What a Friend We Have in Jesus

By Keith Davis

JULY 1, 2012

PRECIOUS LORD, FROM MY MOUTH, YOUR WORDS; IN OUR HEARTS, YOUR LOVE AND COMPASSION; IN OUR LIVES, YOUR WILL FOR US THIS DAY AND ALWAYS.  AMEN

FAITH.  Many believe faith to be complete trust and confidence in God.   As I read this morning’s gospel, I remembered lyrics from one of my paternal grandmother’s favorite songs, TOUCH THE HEM OF HIS GARMENT:  THERE WAS A WOMAN IN THE BIBLE DAYS, SO SICK SO VERY LONG, BUT SHE HEARD ABOUT JESUS WAS PASSING BY SO SHE JOINED THE GATHERING THRONG; AND WHILE SHE WAS PUSHING HER WAY THROUGH SOMEONE ASKED HER WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO.  SHE SAID IF I COULD JUST TOUCH THE HEM OF HIS GARMENT, I KNOW I’LL BE MADE WHOLE.  FAITH.

I remembered the church of my youth, ISRAEL CME CHURCH in Gary, Indiana, whose motto is THE CHUCH BUILT BY FAITH.  My memory’s ear could hear the strains of one of my mother’s favorite hymns, WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS which says, “WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS, ALL OUR SINS AND GRIEFS TO BEAR. WHAT A PRIVILEGE TO CARRY, EVERYTHING TO GOD IN PRAYER.  OH, WHAT PEACE WE OFTEN FORFEIT; OH, WHAT NEEDLESS PAIN WE BEAR. ALL BECAUSE WE DO NOT CARRY EVERYTHING TO GOD IN PRAYER.”   FAITH.

Two years ago this past February, near the beginning of Lent, I received a phone call from my mother.  She was calling to inform me that she’d been diagnosed with terminal liver and stomach cancer.  After absorbing the initial, secondary, and tertiary blows to my heart and soul, I immediately began going into action.  After all, this was a crisis and something needed to be done.  I immersed myself in literature about cancer, its causes, protocols, drugs, alternative treatments, etc., etc., etc.  I figured once I got to Gary and was by my mother’s side, we would begin to create a plan to combat this nemesis.

I arrived in Gary, armed with my information and resources, and ready to begin creating a plan of attack.  Imagine my shock and surprise when, after asking her about getting a second opinion, my mother calmly and serenely informed me that there would be no second opinion, no extreme measures taken, and a Do Not Resuscitate order when the time came.  I was beside myself, for this was not the fighter I’d known all my life.  I was angry and vented my frustration to a close friend and a relative.  They both told me that perhaps she knows something we don’t.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I observed someone who was completely at peace with herself and with what was happening.  Though her body was betraying her, her spirit, her countenance, glowed.

I cannot say with absolute certainty my mother had familiarity with this gospel.  Her actions, however, indicate she did. I think knowing the hemorrhaging woman used all her resources for doctors and treatment to no avail was history my mother wouldn’t repeat.  Rather, I think she circumvented the drama and cut right to the chase.  Knowing her condition, knowing there was no earthly remedy available, my mother mustered her courage and strength to reach out for the hem of the garment.  Her strong faith and belief in Christ made doing so the only solution.  I imagine Christ told her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Your suffering is over.”

She transitioned from this world to the next two days after Easter in 2010, seven weeks after being diagnosed.  FAITH.

Faith was also the bedrock of my paternal grandmother’s life. Emma Louise Davis, Ms Emma to you, mama to me, of Uniontown, Alabama and Gary, Indiana, was a devout Baptist.  As I mentioned earlier, a favorite gospel song of hers was TOUCH THE HEM OF HIS GARMENT, performed by Sam Cooke.  Yes, THAT Sam Cooke.  Before TWISTIN THE NIGHT AWAY, ANOTHER SATURDAY NIGHT, CUPID, or other R & B hits, Sam, along with Lou Rawls, was a member of a Chicago based gospel group called THE SOUL STIRRERS.

Sundays in the Davis household meant gospel music from sun up ‘til sundown and it seemed the Sundays I visited, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, or Mahalia Jackson, were on the radio.  Ms Emma would savor every measure, note, and phrase, especially TOUCH THE HEM.  Sitting with her bible in hand, she would close her eyes, pat that bible and affirm Sam’s singing by saying “Yes, Lord, Yes,” AMEN, AMEN.” Understand, when Ms Emma was getting her gospel on, no one, my grandfather, the dogs, relatives or friends, interrupted her for anything short of The Rapture.

As I grew older, I asked her why Sam Cooke’s rendition of TOUCH THE HEM moved her so.  Her answer: “JUST KEEP LIVING.” She would then impart her wisdom and knowledge of Christ’s Love upon me, informing me of how, in her darkest hours, like migrating from the segregated and racist south to the segregated and racist north as part of the GREAT MIGRATION, when losing relatives and friends to death, natural or otherwise, Christ had been there for her and would be there for me.  All I have to do is ask, not only but especially in those destitute, lonely, and forsaken times.  All I need do is reach out and touch the hem of His Garment.  Christ is ready to heal.  Have faith and believe.

A footnote here:  Ms Emma would lovingly end our heart to hearts with the following warnings:  “WHEN YOU’RE OUT IN THE WORLD (and the world meaning away from her), ACT LIKE SOMEBODY RAISED YOU.” By “raised,” she meant that someone had instilled in me Christian values, rules, and etiquette; someone actively and consistently participated in my life, and someone loved me with all their heart.  And the closer, YOU MAY BE A CHILD OF GOD, BUT YOU BETTER ACT LIKE A CHILD OF MINE.

I wonder from where such faith stems?  I wonder how you get from absolute chaos, to acceptance, to joy and contentment?  As I wondered, I came across these words from St Francis of Assisi:  START BY DOING WHAT IS NECESSARY, THEN DO WHAT IS POSSIBLE; SUDDENLY, YOU ARE DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE. (repeat)

HERE’S THE THING:  Calling on our faith, especially in arduous times, is, by no means, easy.  I have no remedy or quick solution.   I do believe, however, St Francis of Assisi has given us direction:  START BY DOING WHAT IS NECESSARY, THEN DO WHAT IS POSSIBLE; SUDDENLY, YOU ARE DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE.

The bleeding woman, hearing about Christ, journeys, in what must have been agonizing pain, to see Him. If she could just touch the hem of His Garment, she believed she would be healed.  Her “necessary” seemed to be believing in Christ and, though difficult, she made “possible” her journey.  Her impossible?  Being healed when all EARTHLY measures had failed.

My mother, knowing one journey was about to end and another begin, did, what I think, was impossible; to accept her outcome with calm and grace.  My grandmother, faced with indignities and suffering I can barely imagine, always knew Christ had her back.  All she had to do was ask.

May we find, no matter how imposing the obstacles, how difficult the journey, the courage, the strength, to reach for the hem of the garment.  Christ is there able, willing, and waiting for us.

WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS!

AMEN

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