The chronic, life-draining condition. The slow seeping out of joy, the un-curable pain that becomes “no better but grows worse” (Mark 5:26). Or the frantic pain of a man losing what is most precious to him, seeing a little life slip away before him. Slow, draining pain and immense, acute anguish. Both brought to Jesus, frantic for healing. He thinks, if Jesus can just hurry fast enough to make it in time. And she thinks, if she can just lift her weary arm to the fringe of his robe without him noticing(Matt. 9: 20), everything will be ok. To be healed in a second, without having to be seen. And Jesus slows down time. Makes the man wait, makes the woman confess, teaches her that he is not a talisman but a person. That he isn’t a quick fix or someone you can sneak up on from behind (Mk. 5: 27). She must raise her long-shamed eyes to the gentle face of love and be called “daughter.”
Tim Keller talks about these stories in a chapter called “The Waiting” in his book King’s Cross and describes the patience that is part of following Jesus: “Patience is love for the long haul; it is bearing up under difficult circumstances, without giving up or giving in to bitterness.”
And that is so much of what we do, so much of what Advent is. Bearing up– not just bearing up, but doing it without bitterness… And maybe that is only possible if Jesus has really pulled you up and looked into your face, looked into the anger and bitterness and the distortions that developed over the long years of being so sick, the long years of life just bleeding away, drop by drop. If Jesus staunches the bleeding of your heart with his presence and calls you a child, calls you darling.
Keller translates “little girl, rise,” as “honey, it’s time to get up” which is also, essentially, what he said to the bleeding woman who had fallen at his feet. It’s ok, get up, little girl, go in peace. In shalom. In fullness, in completion, in joy. Keller also points out that when the little girl has died Jesus says that she is just sleeping; as he puts it, “Jesus is saying… ‘If I have you by the hand, death itself is nothing but sleep.'”