A few days ago, I recalled a thought-provoking statement a friend made years ago that resonates today. She simply said: “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.” My interpretation: Be bold enough to do what you need to do, yet humble enough to ask forgiveness, if necessary.
There’s a story in Matthew 15:21-28 that takes this statement and turns it downside up. Here we have a mother whose daughter has been tormented with a demon. We have no indication how long, but we don’t need it. A mere millisecond is too long, especially for a child. This unapologetically audacious woman received word someway, somehow that Jesus was passing through.
Jesus had just walked 50 miles to Tyre and Sidon (Living Bible Translation). We can accurately assume he was tired from the walk and the work through miracles and mindset shifts (see Matthew 14 and 15). We can also accurately assume this momma was just as tired of her daughter’s torment and her own exhaustion from a place of helplessness.
So she shows up. There was no permission to be granted.
She shows up to what I’d like to imagine as a sit-in.
She shows up with unmovable determination that she was not going to budge until she was served.
She shows up with a certain kind of force that parents and caregivers have when it comes to children. The kind that lifts cars off babies.
The kind that fends off animals. The kind that acts on instinct to grab, stop, scream, run, etc. for the sake of a child’s safety and well-being.
She shows up, rightfully asking with an undertone of demand mercy from Jesus. The son of the living God remains silent, until the meddling disciples begin murmuring. It is only then Jesus speaks. His words cut. His words were harsh and cold. His words moved this momma, but not from her seat at the table.
They moved her to a place of greater resilience. She asked again with the same tone. Jesus speaks again, harsh, cold words. This momma digs her heels in even further. She was too far in to let up now. Jesus spoke of dogs and bread. This momma spoke of puppies and crumbs (Living Bible Translation). Can you see the parallels? Can you see how this momma was ready, willing and able to go toe to toe with Jesus … with JESUS! She quickly let Jesus know her ethnicity had nothing to do with his capacity as healer; that her daughter deserved it just as much as anyone else’s.
This momma didn’t ask permission to come to the table nor did she seek forgiveness for having shown up. She took a stand for what she believed — that Jesus was able to heal her daughter. She took a stand for what she wanted — rest for herself and her daughter. As a result, Jesus had a mindset shift. His final words to her were empowering and encouraging as he declared her faith was large and her request was granted (verse 28).
Do you have such grit, wisdom and fortitude to go all in for what you believe and what you want? Yes, you do. Are you willing to be what you need to be, as you have been called and chosen with neither permission nor forgiveness from people (or support either for that matter)? That question is yours to answer. My hope is that you answer yes, knowing God’s power, Jesus’ purpose and the Holy Spirit’s presence stand for you as you stand for what you believe and what you want. I hope you answer yes, knowing generations to come will benefit from your courage, consistency and commitment.
Rae Karim, formerly chapel director at Christian Theological Seminary, is now pastor at First Christian Church of Honolulu. She can be reached at email@example.com.