A Sick Woman

It was another bad day; she lay in bed, pain shooting through her abdomen. Sharp, mysterious pain that kept her from completing today’s work, confined to the small, straw-stuffed mattress in the corner of her tiny rented room.

The pain started when she was a girl in her late teens, accompanied by heavy, sporadic bleeding with no explanation or rhythm or reason. It was now twelve years later, and she had tried every physician, healer, mystic and medicinal herb available with no cure. No resolution to the writhing, long nights doubled over with no sleep, no solution to being perpetually unclean.

As a Jewish woman, as long as she had an issue of blood, she was unclean, excluded and untouched.

The majority of her adult life she had spent unclean.

She was older now—a sure to be lifelong spinster by her community’s standards—no husband and, therefore, no children. Her parents died years ago, which left her lonely and renting a small room in the back of the inn in which she worked behind the scenes to sustain herself—but only on the good days when her body would allow her, of course.

Her raven-colored dark hair was braided long and laid neatly beside her on the bed. She fiddled with the tie at the end readjusting it to be more secure, noticing more gray strands woven in than last year. She winced as the pain grew sharper in her abdomen. She lifted herself slowly and gently and made her way to the corner of the room where she had water boiling over a small fire. She took a thick cloth and dipped it in the bubbling pot, wringing out the excess hot water. She made her way back to her bed and pressed the hot compress on her sore muscles below her navel.

She exhaled full, the hot compress granted some relief. She closed her eyes, hopefully her body would allow her to get a couple hours of rest.

The next day, the pain was less burdensome and the inn was full of guests and chatter. She was responsible for cleaning the linens and went about from room to room gathering used sheets and cloths from guests the night before for laundering. Carefully and methodically, she replaced the mattresses with fresh linens dried on the wash line a couple days before by the warm sun. While filling up baskets with her day’s work, she overheard two men in the hall.

“They say he will be teaching in town today. I will stay clear of the town’s center, myself, it will be too crowded to make it into market as planned,” the man who was speaking thoughtfully rubbed his beard, as if contemplating how to still make his workday productive.

“I heard he has been healing people,” said the other man, skeptically. “I heard he has also been forgiving sins – but also dining with tax collectors and the like! Such a strange teacher. I think I might attempt to go and listen to him, to see for myself if these miraculous healings I have heard about are real,” the man laughed a bit to himself, as if he had told a witty joke.

Her ears perked up with the words “miraculous healings,” but she instantly became discouraged. So many people had promised her wellness with new treatments or strange prayers to foreign gods—and nothing ever happened for her. So many wages she wasted on healers, and she was still in pain.

***

That afternoon she was standing over a cloud of steam, churning large amounts of linens in a boiling pot over fire. She worked in a small stall located in the back of the stable at the inn. The rising steam had caused the thin wisps of her hair along her hairline and some pieces that had escaped her tight braid to curl and twist freely around her face, and her skin was flushed with color from her work—she looked younger, more energetic.

She used a large paddle to agitate and churn the clothes, making them clean again, new-like for tomorrow’s guests. She stopped every now and then and leaned against the stable wall to allow her body to rest; if she moved or turned a certain way too quickly, the sharp pain would return.

The innkeeper’s wife entered the stable and walked back towards the back stall where she was working.

“Here is more bedding from a late rising guest,” the wife set them gently on top of the pile of dirty linens in the corner of the stall.

“Thanks,” she replied as she methodically churned the current batch, almost like churning butter. Her arms were strong and shapely from years of the task. “Did you hear the men today talking about avoiding town due to crowds of people going to see a traveling teacher?” she asked, hoping to gather more information.

“Yes, Jesus of Nazareth—I’ve heard he’s been healing people, too.” The innkeeper’s wife gave her a knowing look. “Some people have been saying he could be the Son of God, the Messiah,” she chuckled softly and shook her head. “I don’t know about all that, but his healings have been successful, people say.”

She stood above the pot, slowly stirring, her mind contemplating this new information.

“You may go and see him, if you wish,” the innkeeper’s wife offered, “after you finish today’s work.” She smiled graciously before she walked away, back towards the inn.

If she could finish today’s work, that would be a miracle on it’s own. After being confined to bed yesterday due to pain, she had double the amount of linens to wash—which would usually take a couple of long workdays to catch up on. The speed at which she would have to do the cleaning would surely cause her more pain; perhaps she would be confined to bed again tomorrow because of it. However, if this man was the Son of God as some people say, surely he could heal her. Every other method, every other healer and physician had left her still bleeding, a little bit poorer, and even more discouraged than the unsuccessful method she tried before. Surely Jesus of Nazareth, if he was the Son of God, would be worth a try.

She took a deep breath, and in between winces and aches, she worked as fast as her body would allow her.

***

At the end of her long workday over steaming, boiling laundry, she looked disheveled and sweaty, and she was in intense pain.

Her arms were tired and sore, her legs exhausted from standing, her lower abdomen was full of sharp pains throughout. After all that effort to work more quickly, she didn’t know if she could even make the walk into town. It was late in the afternoon and evening would come shortly; it was unclear if Jesus was still teaching and meeting with people, or if he would have called it a day some time ago.

She decided to try to see Jesus anyway, ask him if he would heal her. She remembered scriptures from the Torah about the Messiah to come and she wondered if this could be him. Although she doubted he would want to be too close to her or touch her, as she was routinely unclean, she was confident that if he was the Son of God, she could be healed simply by his words.

