Category: suffering

The Woman who Bled for 12 Years

Recently Matt preached about the woman with the issue of blood, and as part of that service, I wrote a monologue to read before the sermon began. Here it is!

I have been invisible for 12 years.

I felt myself wasting away from the inside out, felt strength withering from my bones in the heat each day.

I hate crowds, hate the crush of flesh and smells and sounds, like an ocean current cutting through the city, carrying a life that I’ll never know. People going to work, to weddings, running errands and meeting friends. That day the crowd was waiting for Jesus, hoping to see a show, and I watched from a doorway, kept my distance as usual.

It can be glamorous to be sick, if you know the right people, if you get the right disease, if you get better. I failed on all counts.

People cared at the beginning, brought meals, said prayers. But when the prayers go unanswered, you run out of things to talk about. “How are you?” Starts every conversation. And ends it because my eyes can’t lie – I am dying, drop by drop in slow motion shame. My skin aches for a kind touch, but my disease is polluting – like I’m spiritually contagious, waiting for forgiveness not for sin that I’ve committed but for the person I am.

My family is gone, and my friends gave up on me a long time ago – they moved on with their lives while mine has been stuck on pause. Until that day when Jesus came and Jairus asked him to heal his daughter. I know snake oil healers, catch the gleam in their eye when they promise what a difference silver coins will make, and when mine were all spent they melted back into the crowd.

Jesus was different.

When he went with Jairus, the crowd almost swallowed him up, so eager to see a miracle they would have crushed him on the way. But while the crowd pulsed, Jesus didn’t hurry – his measured steps were so sure, that I suddenly realized he was my only hope. He was actually going to heal a sick girl, not just put on a show and collect a paycheck. I pulled my veil over my face and pressed through the crowd. The flesh and the smells and the sounds swelled around me, and I gasped like drowning, but this was no time to die, not when life itself was passing within my reach.

I lurched through the crowd, shoving past bodies much bigger and stronger than my frame, eyes locked on Jesus’ back, giving no notice to the gasps and murmurs of those who realized my condition. If anyone could heal me it was this gentle, yet determined man who was on his way to a noble cause and wouldn’t even notice, if I could only touch the hem of his garment.

When I reached him and touched his cloak, it felt like reaching cool shade after walking through parched fields in hot sun. It felt like cool, clean water from a well after 12 years of drinking from puddles and streams. It was so good to be whole, that at first I didn’t realize the crowd had stopped. That the ocean current driving to Jairus’ house had stopped, and that people were staring. At me.
Jesus had noticed, of course he had, and while I stood stunned, feeling my heart beat and the wind on my face while everything else was on pause for a change, he saw me. I was no longer invisible.

When I found my voice, I fell at his feet and told him my story – I have been bleeding for 12 years, and nobody has been able to help me, but when I saw you I knew – I just knew – that you could make me well. And when I touched your cloak I was healed, and I will never ask for anything again in my life. He smiled at me and said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

And it was so.

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“Knowing that you were ransomed… not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.”
1 Peter 1:18-19a

A House in the Sky tells the true story of Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian woman who was kidnapped and held hostage for over a year in Somalia. Eventually she was rescued after her family raised a huge ransom. This story came to mind when I was reading this passage, as I reflected on friends who are going through a hard season.

As a believer in Jesus, sometimes it feels like God has paid the ransom for us to be free from sin, but he hasn’t yet enacted our rescue. We are still subject to the consequences of sin – war, illness, heartbreak, doubt, fear and loneliness.

Peter reminds his readers not to lose hope in the face of trials because our ransom was not paid with a currency that will ever pass away. There are millions of dollars spent to buy freedom for hostages around the world, and the amounts boggle our minds because they can be higher than we’ll ever see in our lifetime, but we know that we would pay the same or more to save our loved ones. Regardless of the amount, nobody would ever pay a ransom and then leave their loved one to rot. How much more will God rescue us, who have been freed by a price that Christ paid with his blood?

Yes, trials will come to us. Our freedom has been bought, but when outside forces hold us down, we can face those circumstances as freed people whose rescue is certainly on the way.

Mrs. Job

Sahara In A Rainy Day

Henri Nouwen says that the purest form of prayer is listening. I have been trying to remember to leave more space in my prayers for God to speak, to guide my prayers or to answer my questions, to say what He wants to say.

Recently while praying for someone I love, Job’s wife came to mind. I wondered into the stillness of an open-ended prayer what she had to do with this situation where a person of strong faith is suffering. She is famous for being not the most supportive wife when her husband was afflicted by Satan himself as a test of his faith. As Job mourns the loss of all his children, his vast material wealth and sits in ashes scraping boils with broken pottery, she chimes in with a single line of dialogue:

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Remember the Poor

“Only they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”
-Galatians 2:10

This is not me. To be perfectly honest, I’d rather not remember the poor, because the less I think about those who have less than me, the easier it is to be self-indulgent and self-pitying about how little I have.

In reality, I have far more than I need. I know it deep down, and I know it when I take the time to be grateful that there is money left over when we pay our bills, which is more than many many people can say. We eat good food, and I have to say that my heart has caught in my throat a time or two with just how happy I am to watch Torre eat a whole peach’s worth of slices,

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Good Friday Reflections

Now at the feast [Pilate] used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was  a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. (Mark 15:6-15)

Today as this passage was read at our Good Friday service, I was haunted by the contrast between Jesus and the crowd. My own attitude and response to circumstances are so much closer to the fickle crowd, stirred up and impatient for results. Jesus was the Messiah they didn’t want, proclaiming a kingdom that is like the grain of a mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds on the earth (Mark 4:31). The Jews were tired of living off crumbs, under the thumb of violent oppressors, and the people were not interested in a leader who was beaten and spit upon without offering any retaliation. It doesn’t seem that anyone was under the impression Barabbas was the Messiah, but at least he was a man of action, someone who was willing to shed blood for the cause of his people.

Jesus had taught his disciples, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3), but the crowd had lived through Herod’s slaughter of the innocents when every baby boy under 2 was killed in Bethlehem and the whole region. Who in their right mind would become like a child to pursue God’s kingdom? No, there must be some other way, and the people’s rejection of Jesus could buy them time, helping them appear loyal to the Roman empire while they waited for God to send someone to actually deliver them. The high priest advised the people that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. (John 18:14)

So today I was slapped in the face because my response is the same as the crowds: I choose to believe God if I think it will work.

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