When Baby C’s eczema was at its worst, I was willing to try anything for a healing. Creams, lotions, oatmeal baths… I even bought a necklace said to help soothe the acidic nature of the skin. I had a small glimpse into the world of feeling confounded by what the body could do to the soul.
So when I read this morning about the Bleeding Woman, my heart goes out to her. First for enduring the challenge of bleeding for 12 years. But her situation sent her in different directions than what we would encounter today. Thanks to The Red Tent
, it’s more publicly known that a woman bleeding was a woman banished.
The train of thought during these less “advanced” years centered around blood being a symbol of a person’s life. So along with women each month, men and women with seeping sores or other skin diseases that exposed flesh were asked to step outside the community until they could get things back under control. I heard it taught that this is why Jewish people (and I’m sure other ancient cultures) were firm on not eating the blood from a source of meat. If a person were to take in that blood, you’d take in the life of that being. (This train of thought adds a significant perspective on Jesus’ instructions around communion). So people were generally asked to keep their blood to themselves.
So this woman has lived 12 years outside of community, outside of the normal patterns of life. She’s seen doctors and been treated badly. She’s tried to do her part to live well and be healed. She wants her body healed.
But then, there’s also her soul. Logistically, as long as she’s bleeding, she’s not conceiving. And in that particular time and place, that was the primary role of a woman. Countless other stories tell of women unable to produce babies for their husbands, unable to fulfill their life purpose. No matter your stance on feminism and mothering and women’s choices, this was simply the way of life for the culture (right or wrong in your eyes, please don’t invalidate the feelings and experiences of the women of this era).
The bleeding woman wasn’t just missing out on bridge club and church. She wasn’t just facing a physical malady, slightly more inconvenient prior to the creation of Kotex.
She was bleeding out the purpose for her life. Everything she’d been told she could and would do with her future pools in a puddle in her sheets each morning.
So when Jesus comes to town, touching a hemline seems like a small price to try to find healing. She steps out and finds what she was seeking. It worked.
And somehow, Jesus knew it. “Who touched me?” he asks amid a large, jostling crowd. The disciples think him ridiculous, when clearly he’s being touched and pushed and prodded. But he knew that someone was grasping at more than his attention.
The Bleeding Woman was past asking for permission. She was through begging for assistance. She was taking her own steps of faith. When she touched Jesus, she was healed not because Jesus commanded it so, but because she believed it to be. She knew Jesus to be a generous healer – this gift was not the result of her works, but His power – but something can be said for her coming to him ready to be healed.
I wonder where my life purpose is bleeding out. I wonder how my longings and dreams and visions trickle down my leg as I turn to other things or people to find healing. I wonder what life would look like if I exercised the faith of the Bleeding Woman and reached for the robe of the one who could give me back my purpose and my energies. The one who could put me right with my community. I wonder how I could be changed if I stepped into the crowd with the purpose of knowing Jesus’ power would reach me.