Saturday, November 26, 2011

Breaking the Rules

I was a woman of the shadows, living on the borders of life. My place was on the edge of the community, but never part of it. For twelve years I had been unclean, because of my bleeding, cut off from the life of my own people, shunned from the feasts and the worship. After a while I came to believe I was shut off from God as well. If He loved me, if He wanted me, why did He curse me with this shameful condition that left me alone in the darkness?

Twelve years of bleeding. Twelve years of mess and discomfort. Twelve years of always feeling tired and weak from the loss of blood. Twelve years of feeling like I had failed at being a woman. Twelve years of seeking out every doctor in the district, hoping one of them would have a cure. Twelve years of being subjected to painful and humiliating “cures” that never solved my problem but just added to my suffering. Twelve years of spending money I could not afford in order to seek healing, until all my money was gone. Then the doctors lsot all interest. Twelve years of watching my neighbours withdraw from me, and the judgemental looks in their eyes. Surely I had committed some terrible sin to be so afflicted? Twelve years of questioning my own heart and life, trying to understand what my terrible sin had been. Twelve years of despair, and loneliness, and pain.

Sometimes, when the town was busy and crowded, I would slip out and mingle with the crowds. Under my veil, nobody noticed me. I knew I was breaking the rules, since anyone who came in contact with me in the crowd would be unclean also, but if they didn’t know, did it matter? Yes, God would know, but since I was already outcast from His presence, unable to venture near synagogue or temple, I didn’t really care.

And this day there was a special reason for the crowd. Jesus was here. I had heard the stories – how He taught like nobody else taught, and healed like nobody else healed; and the thought came to me that if only I could touch the hem of His garment, maybe, just maybe, I would be healed. It was madness, of course – the very idea of an unclean person, and a mere woman at that, going up and touching a rabbi was insane. It broke all the rules I had known since infancy. But in a desperate situation, you think of possibilities you would never have dared consider otherwise; and I had nothing left to lose. So, veiled and hidden in the shadows of my own garments, I forced my way through the crowd. It was unladylike; but in that milling excitement no one really noticed.

And then – I touched Him. I brushed the hem of His garments with the tips of my reaching fingers, and the bleeding stopped immediately! Not only that, but the lassitude and weakness was gone from my bones, and felt as if I could stand up tall and strong. I thought I would melt back into the crowd and disappear into world of shadows to study whether I still carried shame.

It was not to be. “Who touched me?” He demanded, and in the end, seeing His insistence, I had to step forward and, shamefaced, admit what I had done. I was a mess of misery and embarrassment, for here all my shadowed places were being held up to the light. What I had failed to understand was that light added from a different direction can make the shadows disappear.

And so it was.”Daughter”, He said, with infinite tenderness, “your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” It was only then that I dared to raise my eyes and look into His, and my whole world changed. I had feared judgement and longed for mercy, but this was more than mercy. It was understanding and affirmation. It was love. He had healed so much more than my body.

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