If there was an award for “Most Spaced-Out Mom,” I would win it. It seems I was born with an innate ability to tune out anything and everything – especially when it comes to things I don’t really want to deal with. Repeated complaints about the fact that your sister just looked at you wrong? Not my problem. Requests for me to get you a snack when you have two hands, two feet, and a brain that can work together to accomplish that task? In one ear and out the other.
Most of the time, though, the information my kids are trying to communicate to me is actually important! The problem is that if I’m working on or even thinking about something else, they have to work hard to get my attention. I have an uncanny ability to focus – but only on one thing at a time.
In fact, as I was writing that last paragraph, we were at a playground and it occurred to me that the small voices I was hearing saying “We’re done. Let’s go, Mom!” were coming from my own children… after they had already exited the area!
Attention is a need we all have from birth – whether it’s from our parents, our friends, our spouse, or random strangers – we have a deep need to be noticed, listened to, and cared for by the people around us. When we don’t get the attention we need (or want), something inside of us feels unworthy and over time we can start to believe the lies that say we are not valuable.
When Jesus walked this earth, one of his most important missions was to show us the value of every human life. He came to show us God’s compassionate and gracious, steadfast and enduring love – especially toward those whom the religious leaders of the day had deemed unworthy of it. Since it was physically impossible for Him to look into the eyes of every person alive on earth at that time and tell them how deeply they were valued by God, he chose very specific instances with very specific people to communicate this message.
In Mark 5, Jesus and His disciples are on their way to heal the dying young daughter of a synagogue leader. The situation is urgent, but there’s a hold up: a huge crowd has “pressed around” Jesus. (v. 24) It’s not that they were trying to block Him from getting to the little girl, but in their eyes, this might be their chance – their only chance – to get the attention of this miracle-working man.
One member of this crowd was a woman “who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” (v. 25-26) We cringe at the thought of an illness like this in our world today, but in this time and culture, it was exponentially worse. Not only did it leave her weak and sick, it also meant she was cut off from human relationship. Even worse, she would have been subject to harsh judgment, especially by the religious authorities, as this condition was “popularly regarded as the direct consequence of sinful habits.”*
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (v. 27-29)
At which point, Jesus, making His way through the crowd, suddenly stops and says “Who touched my clothes?” (v. 30) The disciples, of course, answer: “You see the people crowding against you… and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?'”(v. 31) Jesus’ question made no sense to them!
But in His ultimate God-in-human-flesh awareness of every single person around him, Jesus knew that one of those who touched him needed to be pointed out. Just as He was headed to heal the daughter of a wealthy, powerful ruler – everyone needed to be made aware that a poor, weak, and lonely woman had also been healed. And even though she tried to stay hidden from the attention, He wouldn’t let her:
Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (v. 33-34)
In healing this woman, Jesus was teaching a serious lesson about the value God places on us as His children – but He was also teaching an important lesson about what it means for us, as His children, to have faith.
As they watched this all go down, I wonder if Jesus’ disciples recalled a very recent situation where their faith was called into question. At the end of the previous chapter, we find them on a boat caught in a “furious squall” where “the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” (v. 37) Jesus, rather than helping them bail out the boat, was “in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.” (v. 38)
The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 38-40)
So what’s the difference? Why was the woman’s faith commended and the disciples faith challenged?
The disciples thought that because Jesus was not physically helping them, He must not be not aware of their plight – and therefore He must not care. But the woman believed that even if she didn’t see Jesus physically look into her eyes and proclaim her healing, that even if He didn’t notice her touch among all the other hands grasping for His attention, that didn’t mean that He wasn’t aware. And it certainly didn’t mean that He didn’t care.
Awareness may not be my strongest suit as a parent, but the crazy thing is that for some reason my kids still trust that I care. I know this because they haven’t given up on me yet – the stories, complaints, and requests keep rolling in – even when I’m giving them no physical evidence that I’m paying attention!
Even if you can’t see how Jesus is working in your situation, you can trust that He’s paying attention. Even if He hasn’t moved in the way you expected Him to, you can trust that you are incredibly valuable to Him. His awareness is not a human awareness and His work is not dependent on physical evidence. Even if you think He must be sleeping or too busy being mobbed by the crowds of others in need, you can trust that He’s always aware, He always cares, and He’s always working.
*Cambridge Commentary Mark 5 (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/mark/5.htm)