Thank you, dear Noelle, for the inspiration for this post.
No one notices her slipping into the crowd, but she is used to that. She prefers anonymity. She would rather live alone in the shadows than endure the stares, the whispers, the pity.
She may have been beautiful. Now, she doesn’t know. There is no one to tell her. Not for her is the keeping of a home; not for her is the dinner table full of food and laughter, the days spent surrounded by children or grandchildren.
She may be beautiful still, but no one sees beyond the mark of her disease. Unclean. She didn’t choose this path, didn’t do anything to deserve the flow of blood that has plagued her for twelve years.
Twelve years of living apart. Twelve years of pitying glances or horrified avoidance—as if what she has might be catching. Twelve years of watching others live their lives, together.
Through the years, men appeared who said they could help her. Oh, they were only too glad to accept her money for the “cures” that brought her still more suffering. And so, bit by bit, the hope bled out of her. She tried to put away all thoughts of the life she might have had and live in the shadows, forgotten. And so, bit by bit, the world forgot her too. Even those who loved her had their lives to lead, didn’t they? They couldn’t share her disease or her fate, and she couldn’t share their freedom.
So, she retreated into silence. What choice did she have? She put away hope and focused on what life she could live as a woman rejected, bearing alone the pain of her sickness. Unclean.
When Jesus began to walk the fields and villages near her, she dismissed him as another hothead, another revolutionary just looking for followers. When people began to say he could heal disease with one touch, she closed her heart against the words. She had heard such things before. She had been victim to enough false hope.
But Jesus didn’t go away. And soon she could no longer ignore the stories of his healing. They said he even raised the dead! And then one day she saw him for herself. Right away, she knew. He was not like other men. Some long-buried seed of hope began to open and uncurl inside her.
She began to follow him, secretly, from a distance. She knew what the crowds would say if they recognized an Unclean in their midst. Fortunately, they were too focused on the Man to notice her at all. The more she saw of him, the more desperate she became. He could heal her. She knew it. But she could not ask. She would never dare.
Then the day came when she found herself in the thick of the crowd that followed him. The people were mad for this Jesus. She was surrounded and swept along, jostled in their frenzy. If only they knew they were touching an unclean woman! She pushed away the shame.
Jesus was hurrying with Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, an important man. His daughter was dying, could be dead already. The people pressed around him, hungry for another miracle. He was right there. Right there.
One touch was all it would take. She knew it. He never even needed to know. So, the woman to whom touch was forbidden reached out a shaking hand and touched the hem of his robe. In her desperation she dared to do something she had not done for a very long time. She dared to believe. One touch, and she would slip away, back to the shadows.
Immediately she felt his power. Immediately she knew herself healed. She gasped, joy flooding her heart. Healed! Me!
But then Jesus stopped. Right there in the dusty road, Jairus looking on with impatient agony, his disciples looking confused. The crowd hushed.
“Who touched me?” He said, and he was looking right at her. He knew. She stood trapped by the crowd, unable to flee. “Who touched me?” He said again.
One of the men shook his head, grinning. “Everyone is touching you, Master,” he said. “Look at this crowd!”
But Jesus just looked at her steadily. “No, someone touched me. I felt the power go out from me.”
She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t stop shaking. She was caught. She should have known she had no right. Falling at his feet, she began to weep. And she began to talk. She was so tired of being silent and unseen. She found herself pouring out the truth, not caring who heard. The crowd backed away from her. But when she looked up at Jesus, he was smiling at her, tears in his eyes.
Miraculously, he held out his hand. She placed her trembling one in his, and he pulled her to her feet. He touched her. In his eyes she saw he knew all about her. Knew, and loved her.
“Daughter,” he said. That one word claimed her as his own forever. “Go in peace. Your faith has made you well.” His eyes held hers for one instant more, and then he was gone, swept away by the urgent crowd.
He had seen her. He had known her. He didn’t have to stop, but he did. This man—important, surrounded by important people and on his way to the most urgent of tasks—he stopped for her. He could have let her go, unnoticed and uncared-for, but healed. That was all she had reached for. But he gave her so much more. He stood in the midst of the crowd and looked at her, spoke to her, gave her a voice. She gave him her story, and he held it. He held her. And in the end, he gave her a new name. Daughter.
This is what she was to him. Not “you poor thing” or “unclean” or even “once unclean.” No. She was Daughter because that was how he saw her. Her faith bound her to him. And in that one conversation, he restored her to her community. He lifted her up and let the world know who she was.
It’s just like Jesus to show us his healing is never what we expect it to be. It’s just like Jesus to go beyond what we believe for, beyond what we reach for. It’s just like Jesus to stop, to turn his back on all the important people, and see us. Hear us. Know us. Touch us.
I wonder what you have stopped hoping for. I wonder if you feel unseen, unclean, stuck in the shadows. Could you reach for Jesus? Could you believe? What might happen if you did?