Waiting, like Advent, is future-orientated. Just as during Advent we prepare for Christmas and, beyond Christmas, for the second coming of Christ, so in waiting we are looking forward to the next thing in our lives. It may be just a cup of tea or getting married in the morning. We may be filled with excitement or foreboding; either way, the waiting can consume all our attention. We have no time or energy to focus on what is happening now. The present moment is swallowed up in anxiety or anticipation of the future.
We wait but we don’t see. Could we learn to do both?
Jesus is approached by the ruler of a local synagogue. His name is Jairus and his daughter is desperately ill, at the point of death. Would Jesus come and heal her? Jesus agrees and sets off with Jairus to see the girl. This is clearly an emergency; faced with an emergency the thing to do is focus ruthlessly on getting to the scene and dealing with it. Surely?
Apparently not. Jesus is now surrounded by a large crowd pressing in on him. Suddenly he stops, turns round and asks: “Who touched my clothes?” The disciples point out that in the circumstances this is a stupid question. But he still wants to know. Eventually a woman comes forward to tell her story. She has been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years; she has spent all she has on doctors but got no better. But, hearing about Jesus, she decides to mingle with the crowd and surreptitiously reach out and touch his clothes. She’s convinced even this minimal contact will be enough to get her healed. Jesus responds: “Daughter, your faith has made you well”. While he is still speaking a message comes from Jairus’s house to say that the girl is dead so no need to bother coming to see her. Undeterred, Jesus persists in going to see the girl. Arriving at the house, he takes her by the hand and raises her back to life again.
Why did Jesus stop and ask his apparently stupid question? Imagine for a moment how things might have panned out if he hadn’t. The woman still gets healed, she is spared the embarrassment of having to tell her story, and presumably Jesus arrives at Jairus’s house in time to heal the sick girl without putting the parents through the trauma of seeing her die. Why waste time dragging the truth out of this unfortunate woman? Why not just get on with the job?
Jesus is not consumed by the future; he is acutely attuned to what is happening in the present moment. He not only waits but he sees. He proceeds to “waste time” getting the woman to reveal herself. Because this is part of her healing. Being subject to haemorrhages she will have been ritually unclean, excluded from normal social interaction. By calling her out he restores her to full membership of society. She gets more than she asked for because what she asked for was not enough.
Jairus also gets more than he asked for. His daughter is not merely healed but raised from the dead. The family have a share in revealing who Jesus is: not just a healer but the one who has authority over death itself.
God meets us now, today, in this encounter, this experience. Tomorrow doesn’t exist. Later today doesn’t exist. How much do we miss of what God has for us because we’re not attending to his presence with us in this moment, this time, this place?