There are phrases that just stick with you. Like those 12 step phrases. Of course, the popular one is “One day at a time.” But another returned to mind today: “Let go and let God.” It came to mind thanks to the sermon I heard at church this morning.
Sometimes when I read a Gospel passage, I see, hear and identify with a person in the narrative. Today’s passage in Matthew 15.21-28 is one of those. There is a woman who advocates on behalf of her daughter, who has been possessed by a demon. Of course, sociocultural commentary teaches us that the ancient Mediterranean culture ascribed demon possession to unexplained conditions like disabilities and mental illness. And such persons were subjected to stigma—much as they still are in our culture today.
So we have a parent, advocating for a child. The disciples urge Jesus to send here away, because she keeps shouting after them. In other words, the mother is persistent, displaying commitment and dedication to advocating for her child. She will neither be silenced nor give up. And then she is so bold as to engage Jesus in a repartee. He says that he came for the lost sheep of Israel. In other words, in this passage (typical commentary about this displaying the humanity of Jesus set aside for now) he saw his mission as being for those whom were not the marginalized and stigmatized. Yet she persists, and Jesus accommodates her request. Here it is:
Matthew 15:21-28 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
So there I am thinking about how this passage really validates our role as advocates for our children who need to be included in our schools and culture. Here I am thinking that the interaction illustrates that when we parents of children with disabilities persist in shouting after the disciples (the church) for inclusion, we are justified through the actions of Jesus in this passage. Here I am thinking this Gospel passage is PERFECT for all that I am concerned about!
Then came the sermon. And the focus was on Jesus’ response “let it be done for you as you wish.”
Sometimes I find myself really challenged by a Gospel passage. “Let it be done for you.” Sometimes, you need to be still and know that God is God. Sometimes you need to hit the pause button in your persistence and advocacy, in order to give God some space to work. Sometimes you need to….well, let go and let God. He did not say let you do as you wish. He said let it be done for you.
It is about control. See, there are so many times with our kids that we need to be in control. There are schools to hold accountable to following IEP’s. There are politicians who haven’t seen the need to craft laws which include persons with disabilities—so we need to advocate. There are the dirty looks and stares from people who don’t understand and need to be educated. There are stigma to overcome. There are…well you get the idea. There is so much “we” need to do. But how often do we pause and let it be done as we wish? In all of our advocating and persistence, when do we stop and give God a chance to change people’s hearts. When do I hit the pause button? When do I stop “shouting after them” long enough to see what God has done for us?
So tonight I reflect on how I might seek a better balance. Holding in tension that I feel called to advocate, alongside needing to give God some space to work: when and where do I need to let go and let God? Oh, and maybe “Keep it Simple too….