“It’s hopeless. You just have to accept that. Your child will never be a contributing member of society.  I can make arrangements for him to be institutionalized.  It’s all for the best.”

Those were the words the doctor spoke, telling the young mother that her son was “hopeless.”  

Hopeless? There are many situations that many think of as hopeless  … a marriage on the verge of collapse … a relationship that was desperate for reconciliation … war … a family that was estranged … a body that had run a good race for decades … corrupt politicians – hopeless?

When human problems beset us … when our personal lives disintegrate … when the world seems as if it has gone crazy – it seems that we seek answers from every other physician before we dare to “let go” and “let God” – before we resist putting our prejudices, our loneliness, our anger, our frustrations, our pride, our hatreds, our fears into the transforming hands of G_d, the Holy One, the Creator, the Personification of Love, the Bearer of Hope.

How long will it be before we reach out, like the woman with the hem who touched Jesus’ garment – or before we are like the story of Jairus, the ruler of a synagogue, who was searching desperately for some hope.  He’d tried everything and now, one last attempt.  When he finally found the man Jesus, he fell on his knees and repeatedly cried … “My little daughter is at the point of death.  Come and lay your hand on her so that she may be made well and live.”   Without a word, Jesus went with Jairus.  And while that’s all that Matthew’s Gospel tells us, the story appears in Mark’s Gospel as well and carries this story further as we learn that a messenger from Jairus’ home comes and says “Your daughter is dead.  Why trouble Jesus any further?”  To the messenger, the little girl’s death was the end of the story.  There was no hope.  There was no point in trying to go further.  It was hopeless.  Fear set in.

Like the day a phone call brought fear to a priest who the evening of the phone call, wrote about The Not-Knowing-Time:

“An ordinary medical test was done. Anticipating nothing unusual, and yet there was. “Redo the test” said the physician. “Nothing to worry about –  but let’s rule out …” So, the test was redone and there it was.  Again! “A specialist.  I want you to see a specialist” she said Friday morning. The rest of that day was a blur other than that ugly four letter word: FEAR. “Get me to the specialist.  Now! Let me know what I’m dealing with so decisions can be made and life can be planned. The fear is not of dying – the fear is of the not-knowing.”

When we are in such fearful and seemingly hopeless situations, is the God-of-All-Knowing the first we consider turning to?   Or turn to at all? Jesus said to Jairus: “Don’t fear, only believe.” 

In the story of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, the social context of the time was a significant factor.  She would have been looked upon as ‘unclean’. She was bleeding – she was a woman, a person with no rights, and would have been shunned at the very least for daring to be in the company of the men who surrounded Jesus and to touch reach out and touch the hem of his garment.  Perhaps she prayed/hoped that her fears would be relieved. 

What of the priest who wrote about “The Not-Knowing Time”?  A week after the phone call, another entry in her journal: “Unraveling the Not-Knowing Time.” Sunday night I wanted to stay home  and curl up in bed and watch some inane television program, but I couldn’t. I had responsibilities, but in that moment, I hoped that no one would want Eucharist and I could go home. But, there they were … the two of them. “When two or three are gathered together, there am I, in your midst.” Maybe something happened for the two who came to church that evening, but not for me. Nothing happened.  I felt no relief – no peace.  “The Unknown” still haunted me as walked home.

Home at last. A cup of hot tea brought solace, but no relief from the  Fear of the “Not-Knowing Time”. Then came the realization!  The panic had subsided. Monday arrived. The panic was no longer there – it was still gone! The phone rang with a message “Your appointment with the specialist is scheduled.” The “Not-Knowing Time” had begun to unravel.”

Many others have desperate situations.  Perhaps they arefacing a seemingly hopeless financial crunch … a marriage that is on the rocks … a teenager or toddler that you can’t handle … a parent who no longer can communicate with anyone in ways others remember … a spouse who is imprisoned either in body or mind … living in poverty and/or war, addicted with nowhere to turn … grieving over the death of someone loved very much … a child/spouse/partner/parent who is ill or dying … dealing with their own medical crisis. And the list goes on.

