June 27, 2021
+ If you’re anything like me—and I know some of you are on this one—you know how awful being impatient can be.
We want certain things—and we want them NOW.
Not in some vague future.
And it no doubt drives those of around us crazy.
But I am impatient.
I want to be doing certain things.
And I have never liked waiting.
Waiting is one of the worst things I can imagine.
Many years ago, I studied a famous play by Jean-Paul Sartre called No Exit.
I’m not going to go into the whole plot of the play, but the essence is this.
Three damned souls arrive in hell, expecting torture and fire and unending pain.
Instead, they’re brought into a plain room.
And they wait.
There’s more to the play than this, but essentially, it’s about hell being simply a waiting room in which one waits and waits and waits.
To me, that play has always been terrifying.
I understand it.
I get it.
That’s what hell would be like (if I believed in hell)
Impatient as I am, ultimately I know that waiting and being patient is a good thing sometimes.
I’ll give you an example.
If you have lost anyone, due to death especially, but also due to divorce or any other type of separation, you are going to mourn.
Mourning is a terrible thing.
It is something none of us want to go through.
It is so deeply and unrelently painful.
And the pain doesn’t seem to go away.
For any of us who goes through it, we have all come to that moment when we simply want to be done with mourning.
We want to be past it.
We want to escape this thing that we simply cannot escape.
We feel trapped by it—walled in on all sides by it.
So, we want to be done with it all and move on.
We realize that death and mourning and grief are all part of our own experience of hell here on earth.
Because, right there, right then, in the midst of it all—it’s truly the most terrible thing.
In fact, it’s very much like Sartre’s hell.
We want to be done with mourning and sadness and all that goes along with losing someone we love.
The fact is, as much as we want that—it doesn’t work this way.
We can’t rush these things.
Things happen in their due course.
Not OUR course.
Not MY course!
But the proper course.
God works in God’s own time.
Now I know that sounds like a platitude.
And I know that those sound like empty words when we are in midst of our own personal hell.
But it really does work that way.
And this is probably the most difficult thing for us.
Because we don’t see things the way God sees things.
Rabbi Harold Kushner, who wrote that classic, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, used the analogy of a carpet.
There are two sides of a carpet.
There is the top side of the carpet, where everything is beautiful and orderly.
The top side of carpet is that way the carpet should be seen.
But there’s also the underside of the carpet.
On the underside of the carpet, we see the stray strands of yarn, the ugly dried glue, a distorted view of what the carpet actually is.
While we are here, we are living on the underside of the carpet—the carpet being our life and the world.
It often feels like things don’t make sense.
It’s because we’re seeing it from this undersided view.
But God sees things from the upperside of the carpet.
And one day, we too will see our lives from that perspective as well.
And somehow, in some way, it will all make sense.
I truly believe that!
But the key is: we need to be patient.
Impatience is present in our Gospel reading for today, but in a more subtle way.
Our reading from the Gospel today also teaches us an important reflection on our own impatience and waiting, and also about how the hell of death is ultimately defeated.
We have two things going on.
We have Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, who has lost his daughter, even though he doesn’t know it yet.
The hell of death has drawn close to Jairus.
While Jairus is pleading with Jesus to heal his daughter, we encounter this unnamed woman who has been suffering with a hemorrhage for twelve years—twelve years!—is desperate.
This so-called unnamed woman actually, according to tradition, has a name.
And she is, it is believed, to be the same woman we encounter whenever we do the Stations of the Cross.
At Station #6, she is the one who wipes the face of Jesus as he carries his cross toward Golgotha.
So, Veronica is impatient.
She wants healing.
I can tell you in all honesty that as I read and reflected and lived with this Gospel reading this past week, I could relate.
I can relate to Jairus, who is being touched with the darkness of death in his life.
And when I read of the woman with a hemorrhage grasping at the hem of Jesus’ garment, I could certainly empathize with her impatience and her grasping.
Many of us have known the anguish of Jairus.
We have known the anguish and pain of watching someone we love die.
And many of us know the pain and impatience of Veronica.
We often find ourselves bleeding deeply inside—and I don’t mean just physically but emotionally and psychologically too—with no possible hope for relief.
For us, as we relate, that “bleeding” might not be an actual bleeding, but a bleeding of our spirit, of our hopes and dreams, of a deep emotional or spiritual wound that just won’t heal, or just our grief and sadness, which, let me tell you, can also “bleed” away at us.
And when we’ve been desperate, when we find ourselves so impatient, so in need of a change, we find ourselves clutching at anything—at any little thing.
We clutch even for a fringe of the prayer shawl of the One whom God sends to us in those dark moments.
When we do, we find, strangely, God’s healing.
And in this story of Jarius’ daughter, I too felt that moment in which I felt separated from the loved ones in my life—by death, yes, of course.
But also when I felt that a distance was caused by estrangement or anger.
And when I have begged for healing for them and for myself, it has often come.
I have shared with you before the pain of the estranged relationship I had with my sister, how for years we had little or nothing to do with each other, due to what we later realized were outside, nefarious forces in the guise of “family.”
But someone, in God’s own time, after years of praying about that relationship, it was healed.
It was truly a miracle in my life.
And I am very grateful for it.
But it came in God’s own time.
Not in mine.
It is a matter of simply sometimes waiting.
For Jairus, he didn’t have to wait long.
For the woman, it took twelve years.
But in both cases, it came.
Still, I admit, I continue to be impatient.
I probably will always be inpatient.
But even now, even when the pain of mourning comes back, when I truly mourn still, after many years for loved ones I’ve lost, in the midst of it all, I can hear those words that truly do comfort me:
“Why do you make a commotion and weep? Your loved one is not dead but only sleeping.”
Resurrection comes in many forms in our lives and if we wait them out these moments will happen.
And not all impatience is bad.
It is all right to be impatient—righteously impatient—for justice, for the right thing to be done.
It is all right to be impatient for injustice and lying and deceit to be brought to light and be revealed.
And dealt with.
It is all right to be impatient for the right thing to be done in this world.
But we cannot let our impatience get in the way of seeing that miracles continue to happen in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
I know, because I have seen it again and again and, not only in my own life, but in the lives of others.
We know that in God, we find our greatest consolation.
Our God of justice and compassion and love will provide and will win out ultimately over the forces of darkness that seem, at times, to prevail in our lives.
Knowing that, reminding ourselves of all that, we are able to be strengthened and sustained and rejuvenated.
We are able to face whatever life may throw at us with hope and defiance and, sometimes, even joy.
We are not in Sartre’s hell.
At some point, the doors of what seems like that eternal waiting room will be opened.
And we will be called forward.
And all will be well.
That is what scripture and our faith in God tell us again and again.
That is how God works in this world and in our lives.
So, let us cling to this hope and find true strength in it.
True strength to get us through those impatient moments in our lives when we want darkness and death and injustice and pain behind us.
Let us be truly patient for our God.
If we do, those words of Jesus to the woman today will be words directed to us as well:
“your faith has made you well;
go in peace;
Let us pray.
Holy God, the God of life, we are impatient. We are impatient for so much in this life. We are impatient for an end to suffering and injustice and pain. We are impatient for all things to be restored to fullness and goodness. But mostly we are impatient for your presence in our midst, for your blessings and your joy. Help us to be patient, and in our patience, help us to be aware of the needs of those around us who also, in their impatience, are need of love and care. In Jesus’s Name, we pray.