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But this woman, amazingly, did no such thing. The vital quesHealing tion for us to ask ourselves is what made this woman so strong. How was she able to rise above the sting of first the disciples' responses to her, and then Jesus's responses? From where did she find the dignity and strength to calmly keep pushing for her cause?
The answer is her passionate love for her daughter. The hope and desire for her daughter's liberation from severe inner torment was so powerful that all other concerns were as nothing in comparison. The potential barriers of fear, sense of inadequacy, indignation, and rage did not distract her from her sole concern. This wonderful woman is inspiring in that she refused to let anything take precedence over her love for her daughter, not even her pride.
And from that love she spoke, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." We cannot help but feel deep compassion for this woman. And finally Jesus responds to the woman in a new way: "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly.
Now how does the woman feel? Surely she felt unimaginably elated. She must have wept profusely as she rocked her now-sane daughter within her arms. She must have felt a depth of gratitude to which no words can do justice. And Jesus's message must have rung through her mind over and over again: "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."
Jesus didn't just heal her daughter, he healed her. In his final words to her, he obliterated a lifetime of feelings of worthlessness. He showed her that she was powerful-that she was important. He showed her that it was her desire and her faith that enabled the healing. And he showed her all of this in a way that would never allow her to again sink into the same quagmire of shame and feelings of unworthiness. From that moment onward, every time she saw her healed daughter, she would witness the living evidence that she was a worthwhile human being. She would remember that it was her faith and persistence that had facilitated the healing of her daughter. Her healed daughter was proof of the truth of Jesus's encouraging and empowering message to her.
Now we are able to see why Jesus treated this woman with such apparent disdain. Jesus knows the hearts and minds of all of us. He knew Nathaniel before having met him. From the beginning, he knew what Judas would do. He knew of Peter's denial before Peter could even fathom such an act. Jesus knew the entire life history of the woman by the well in Samaria. And surely Jesus knew all about this mother whose daughter was demon-possessed. He knew that she felt very insignificant and worthless—like a little dog. He knew, too, that her love for her daughter was so powerful that she would not accept no for an answer.
Now, having known all of this, what if Jesus had simply said to the woman, "Oh my dear woman. Don't worry. Your daughter is healed. Also, I want you to know that you are a very important and valuable human being." We have to put ourselves in the shoes of the woman. Obviously, we feel grateful for the healing. We feel immensely grateful. But I doubt we feel the overwhelming sense of empowerment that comes only after we tenaciously push through all resistance and obtain our daughter's healing. An easy victory just doesn't carry the punch of one that is grabbed from the jaws of defeat. Jesus wanted her to know this second kind of joy: the joy of overcoming all odds.
E. Kent Rogers, a graduate of Bryn Athyn College with a BA in religion, will obtain a MS in mental health counseling from the University of Massachusetts in spring 2012. A series of events coinciding with a powerful spiritual experience led Kent, with the help of others, to create the Loving Arms Mission, a non-for-profit fundraising organization dedicated to creating and supporting New Church children's homes around the world. In 1999, Kent moved to Nepal to start the first of these orphanages. In 2002, he married Shovha Budhathoki, a co-worker and Nepali national. Loving Arms Mission has since begun supporting a second children's home in Nepal.