It was a careless choice that resulted in significant trauma. I relive that choice. Every. Day. The force of regret from this experience silently envelops me in its lonely shame whether I try to run from it, attempt to cure it, or try to avoid it. It’s a slow bleed in my heart.
A significant trauma can define the contours of life, shaping your reactions, hemming you in when you want to be brave, pulling you into a vortex of what if’s that paralyze you with fear and shame. It could be anything: a choice with devastating results; a betrayal; an addiction; abuse.To stanch your heart’s internal bleeding, you've tried doctors, counselors, positive thinking. Then you've tried isolating (no one understands, anyway), or feigned apathy, or you’ve turned to something—anything--that would help you forget or at least dull the pain.
You lack hope, the notion that one day … one day the trauma will cease its slow bleed. Hope is estranged from you, and its presence in the lives of others mocks you. Will healing ever come?
But then … “one day” becomes “right now”:
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
(I used the Mark 5:25-34 passage, but you can also find the story in Matthew 9:20-22 and Luke 8:43-47.)
This story reminds me to:
- Be brave.
- Reach for Jesus.
This woman had been continuously unclean for years (Leviticus 15:19-30), leading a lonely and desperate existence. She should not have been in a crowd, and she certainly should not have been touching anyone, let alone Jesus. Her 12 years of constant shame kept her from even talking to Jesus. Instead, she stooped to grab the lowest part of His cloak in hopes (hope!) of being healed.
The woman was no stranger to disappointment after years of doctors’ promises that left her bankrupt and even sicker. But there was something different about Jesus. She must have marveled in the wake of all the people He healed. (And He healed for free!)
She saw the hope for healing, and even though it was so far away for so long, with Jesus the possibility was finally within arm's reach.
Today, we still suffer from internal bleeding. For some of us, emotional gashes caused by abuse or violence start a slow bleed in our souls. For others, the hurt can be physical. We wonder of our worth as women because of the aftermath of beating cancer, but losing a breast. Or because of an inability to carry a baby in our wombs. We feel like less-than-women--unclean.
While the disciples offer only sarcasm, how does Jesus respond to this woman defined by her issue of blood? He calls her out compassionately and specifically. Jesus acknowledges her and calls her by a different name: daughter. She is one of His own. Her identity is changed: She is no longer defined by her affliction, her uncleanness, and her loneliness. Jesus identifies her as His family, and she is commended by the Son of God for her faith. What a reversal, leaving behind 12 years of isolation and shame, and joining God’s family, commended for her faith--which pleases God the most.
For the first time, she is defined by Jesus, not by her internal bleeding.
Jesus does not change: He is the same compassionate Savior today. He is a Restorer. During times when hope feels miles away and we feel lonely and hopeless, we can reach for Jesus in honest prayer, even in the midst of fear and shame.
Other people may fail. Other people may take advantage, or mock, or be completely apathetic. We may fail ourselves. Not Jesus. He will not despise us when we reach out for Him.
He calls us daughters.
Sharifa Stevens is a wife and mother, singer, and writer. She earned a B.A. from Columbia University and a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. She lives in Dallas.