neighbors.

A woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years had furtively touched Jesus’ cloak. She was immediately healed. Jesus stopped, sensing that power had gone out from him, asking who it was that had touched him. The woman presented herself and told her story.

It is not hard for us to imagine what Jairus might have experienced as Jesus took time to talk with the woman healed of her bleeding. For a time it seemed that Jesus had forgotten the original destination of their journey, the fact that somewhere a little girl was dying. Jesus had gotten distracted, his attentions diverted. His power had healed this unclean woman, but that power wasn’t doing anything for Jairus’ daughter.

This happens often and we struggle to make sense of it. We live with urgent needs but sense that God’s blessings are being directed to other places and other people. We or someone we love is sick while others thrive or get well. Our own business struggles while someone else’s prospers. We can’t find love but we stand with our friends in their weddings. We’re stuck in the same job while friends we went to school with are climbing the ladder. The new baby is welcomed in one room. The stillbirth is grieved in the other. Why isn’t Jesus more attentive?

Today you may be wondering if you’re praying to a distracted deity – a well meaning God whose grace is being given to others. There are showers of blessing, but they are scattered showers and your life remains bone dry. But you are not forgotten. The journey that Jesus began with you, he will finish. The walk you are on is far from over. Stay around long enough to see it through.

Loving God, we give you thanks that you do not forget your children, that we are engraved on the palm of your hand (Isaiah 49:16). We confess that we are easily distracted by our fears and expectations. Teach us to patiently walk with you, knowing that what you began in us and with us will be carried to completion. Amen.

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