Little Girl, Arise!
I’ve always loved the stories in Scripture of Jesus speaking to women. He came to them where they were, spoke tenderly to them, forgave them, healed them, and empowered them to new life. One of my favorites is the story of Jarius’ twelve-year-old daughter raised from the dead in Mark 5. In a hopeless situation, sweet Jesus came in His incredible power and tender mercy. He responded to faith – Jairus’ deep faith that knew who Jesus was and against all odds chose to believe that He would show up for his daughter.
Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise." -Mark 5:41
His words felt far off. I could hear His tender, insistent whisper, but I scarce believed it was real. I had accepted my fate. The doctors had given up, and I had seen the hope go out of my own mother’s eyes. My father had run off to find the Miracle Worker, but I knew that he simply could not accept defeat. He could not accept that his best attempts to save his little girl had failed.
Yet still, I heard Him calling me, “Talitha, cumi…little girl, arise. I am not finished with you yet. You are mine, and I will heal you this day. Talitha, cumi.”
Still, I resisted. I had been in pain for so long. I welcomed the release that death promised. I had no desire to be taken from the hands of death now if only to be handed back to the sickness that had ruled my young life thus far. Twelve years doesn’t seem like a long time, but when all you have known in twelve years is pain and illness, twelve years seems like an eternity. Could I trust the voice that called me back now? Was the Miracle Working Teacher really as good as my father believed?
As He continued to call my name, I could feel the life surging back into my veins. I had been born weak. Weakness was all I had ever known. But this felt different. It felt strong.
I looked up into the face that belonged to the tender, insistent voice, and His eyes too beckoned me. “Talitha, cumi,” He whispered insistently one last time, and I decided to obey Him. If it were possible that this Teacher was who my father believed He was, why not give it a chance?
I shifted my body to the side of the cot I laid on and swung my legs over the edge and onto the ground. I heard my mother gasp. I looked straight ahead and right into the weeping eyes of my father.
I rose to my feet, my meager five foot frame stretching to its full height. I half expected to buckle to the ground as I had done so many times before, but the strength I felt from the words of Jesus remained. I looked for Jesus now, but He was gone. He had spoken life into my lifeless body and left before I could even thank Him. I wondered if it would last, if the life I felt now would continue. All I could do was hope, and take my next step.
In my early teens this story, and those two words, “talitha, cumi,” took hold of me. Jesus spoke them to my heart as clearly and tenderly as Jarius’ daughter must have heard them that day. Over the years, they have become an anthem of mine, a high place to stand “when my heart is overwhelmed...the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:2).
A few months ago I had the words “talitha cumi” tattooed on my left inner-arm as a permanent reminder and testimony to the incredible power Jesus has over death and the abundant life He longs for us to live. I wanted this reminder on my arm because I do not live this way. I’m sure I’m not alone. We do not live as though “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in [us]" (Romans 8:11). We live as though we are still cursed, and it sits on our hearts like a chain and holds us down from the inheritance Jesus died for. We are called to life by a Savior who by His very nature “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
The way Jesus interacted with women in the New Testament was shocking. In a culture where women were not considered worthy of conversation, Jesus went out of His way to talk with the women overlooked by the rest of society. He spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4), the woman with an issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48), and a twelve-year-old girl in Mark 5. It was women who first saw Jesus when He rose from the dead. The intentional love, care, and respect Jesus showed women leaves us no room to wonder what His heart is towards us, His daughters.
We see this radical celebration of womanhood in the Old Testament as well. God used the Jewish woman Esther to save her people. He used Ruth, a Moabite woman, to carry on the line of His Messiah. Jesus was not kidding around in His declaration of a new approach to what it means to be female. Read these stories. Read them until you’ve memorized them and the truth that they carry sinks into your bones. Listen to the call of Jesus on our lives as His royal daughters. Meditate on the stories of these women who God showed Himself to in radical ways (Esther, Ruth, Mary Magdelene, Samaritan woman, etc...), and then keep reading! Read biographies of mighty women of God who have come before us. Women like Gladys Aylward, Corrie Ten Boom, Elizabeth Elliot, and the list goes on and on.
Jesus just might speak to you through these stories. I don’t claim for a minute to understand fully what it means to be a woman of God, but I know that the very same Jesus who put resurrection in our veins made us women for a reason. He longs for us to follow Him into His tender love that will show us all that it means and more.
While you may claim to be living in the power of Christ, do you live as though you have the strength to truly forgive someone who has offended you? Do you rise in the power of Jesus to put to death envy before it destroys more friendships? Do you trust that the love of Jesus is big and wide, and can reach the deepest needs of your longing heart where no relationship, no amount of money, and no social status can hold a candle to?
One of my favorite authors, Henry Nowen, points out that so often we claim to be in Christ but continue to live in defeat: “Sometimes it seems as though I want to prove to God that my darkness is too great to overcome” (The Return of the Prodigal Son, pg. 53). Why do we deny the promise of power within us? Love himself has chosen to make His home in our hearts and longs for us to find our home there as well.
I may not have it all figured out, I do know that living in Christ does not mean allowing who you are to be defined by the expectations of this world, but by your Creator. Claim the victory over eating disorders and gossip, and rise into the incredible “hope [that] does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
As I felt Jesus calling to me, I share His words with you:
"Little girl, arise. You’ve been set free. I’ve paid the price, I’ve split the sea, I’ve rescued you from the slavery you were bound under. All your fears, insecurities and doubts are drowned in my perfect love that I lavish on you every day if you were only to take a moment to notice. I did not raise you from the dead for you to live in bondage any longer. So, arise and claim the title you’ve been given. Declare it over every scheme of the devil. Arise.”