Twelve years. That’s how long this woman persisted. Imagine twelve years of your life. From 12 to 24. Or 30 to 42. Maybe 70 to 82. Pick any twelve. Now imagine how much you would miss if for those twelve years, that entire span of time, you had had little human contact. No one wanted to invite you over for dinner. No one hugged you or let you cry on them. No one played a simple game with you or walked with you through the spring daffodils.
Your medical condition made you always think you were going to die, and sometimes, you wished it was true.
Imagine the shame and the disconnection and the fear.
Then you can start to appreciate the woman today who persisted. It’s one of my favorite Bible stories.
As Jesus went with Jairus, he was surrounded by the crowds. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8)
I am intrigued by this woman. She has suffered in shame for twelve years. Her medical problem is assumed to be a “feminine” one—which makes her doubly unacceptable in social situations. She probably had to hide her face in this crowd; otherwise, someone will recognize her, and the whole crowd will form a space around her, marking her by her uncleanness in a painful, public way.
Maybe you’ve been in a circle like that. Maybe as a child on the playground the others circled around you, keeping the distance of “other” and making fun of you for your clothes, your face, or your accent. Maybe as an adult you’ve felt the circle more than seen it. It forms around you if you’re divorced, or single, or another race. If you have “difficult” kids or not enough money for ladies night out.
The circle can be cruel.
This lady didn’t want a circle to form, so she crept up to Jesus, unseen, and touched the hem of his clothing. Look at this. Just. Look. At. This.
She believed she would be healed if she touched his clothes. While other people are standing in front of him, demanding his attention, calling for light shows and free bread and dances on water—this woman just wants to touch the outer fringes of Jesus. She knows this will be enough. Just the tiniest frayed thread of his hem. She believes He has that power. She doesn’t need a show to prove it.
That is faith I would give a lot for.
This woman persists for twelve years, partly, I imagine, because she has no choice. Partly, I am certain, because this faith right here is at play in her soul. She doesn’t come up with this level of faith right there on the spot. She has carried it, nurtured it, fanned its tiny, quivering flame for twelve long years. She has believed, when believing seemed futile.
And she is right. Jesus heals her, without even paying attention to her. A miracle healing occurs.
But then another miracle happens. This one she does not anticipate. This time Jesus knows full well where his power is going and what it’s doing. In fact, he’s deliberately making it happen. He insists she come out of hiding and be seen. While she had wanted, needed, to remain hidden in the crowd, Jesus calls her out of hiding. She has to tell everyone what has happened. The details. Which are very personal.
A second miracle occurs. She is not only healed of her sickness. She is healed of her shame. She is called out of the center of the circle and told she does not ever have to stand there again and listen to the mocking of the crowd. She never has to hear their judgments or see their side eyes or wonder if she will be let into the group. She is free of the shaming circle. She is healed all the way through.
Jesus’ power says that if somehow today you’re standing in the middle of a circle, you don’t need to. Whatever shame you’ve carried, you can leave it there. Whatever worry you’ve wrestled over, whatever judgment someone has rained down on you, whatever fault you can’t seem to shake—touch his cloak, leave it in the circle, and walk away free. Don’t be afraid to step into the light and look at his face as he forgives you or heals you or blesses you–whichever you need.
Jesus greatest miracle isn’t the healing.
It’s the calling into the light. It’s the demand that people be seen and known, no matter who they are or what their circumstances have been. It’s their restoration as creations and images of God.
The miracle is that we no longer have to be afraid of the light, because the circle is wide. Wide as his love. It’s ours, all thanks to a little lady who persisted.