between-our-steps-09-19-18-doubleAn ancient Hebraic psalm about hope and longing says, "I wait for the Lord... more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning."

I can imagine watchmen on the city wall, straining to see what is happening on the ground. Not until the sky brightens before dawn will they be able to see what the day will bring.

But dawn will come. The sun will rise. They will see. In life, waiting with hope is harder. So, I offer another ancient story, one of longing and unexpected hope.

In a small town, a young girl is on the edge of death. Her father, Jairus, is beside himself. This isn't supposed to happen in the family of a powerful, wealthy man. But his money can't fix this. His place in the community can't fix this.

This isn't supposed to happen to a religious man. Jairus has done right, followed the law, been all that God expects. That is not enough. He has prayed, and that is not enough.

I can imagine he sat all night by his daughter, saw her get weaker. There is nothing he can do but wait for morning, though he waits in fear of what the daylight will bring.

But in the morning, news comes that the healer has arrived. This Jesus who has brought health to so many is in his town.

Jairus goes to Jesus and falls at his feet to beg for help. Despite his position in the community, he begs. Despite the conflict between Jesus and other religious leaders, he goes to him. "Come lay your hands on [my daughter] and make her well so she may live."

Jesus says yes. Hope rises in Jairus. He senses Jesus' power and love. He hurries to bring Jesus to his home.

But he is not the only one who has heard the news of the healer's arrival. A woman hears that Jesus has come.

This woman has had a flow of blood for twelve years. Losing blood like that means she is weak, tired, strained to the limit. She spent all her money on physicians who only made things worse, leaving her poor. And this flow of blood means she is considered unclean. Unlike Jairus, she has been kept out of the house of prayer.

Her condition isn't contagious in a physical sense but touching her makes other people unclean so they can't enter God's house. She is kept apart by the community.

Dawn comes each day without light for her.

Until this day. She hears that Jesus has come but knows he is a righteous man. He may refuse to touch her It would make him unclean.

Afraid to hope, driven by need, afraid not to hope, the woman chooses to go to him, but secretly. She covers her head, her face. If the neighbours recognize her, they will keep her away. Approaching from behind, thinking that even if she touches his cloak, it will be enough, she touches the fringe of his garment. And she is well. Joy swelling in her, she backs away.

There is no escape. Jesus senses the flow of power. "Someone touched me," he says. The disciples dismiss the question. With the crowd pressing around him, of course someone touched him.

But, the woman knows he knows. Hesitantly, she steps forward, afraid that he will be angry, take back the gift of healing once he knows she made him unclean.

Instead, Jesus reassures her with love and compassion and respect.

There is a cost, however. Even this moment of hesitation is too much for Jairus and his daughter. The child dies. Heartbreak comes to the man who had dared for a moment to hope.

Then, despite the fact that night has fallen for Jairus, Jesus tells him to hope.

They go on to the house, to the room where the girl lies dead. "Come little one," says Jesus. "Get up." And the girl shakes off death and the illness that was on her, and gets to her feet. Unexpectedly, life returns. And Jesus moves on to others who need him, leaving this town astounded by what dawn brought to them.

Stories don't offer simple answers. We can't set watchers in Owen Sound harbour for Jesus' boat. But in our own community there are stories of dawn coming after a long night. Others tell us that no matter how deep our darkness, dawn is possible.
Cathy Hird lives near Walters Falls.