I'm one of three full time women on the faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary and during our weekly faculty meeting, I sometimes struggle to find my voice. I want to be like the woman in Mark 7:24-30 who found middle ground between silence and aggression. Her little daughter needed healing, and even though she was a Gentile, she was not afraid to tell Jesus exactly what she needed.
Jesus traveled to Tyre and did not want anyone to know he was there; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, she fell at his feet, begging him to heal her child (Mark 7:24?26). However, he was not there to minister publicly but to secure private time to instruct his disciples - so he denied her request. Perhaps Jesus did not appreciate the interruption.
In ministry, we often find we must go to male leaders for what we need. For a variety of reasons, sometimes these men are not receptive. Back in the nineties, I served as volunteer director of women's ministries in a megachurch. I was at the mercy of the male pastors for resources. But I had not yet found my voice, so during the few meetings with the senior pastor, I clammed up and did not express my needs well.
I taught the Bible to large groups of women - sometimes hundreds - and talked openly with my family and friends, but with him I was inhibited. As I interacted with this male leader, I was confused. How should I act? forceful like a savvy business woman? demure and shy like I had been taught by a Bible-study leader years earlier? I did not understand that I was his spiritual sister, a sacred sibling, so I did not act like one.
This Gentile woman in Mark 7 could easily have felt confused too, especially since she was not "one of his kind." But she did not let that deter her. She was direct and upfront because her cause was worthy. Her daughter needed healing. My cause was worthy too. I needed resources to minister to thousands of women in our church. But I allowed this man to intimidate me. Not this woman! I should have taken a lesson from her. She asked directly, but her request was denied nevertheless. What do we do then?
First let the children eat all they want, he told her, for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs. (Mark 7:27) Ouch! That hurt! Jesus painted a picture that excluded her. In the passage, the children represented his disciples who were waiting to be fed. The children's bread was figurative language for the benefits his disciples enjoyed, and the dogs were not street mongrels but probably house pets, who sat under the table hoping for a tasty morsel to fall. Jesus was not comparing her to a Gentile dog, the Jewish derogatory term for outsiders. But Jesus still denied her request - and being compared to any dog, even a pampered pet, could not have been pleasant. But she did not allow hurt feelings to overwhelm her nor did she respond defensively. Instead, she understood that she was not on his agenda for the day. But she persisted nevertheless. She believed her need was worthy to be on his agenda.