The walk into town from the inn was short, but felt so very long and tiring as every step for her was painful. The area below her navel now felt inflamed and heavy—in addition to the sharp pain—and she grimaced and placed her hand on her lower abdomen in support, as if that would solve the issue. She wanted to fold over, lay herself on the ground without caring what any passerby thought, and just give up, just sit on the side of the road and cry and wait for someone to carry her home. She kept walking on despite the burning and the pain, and quiet tears fell down her face as she walked. She was so exhausted from dealing twelve years with this problem; it kept her from freely living and working as someone her age would. Her heart was tired from feeling so hopeless.

Just up ahead, she could hear and see a crowd of people. She made her way to the outskirts of the crowd and she saw a man, Jarius, a ruler of the synagoge, fall at another man’s feet, pleading with him for something as the crowd watched and clamored around them. The man that Jarius fell before surely must be Jesus.

She winced as she pushed through the large group of people that was moving together like a tight school of fish in the direction that Jesus was headed. Gently weaving between bodies, occasionally being jabbed by a shoulder, she was getting closer to the middle of the group.

In all her pain, she could not move very fast, and Jesus was walking faster and further ahead of her. Warm tears trailed down her cheeks; it seemed she would be unable to get his attention with so many people calling out his name. With her last bit of energy, she pushed through grown men and beggars and excitable women and children.

“If I could just touch him,” she thought to herself, “surely, if he is the Messiah, I would be healed.”

She now was in arm’s reach of Jesus, and stretching out her tired arm as far as she could, she touched the edge of his cloak.

A warmth came over her instantly; almost like a warm wool blanket that had been heated by the sun on a laundry line was wrapped around her whole body. It was as if time stopped in that moment, and a heated, full feeling was swelling up in her lower abdomen. It did not hurt. It did not burn. The feeling was that of comfort, as if she drank a glass of wholesome, warm milk that was soothing her from within. Her whole body was trembling, every muscle. She breathed deeply as if for the first time.

She did not feel the pain.

In the area under her navel, where she had only experienced sharp aching and a source of bleeding for twelve long years, she felt no pain. She had forgotten what it felt like to be normal, healthy. She knew that the bleeding had stopped in that moment as well.

“Who touched me?” Jesus called out into the crowd. One of his disciples reminded him, in such a crowd, many people were pressing against him. “Someone touched me. I know that power has come out from me.”

Her heart was racing within her, her body was still trembling, and she still felt wrapped up in an inexplicable warmth as she approached Jesus. In the dust on the side of the road, she fell at his feet.

In front of the whole crowd, the woman who had been known to be unclean for twelve years, told Jesus why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. She was kneeling, still trembling, and her eyes were full of quiet tears when Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

She looked up at him, her face was beaming; she was smiling from ear to ear and she could feel that smile all over her whole body.

“He called me daughter,” she thought to herself, as she rose to her feet.

She wanted to grab Jesus’ arm, tell him more about all the things she had tried for healing, but how nothing had worked except for him. She wanted to spend all afternoon with him, expressing her thankfulness to him by serving him a meal or inviting him, along with his disciples, to stay at the inn on her wages, but others were already talking with him about other needs.

She made her way out of the crowd, still in a bit of a daze. As she started walking in the direction of her home, she noticed how light she felt, how light her whole body felt. Although her arms and legs were tired from a hard day’s work, with a sense of energy and urgency, she began joyously running like a child towards the inn. Running was something she dare not do before the healing, but realized she could do it freely and easily today. She knew that she would now measure her life and how she lived it as before the healing and after.

She ran faster, laughing like a lighthearted little girl with the joyful tears of a grateful heart filling her eyes. As she ran, her sandals kicked up little dust clouds, her skirts flowing gracefully behind her.

She could not wait to tell the inkeeper’s wife.

****

A short story based on the events found in Luke 8:40-48, Matthew 9:18-22, and Mark 5:21-34.

MATTHEW 5:24-34

…And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

 

***

Next month marks six months since I have been healed from anxiety. It’s sort of a long story, but the gist of it is, since I was a child, I have had panic attacks, intense daily anxiety, and occasional suicidal thinking (with this last year, 2013, being the worst of it). This past January, I received prayer for healing, and in Jesus’ name, was absolutely healed. I have not had one panic attack since that day (which, on average, was at least a once a week in the worst seasons). You may not believe me one bit, you may even think I am crazy and imagining things, but it is true. I have told people in my life about this—if you are wondering why I haven’t sat down with your or called you up to tell you the story yet, honestly, I was waiting around to see if it would come back.

It hasn’t.

My conclusion? The Jesus Christ in the Bible, who walked around healing people out of compassion and with authority, who died on the cross and rose again to free us from sin and bring us into relationship with God, is still working. Still healing. Still loving. Still freeing people everyday. God cares about us—He is not dead, nor does He sleep.

I don’t have a problem with anxiety anymore, it no longer is a stronghold in my life. Sure, I still can feel anxious at times about certain things, but it doesn’t result in an overwhelming panic attack and ruin my day or evening or my week. It doesn’t affect my marriage anymore, doesn’t keep me awake at night, it doesn’t affect my workday anymore, I no longer am plagued with worry or random irrational fears, and it doesn’t make me stay in on a Saturday night because I am anxious about going to that party with people I don’t know there.

I keep waiting for it to come back and—by the grace of God—it will not.

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