Tuesday, July 03, 2012

In Her Own Words: The Hemorrhaging Woman

It started about 12 years ago. I can’t really pinpoint the day things started going wrong. I was tired all the time. I felt like there was this constant drain on my life. It wasn’t like it was a huge, dramatic event. Life just got gradually got worse and worse. I hurt, I didn’t have any energy, I seemed to catch just about every illness that went through town.

When it got so bad that I couldn’t take care of my daily errands, I knew I had to do something. I called the doctor. He hemmed and hawed and said he needed to consult with colleagues. He suggested a certain medicine. I went to the pharmacist, and it cost more than twice what I was expecting. I was on that prescription for a few months before we decided it wasn’t doing anything. Hundreds of dollars down the drain.

I was getting used to being at home. It was far too inconvenient, and far too taxing, to travel around town. A small trip to the market sapped all my energy. I did make one big trip, to the city. Somebody – one of my neighbors, I think - suggested this specialist might be able to help me. That doctor said he’d have to research the literature, that I was a unique, and interesting case. After that trip, I gave up on Western medicine. I tried acupuncture. I did internet searches, staying up all night long. I found this website – there was a combination of natural supplements that might do the trick. I was running out of hope, so I ordered in bulk, even though it put my checkbook into the negative. I waited impatiently for the mail to arrive – about the only thing I could muster the energy for.

When I went out to the mailbox, the kids in the neighborhood would look at me, and point. I could almost hear them…”there’s that crazy lady”, they said. “Yeah, the one who never leaves her house!” “Well, she’s out there now! Don’t look her in the eye, it might be catching!” Let them think what they wanted. It didn’t matter. Days in front of the computer evolved into days on the sofa, weeks in bed. Somebody from church had groceries delivered every week, but I just let them ring the doorbell and leave the bags on the porch. I didn’t want any visitors. I’d spent everything trying to get better, and I only seemed to get worse.

Then, one day, when I cracked open the door to the porch, to bring in the bag of groceries that was my lifeline, I saw a note atop the bag, a note from my prayer partner. Inside the envelope was the following: “Dear Grace – there’s somebody new in town. Word is that people with all sorts of chronic illnesses have gone to him to be healed. They say he can change lives with nothing more than a touch! I’ve heard of people bringing handkerchiefs to him to be blessed, to give to people who are laid up in the hospital. I don’t know if you’d be interested, but they say he’s going to be at the fairgrounds this weekend. - J” And a little bit more… “ps – It’s all quite exciting. Everybody seems to know about him, there are crowds wherever he goes. Getting out might do you some good. Why don’t you call me?”

I shook my head. The last thing I needed was more false hope. I went to bed. Despite myself, I started wondering what it would be like to meet him. What would a modern-day miracle man look like? Would he have a magic wand? Carry an aura of power? Look like some earthy-crunchy leftover from an earlier decade? “Silly,” I said to myself. “Stupid. Pointless.”

But the idea kept growing. Saturday dawned clear and sunny. I got up. ‘Why not open the curtains,” I thought. Before I knew it, I was standing in front of my closet, looking for something to wear. When I stepped outside, I realized just how crazy it was. What in the world was I thinking? I walked down the sidewalk. As I got closer to the fairgrounds, more and more people joined me. Here I was, worrying about being conspicuous, and nobody even noticed one more person in the crowd.

I thought about going back home. It was so bright out, and all these people were so noisy! Way too much energy out here, too much hustle and bustle. My legs were getting shaky from the effort. This was more than I’d walked in years. Suddenly, I saw a knot in the crowd. A surge of excitement carried the people around me forward. My breath caught in my chest. I couldn’t turn around now, even if I had wanted to. We were packed elbow to elbow. I would have been trampled, if I slowed down, if I tried to go back home. I was almost lifted off my feet by the crush of people. This group up ahead looked important. “That must be him,” I thought. “Something big seems to be happening, I wonder what it is,” and the people around me kept exchanging their own thoughts, excitedly.

And then, the world stopped. Well, the people around me stopped. I stopped. He stopped. Time seemed to stop. You see, when the crowd slowed down, momentum kept moving me forward. I tripped, stumbled, fell forward on my shaky legs. And I landed – horrors – landed with my hand, outstretched, touching him!

As I bent there, on my knees, I could feel something different inside me. The pain, the tightness, the sense of not-right-ness – they were all, each and every one of them, gone! My plague of 12 years, my constant companion had suddenly, and without warning, stopped. I was tongue-tied with amazement. I had spent the past 12 years being painfully aware of every twinge in my body, every signal that my lifeblood was draining away, every piece of me that had stopped working properly as a result. I knew this body. And I knew, without a doubt, that this time in my life was over. I felt whole, for the first time in years.

 But then, I found myself afraid. He stopped, he turned around, he somehow knew, that he had been touched. A circle formed around us. It was like our own personal stage, like we were acting out something that had happened before. I started shaking all over. I started stammering, trying to explain what it was I knew. I’m sure I sounded like a total idiot to everyone there. And before I could continue, his words calmed me. ‘Daughter,’ he said – with so much love in his voice – ‘daughter, you have been healed, go in peace.’ And I stood up, and slowly walked back home, feeling like finally, I was alive, part of the human family once more.

Thanks be to God.

Text:  Mark 5:21-43 - Preached at McFarland UCC on 7-1-2012

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