Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Mark 24-30:

24
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

I have an odd visual in this story that is the parallel in my own life. My house, as you know, is a ways out. It is about a 15 minute drive from my house to church, about a 20 minute drive from my house to work, and about a 30 minute drive from my house to the south edge of Kirksville. Basically, people do not hop in the car and run over to my house without calling and first seeing if I'm home. When I lived in Columbia, I also lived a ways out of town, and it was a similar time frame to get to my house.

So, for the fourteen years I lived there, and the nine years I have lived here--a grand total of twenty-three years--I think back, and at most, there were probably no more than three dozen times anyone ever came out to my house unannounced. But when they did, it was almost always bad or stressful in some way. Someone had died, someone had left someone, someone had a financial crisis, or someone was just in a tremendous amount of stress and "had to talk to me." The other odd thing was, more often than not, I was not in the greatest of moods when it happened, or was tired, or half-sick, or busy with something. These episodes hardly ever happen when I am in a more "ready" or "receptive" mood. My first thought was more often than not, "Oh, man...why are you coming to ME with this?"

Yet, somehow, I always found the "where-with-all", as we say in these parts, to deal with it.

I look back on those times, and honestly, most of them, I did not do my best. I still can turn my mind back and fret that I didn't "do it as well as I should." Yet I have this odd feeling if you asked the people who had shown up unannounced, they might tell you I might have been better than I thought I was. Maybe I am not totally being fair to myself.

But I do know that when I think about those episodes as individual episodes, I can recall I felt myself becoming strangely calm in the face of these other people's desperation. I might have simply "known enough not to be harsh." Maybe it was merely the "lack of harshness" they were counting on in me...not advice, not affirmation, not agreement. Many times I could NOT agree with them. Sometimes my answer was, "yeah, you screwed up." But yet I became filled with the sense that, "for some reason, they've come to me, and I have to honor that act."

But when I read this part of the Gospel today in preparation for my worship at church, I can feel how Jesus must have felt. I also tag-teamed and read the Matthew version of this. I imagine Jesus and the disciples were tired. They were holing up and wanting to rest before heading out and about, down the road. So here comes this woman. I am betting money Jesus was thinking...well...um..."Oh, lady...why are you coming to me with THIS right now? I'm tired. I just don't have it in me to go traipsing over to your house or risk being seen by the crowds and dealing with all these friggin' people."

But the woman is so humble, so earnest, that she puts herself at the level of crumb-snatching dogs. She'd take a bread crust, a wayward scrambled egg-let, a crumb of bacon, a blot of jelly. I can kind of feel what must have come over Jesus--that very same quiet resignation I've felt when people come out unannounced with their crisis, that turned into a desire on my part to "simply be kind." In his turning around of his own resignation to kindness, her child is healed. I can see him kind of wearily saying, "Go home...she's fine," and maybe smiling and patting her shoulder or her face.

I think back to my own episodes like this. I almost always start out acting badly. I'm irritated, I'm annoyed, I'm fed up, I'm angry. But...eventually, I looked at the people who were so stressed and said something like, "It'll all work out how it is to work out somehow," or "I'm glad you came to talk to me about this," or "Yeah, you screwed up, but I'm not going to badger you. You're going to be your own worst enemy on this, and I won't add to that," or "I am mad as hell, but I'm not going to act on my anger, because you came to me because you trusted me, and we'll get through this somehow."

In other words, even the times I felt I didn't "do it right" in these episodes, I somehow still managed to "act like Jesus, at least a little bit." Maybe not as well as I could, me being a terribly flawed human being and all, but at least I was in the ballpark. That's pretty humbling.

I am starting to learn the power of just "simply being kind" when every part of me wants to blow up. There is no doubt, I'm a volcanic sort of personality at times. I have always had trouble "holding it in" when I reach my limit. But I am realizing a change in me over time. (My "conversion of life," perhaps?) In thinking back about some of the most desperate moments that other people have come to me, they seemed to know I possessed something I did not know I had myself. They were willing to "weather my storm" anyway to get to that good part.

But I am learning that part of the way to cool my own volcano is rather than rage against the forces that are bottled up inside me, to open the vent of "simply being kind." To try to hear their burden as best I can under the circumstances and be kind in terms of recognizing their burden, no matter how I personally feel about their burden or its impact on me.

Plato probably said all this better and more succinctly than I have..."Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

3 comments:

Thoughtful. Thank you!

I remember hearing a sermon on this story - this woman had guts in her apparent demeanor of humility she was actually being quite assertive - she (a woman) challenges the master when he has waved her away insultingly with what the Mad Magazine folks would call a Snappy Comeback (to a Stupid Question).

I'm not sure this is necessarily about Jesus having an off day as much as it is about the woman.

Mark (I believe) was still trying to sort things out between the Christian Jews and the non-Christian Jews, so I'm not certain what exactly the point was in having this gentile woman speak up for her need the way she does, but I think it's important.

For me it's about turning the focus around a bit - like the Good Samaritan story is not perhaps about the Good Samaratin and how wonderful he was but about what it meant for the man on the ground to accept help from a Samaritan...

Just some rambly thoughts...

Well, and you bring up what is kind of a fun spiritual activity for me. I call it "The Ignatian game." Pick a story out of the Bible. Any story. Now imagine the story with you in the part of one of the characters, trying to feel and think the way they might be. Then pick a different character in the same story.

It's a very revealing exercise. I have found that I discover my innate preferences and prejudices to things.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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