This morning I’m a woman with a flow of blood. I’ve suffered with this terrible problem for 12 years.
It’s funny the stages we go through whenever we have a big problem. First, there is the developing recognition of the problem, and then the hope that it is really nothing. Then comes the growing acknowledgement that this might be a bigger problem than we realize, and then the hope that it will go away by itself.
As things progress and get worse, you realize that maybe you won’t be able to solve the problem all by yourself, and you begin to seek help. You ask around, discreetly asking if anyone has had a similar problem and if so how have they gotten relief. You get lots and lots of advice, and as the pain gets worse you become more and more willing to try different things.
I went with a lot of faith that the first physician I went to would heal me. He came highly recommended, and he assured me he knew just what to do. I stayed with him for a year because there was always “one more thing” he could try. More time and, of course, more money were always needed. One of my friends persuaded me to try another doctor. This got to be a regular habit, but already by the third doctor my faith in physicians was not well.
I started to get worse, which meant I went to more doctors. Each one had something new to offer that turned out to be the same quackery. At some point, it simply became a part of my life, and I secretly believed that this was to be my lot in life. Even as my physical discomfort grew worse, I became weary of always being unclean and having to remove myself from social situations. I felt more and more like a leper, and even most of my sisters in faith began to quietly walk away from me. I guess I just wasn’t much fun to be around anymore.
Being separated from the people of God, I grew apart from my Lord as well. You can imagine how earnestly I prayed in the beginning, after I’d accepted that I had a problem. I have to say that I was pretty strong for the first year or so. But as the blood continued to flow, I felt my life oozing away from me. I reasoned, in a fog of feebleness, that if God was going to give me this sickness without my asking for it then He could also take it away without my asking for it. At some point, I reached a spiritual equilibrium in which I wasn’t exactly dead but I wasn’t exactly alive either.
After 12 years of this, I felt like a ghost, doomed to wander the earth. By now I had spent all my money on doctors. I was weaker than ever, and my life was spiraling downward. I had nothing left other than my weaknesses and a small ember of faith in God.
And then I heard that Jesus was coming. I almost turned back twice, partly out of doubt, partly out of discouragement and despair. Besides, there was no way someone like me could get close to the great Master, even if I wanted to. I was ritually unclean, and this man was clearly a man of God. How could He possibly find me acceptable in His sight? And yet if He is from God, He’ll understand. He might even have mercy on me. Even if . . . even if . . . . But there are too many people. I’d have to part the Red Sea even to be able to get near Him. And yet . . . .
As I got closer, I knew that He could heal me. I couldn’t believe that no one else had thought of my idea. I couldn’t believe that the whole crowd wasn’t fencing Him in and taking turns touching Him so they could be healed. Why were they here, unless to hear Him and touch Him? Maybe my faith wasn’t quite as small as I’d believed it was. I think I’d just forgotten what it felt like and how to use it.
Well, you know the story. I used the crowd to hide me. I snuck up behind Him, scarcely able to keep up, in spite of the way the throng slowed Him down. I found that my faith was not as weak as I’d thought and found the grace from God to think remarkable thoughts: “This man is so holy, so truly from God, that if only I touch His clothes, I shall be made well. How funny this would be, if true. After I’d spent my life’s savings on quacks, after giving myself up for dead, how funny if this Man asked for nothing and all I had to do was to touch Him!”So that’s exactly what I did. I touched a part of His garment that was billowing out toward me. I didn’t think anyone would notice or care.
And then things went crazy! I felt immediately within me that I was healed. I’m not sure how I knew, but I knew! By this time, I had stopped walking, and so Jesus was now ahead of me. He stopped and asked the crowd, “Who touched my clothes?”
What kind of a Man is this who not only healed me but also could tell that someone had barely touched his clothes?
He looked around and talked to His disciples, but He kept looking around. And then He found me. I became weak again, but this was a very different kind of weakness. I was weak before One who I suddenly knew was divine. Only now could I see who He really was, only after I had made that first weak move, enabled by His presence and grace. Only now could I see how blind I’d been to try and rely on myself. What a fool to trust in myself or in other humans with a problem that only God could solve!
How strange, that when I had plenty I didn’t feel as much like I needed God, but now that I’d lost all – my health, my wealth, and my friends – suddenly the God who gave me all these things was more real. What a strange way to go about healing people, but that is what the Great Physician did for me, in my poverty and weakness.
I came before Him with weakness, because I was a miserable sinner whom He had healed. I had no strength to say anything but only to fall down before Him. I knew then that this was my Master and my Lord. He was the one who had healed me, when all the earth’s doctors and I myself could not. I wanted nothing other than to be with the One who had healed my body and who I knew could also heal my broken, sinful spirit. I wanted to wrap my arms around Him, but did not dare. But I remained at His feet, for it was all I could do.
Only then was I able to open mouth, and I told Him the truth. I told Him everything. It all spilled out at once. I told Him why I was so desperate and how long I’d suffered. I told Him I was sorry for trusting in myself and doctors and for not being as faithful as I should have been. I told Him I was sorry for having made Him unclean by touching Him. And then I began crying from years of stored up pain, and from thankfulness, and from wonder. He patiently listened to it all.
And do you know what He said? “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
Can you imagine the peace and joy and thanksgiving that filled my heart? There is no way I could possibly describe it to you. But maybe some of you have been healed like I was and know what I’m talking about.
Prayer: Glory be to you, Son of God, because your healing power was revealed and proclaimed to the crowd through the hidden suffering of this afflicted woman. Through my life and your healing in it, which others are able to see, may the people around me see You. See my hidden faith today, Lord, and gave me a visible healing. Especially give me the gift of faith and a willingness to proclaim You to others. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- Have you forgotten the healing God has done in your life? Find a way to remember God’s salvation and healing in your life, and find an appropriate way to give Him praise and thanksgiving.
- Do you have a “flow of blood” in your life today? What is keeping you from turning more completely to the Lord in faith? No matter how small your faith, turn to Him today and ask for His healing.
Resolution: I resolve to meditate today on how this woman’s faith can instruct me in my faith.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson