I Need a Moment to Breathe

canaaniteBy Rev. Solveig Nilsen-Goodin (August 16, 2020), from the second-half of her homily at Salt + Light Lutheran Church (Portland, OR)

Radio silence. Is that what you’re giving me? Radio silence? I expected better from you, Jesus. I just told you my daughter is horribly demon-possessed, and you ignore me! We’re family, remember? From way, way, way back. Or did you forget that your ancestors  Rahab, Tamar and Ruth were all Canaanite just like me. We’ve got the same blood, Jesus. Breathe the same air, too. Our bodies made of the same earth. Our spirits part of the same God. 

Well, if that’s how you’re going to roll, then I guess I’ll have to get a little louder.

“Heir to the house of David, have pity on me! You are a healer and my daughter is sick!”

Ooh, look. The disciples are getting uncomfortable now. Look at them talking to Jesus, getting nervous. They want him to get rid of me. They want me to just go away so they can keep up their rad self image without the inconvenience of seeing their impact on real people. On my daughter. On me. They’ve ALL got the power to heal, you know, and look at them now. They don’t mind healing and everything, but when it comes to me, suddenly there’s no doctor in the house. 

“Heir to the house of David, have pity on me! You are a healer and my daughter is sick!”

Oh, here he comes. Either he’s caving to the disciples and the culture, or he’s going to practice what he preaches. I’ve had enough interactions with men like them, I’m not getting my hopes up yet.

“My mission is only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” 

Yep. There it is. The reasoned, hey this is not really my responsibility, response. Invoking a higher authority to justify your inaction, too. I see you. I gotcha. I know the routine. But my daughter is SICK and needs help! My heart is torn apart with grief and fear for her life, and by God I am not leaving here until she gets help. So even though I will never give up the dignity in my own soul, and even though I would never want my daughter to see me begging at any man’s feet, I know how this system works and I will do what it takes to save my baby.

“Help me, Teacher!!!!”

I threw myself at your feet. I humiliated myself publicly because my daughter is possessed, and what is it that you are saying to me? “But it isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs?”

I need a moment. I need a moment to breathe. I need a moment to try to NOT take that in. You have no idea. Every day I have to find my inner strength. Every day I have to remind myself of who I really am. And then you come back with, “But it isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Damn. I wish you could know what it means to be me, Jesus.

All I want is what any mother wants. I want my child to be whole, to be safe, to know what it feels like to be free from the demon that possesses her. Is that too much to ask? Is that too much to ask? How is it that you can look me in the eye, and see my tears and hear the love and pain in my voice, and remain unmoved? How is your heart SO hard?

You know, Jesus, that’s actually a good question. How is your heart so hard? Do you remember who else was possessed by hardness of heart? Do you remember waaay back…way back when our ancestors were one people? Before the divisions and the wars and the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom, before the Babylonian captivity and the Roman occupation? Do you remember who else was possessed by hardness of heart?

Pharaoh. The persecutor of our ancestors. His heart, it is said, was hardened against our people when all they wanted was for themselves and their children to be whole and safe and free from being possessed…OWNED…by someone else. 

Who owns your heart right now, Jesus? Who possesses your heart, that when it comes to me, you do not reject but you reinforce the divisions that dehumanize me and my daughter and everyone just like me? You KNOW there’s enough for everyone. You KNOW we are all connected. You KNOW that the ways of the oppressors are NOT the ways of God. You KNOW that at God’s table no human is turned away or demeaned, and all humans and all animals are fed and have everything they need. You KNOW that. So I guess I’ll have to remind you of what you already know.

So you say it isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs, huh Jesus? Sure. But even the dogs get to eat the scraps that fall from the table.”

Did I know that was going to be the thing that cracked open that hard heart of Jesus? Nope. But it did. Somehow, something got through. It should never have taken that long to begin with, but somehow, something finally got through. And I know it got through not only because my daughter was healed, but because you know what? He didn’t take credit for it. He said I had great faith and that MY wish would come to pass. And he was right. And from that moment on, no demon, no system, no nothing possessed…owned…my daughter. Or me. Or Jesus. We all knew what it felt like to be free. Amen.

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