I wonder if our idea of healing might be short sighted? Do we think only of the arm being healed of its broken bone, or the cancer removed from the body, or the headache to disappear? I wonder if there is a story to our suffering that goes far beyond the story of our bodies? Do our bodies carry the suffering of our live’s story? Does my suffering speak about things beyond the physical?
I read the story of the bleeding woman this morning. It is told in the three synoptic gospels, so I read all three. This woman had been suffering from bleeding for 12 years and had heard of Jesus. Her body cried out for healing, and though she was in a place of shame, hidden from society and an outcast, she heard about Jesus and had faith that compelled her out of hiding to go into a crowd and touch him. She didn’t want to be seen, for she wasn’t supposed to be out in public. It appears she didn’t want to inconvenience Jesus, for she only wanted to touch his robe, not even his person. She wanted to be freed from her bleeding and had faith to believe that in Jesus she could be.
She simply wanted her bleeding to stop.
But, something caught my attention in the reading this morning. In the Mark account, something much greater took place. Look at this, “Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.”
Her bleeding had stopped and she was freed from her suffering.
Jesus turns around and speaks, “who touched me?”
A seemingly silly question when he was in a large crowd with people pressed against him. But, again, Jesus knew why he was asking the question. He looked around, the whole crowd that was with him, were probably wondering too. Imagine the scene. The bleeding woman touches him, power leaves him, she is free and healed and is sneaking away, he stops, the crowd then stops, he is looking around, the crowd puzzled looking around, the woman feels caught, visible and guilty announces her self, she then- in front of the crowd speaks her shame – tells her whole story, he gives her a new name, “Daughter”, announces her faith, sends her freedom from suffering and in peace.
I imagine the crowd didn’t quite know what to do with the whole situation. A banned woman was out in public, did people see her and wonder if they became unclean by accidentally touching her? Did they judge her immediately when they saw her? Did their opinion of her change as she was declared a daughter and free?
I wonder what the experience was like for the disciples? Did they see how Jesus brought her out of darkness and set her in light? Did they pick up on the fact that she was suffering and he had freed her completely? Did they listen to her whole story and judge her, then judge Jesus because he was touched by her? Did they have compassion on her situation? Did they take anything from the situation, or were they shocked by it all? Could John see what Jesus was doing? Did he remember Jesus’ words, “turn around and believe?” Did he see them in action in the woman?
And, the woman, she had been suffering for years. She was hidden from people. She was a cast away, sent outside of the city to a special place for people just like her. She was separated from her family, did they miss her? Were they ashamed of her? Could they visit her? She was invisible and though she longed to be visible, she snuck to Jesus, barely touched his robe, not his body (thus making him unclean), and snuck away. Did she still have shame as she was sneaking away? Was Jesus asking who touched him an invitation to visibility for the woman? Did he ask her to speak, because he wanted all to know that she was clean? Did her posture change?
Jesus healed her bleeding issues, but he also freed her from her suffering. Something in her body held the story of personal suffering that went deep below the surface of her health problem. There was suffering that was far worse than the bleeding. Jesus met her there and brought freedom and peace. He healed her of her shame and her unacceptability, just as he healed her body of its physical issues.
Jesus is complete in all he does. He touches the leper, eats with tax collectors, allows friends to die and he heals, restores reputations, and brings people back from the dead. He is about resurrection, complete life healing that restores much more than breath, bad behavior and disease. He invites individuals and all those watching to turn around, believe he is doing a new thing, and the old has died (yes death is involved) and the new has come.
Where are you begging Jesus for healing? Where is your shame? Where do you hide and what causes you to do so? Do these places seem hopeless? Are you willing to walk into the heart of your shame and pain to believe that healing is on the other side? Are you willing to be seen in your shame to then be seen in your freedom?
To be honest, I am not always willing. In fact, sometimes my shame seems so deeply imbedded that healing seems like an impossibility and a waste of effort in faith. A futile, and empty hope…
This is simply the truth. It’s not pretty, but it is true. And I wonder if it is the seed of belief? Is hopelessness actually the seed of hope? Is unbelief the seed of belief? Is suffering the seed of healing? Are they all invitations to turn away from the suffering and look to Jesus? Are they the prompting for something more beautiful than I could ask or imagine?
I have more questions than answers at this point. But I wonder. I look at the story of the bleeding woman and I can not help but see myself. I hold pain and suffering and they have stayed hidden in secret shame filled places. Could my body actually invite me to freedom from all of my suffering? Could yours?
I think today I will come out of hiding, turn to Jesus and tell him the whole truth.