There are countless stories that remind us that no situation is hopeless.  Does this mean that if there is enough faith, every dead person will be raised to life on earth? … that money for every financial need will appear?… that everyone who is terminally ill will be cured? … that a job will be provided for all the unemployed?   No. What it means is that we will be met in our fears and uncertainties and comforted in our Not-Knowing-Times.

Long ago, there was a wealthy woman, an atheist, who lived in Hanover, Germany.  She wanted to prove to the world that there could be no resurrection. She gave orders to those who were to take care of her money after she died, to build a tomb of stone around her, so strong that her body could never rise out of it.   Since there was nothing illegal about her request, the men built her a great tomb, and around it, they built an iron fence.  What the builders didn’t notice was that a tiny seed fell into a crevice between two of the massive stones and one spring some years later, it sprouted.  As the seedling grew into a tree, it pushed aside the heavy stones and the unbreakable tomb was cracked open.  

If you go to a place in Hanover, Germany called Gartenfriedhof (Garden Cemetary), ask to be shown the Geoffnetes Grab (the grave that was opened).   You’ll have no trouble finding the tomb, because out of its great crack grows the finest tree in the garden. 

The grave was opened.  Hope – Love – God – the Creator stepped into Jairus’ life.  Hope stepped into the life of the woman with the hemorrhage and healed her body.  Hope stepped into the life of the child whose doctor pronounced him to be hopeless. Hope stepped in – into the life of the priest – who wrote “Knowing Time … Holy Refuge”

“Procedures have begun.  Nothing untoward showing up so far. Other complications on the horizon. Getting older and having the body not move as it once did is not fun. I must try to “let go and let God.” The talk about the “peace that passes understanding” isn’t just ‘talk.’ It really exists. Should fear well up within me again… should the unknown frighten me … should the “Not-Knowing Time” seem to engulf and entrap and overwhelm and I can’t move beyond it, I hope/I pray I will relax  into the gentle, caring, loving hand of God – of Hope – of Love – of the Creator – and allow myself to move into “Knowing-Time” which, from God’s perspective – from Hope’s perspective – from Love’s perspective – from the Creator’s perspective is “Knowing-Time.”  Kairos … not Chronos. “Knowing-Time” exists … whether I feel it or not.

No matter what situation you may be in now – or you may have to face in the future – with God, there are no “Not-Knowing-Times.”   There is always hope!   Consider this

—- on a wall in Dachau prison, these words were scratched:  I believe in the sun even when it isn’t shining. I believe in stars even when I see them not.  I believe in God even when God is silent.”   In a tiny room in a refugee camp in Sri Lanka, four women were teaching songs to barefoot, dirty, scantily-lad children. Since there was no room to sit, they all stood for this brief respite from the noisy, hot, humid, dusty and impossibly crowded communal living area. On the door, crudely printed, were these words “Life is a gift from God.”

The refugees in war-torn Sri Lanka, the concentration prisoners in Dachau – they knew Hope – they knew Love – they knew another word for Hope, for Love – they knew the Creator, God, By Whatever Name … even in the midst of a terrifying yesterday, a bleak and often hungry today, and a potentially fearful tomorrow. 

In many Christian churches today, people are marking Pentecost Sunday – a reminder that the Holy Spirit offers Hope – Love. May we never forget that even sturdy tombs crack open!   May we never forget that Hope/Love/God enters lives – enters the “Unknown Times” – enters the moments of apparent hopelessness.

In the midst of it all … just as in the midst of all of our painful pasts, hurtful today’s and unknown futures … we never need to live in “The Not-Knowing Time.”  How do I know? The “Not-Knowing Time” story is my story. The words are from my journal.

The Creator – Hope – Love – God – By Whatever Name – is … in all our times: yesterday – today – tomorrow.  

Your comments on this and any Soulistry blog reflection are always very welcome and appreciated here.

© June Maffin