Story Un-done (imagining the woman who believed)

She holds hope steady, most days, careful with every step. She keeps it close, far from eyes that would condescend, words that would weaken the flame of maybe…of some day. For she is the story heard too many times. Sympathy runs out, she has learned, and the hopeless are pushed aside.

It is too hard, too difficult to keep building up the possibility of change when the suffering stretches on without end, and so days have piled upon days–years upon years– and even those who love her speak no hope.

For hasn’t she used up all of their condolences, tried each piece of advice to find none that fit? Solutions have run like water through her fingers. Healers have only taken from her, leaving her with nothing except pain that only grows stronger.

And so she is irrelevant. Avoided, for these past years, like one who is cursed. And she can’t blame anyone for it – for what good is a woman who cannot be present in her own life? What future for a wife who cannot live as one with her husband?

They fear her, fear becoming like her.

She understands. But understanding makes it no easier to be alone, no easier to live without even a simple touch from another. Understanding does not lessen the grief of all she has lost.

There are no more answers. Instead, they all whisper to each other the reasons for her suffering. They come up with nothing, she is sure, that her husband has not already suggested.

There must be unconfessed trespasses. Offenses gone too far for forgiveness. Her heart must be impure. He has asked again and again – what sin does she harbor? What lie does she live?

If she insists on innocence, then this is her lot in life. And if the Almighty has made it so, then no longer should she search for healing. No longer should she pray for a miracle. No longer should she hope.

She understands that giving up hope will free him to do what he will with her — to free him from her.

It’s his desire and so she says goodbye, goodbye and a blessing for his future without her.

She tries not to think of him, tries to forget their first years together, when it seemed all she’d wanted – love and a family of her own – was hers.

But even in her mourning, she does not let go of the light, no – she holds it closer still.

**********

As she sips tea in the garden, her eyes on the stars, her mind is full of the rumors flying through the town. Usually, she closes her ears to the latest gossip, the news of the people that has nothing to do with her. But these weeks have held tale after tale of a Nazarene moving about from town to town – a man preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven, a man leaving healing in his wake. Leprosy, paralysis, blindness, illness – ailment after ailment, gone with the touch of his hand. Even those tortured by demons are at peace, at last free –

–a rush of blood from her body leaves her light-headed and she places the tea carefully to the side. Oh, to be free. She breathes deeply, considers the moon in its pale glory, and wonders where he is now, this man of miracles.

With his name on her lips, she prepares for the night’s sleep, alone. It is a cold night and she shivers beneath the thin blanket.

Yes, some days the flame within her flickers low, with barely enough light to force her eyes open to face another day.

For who on this earth can change the ending to her story?

There is none. She knows it quite well.

*********

Her dreams are crowded. There’s Sarah, laughing into her hands at the prophecy of a son…and, again, rocking Isaac in wrinkled arms against a bosom renewed with life. There’s Hagar, crying out in the desert over her dying son…and a well bursting forth where there’d been only hot sand. She dreams of Hannah, years gone by without a son, weeping before the Lord…only turning around with a pile of coats in her arms and a smile on her face for her Samuel. There is Joseph, abandoned in a pit and sold as a slave, saving a nation. And, there, the face of the prophet and his words exuberant in her ears – Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows

She wakes, his name the first of her thoughts.

Who on this earth can change her?

No man, but she cannot give up on the I AM.  For if it will be to His glory, if it will be to His purpose, the endings change.

She knows that she is only a woman. One of many daughters of Israel, but does that mean He cares any less for her than He did for Hagar or Hannah?

Her favorite stories always have been of the mighty man beginning as murderer, the hero as frightened villager…the king as shepherd.

It seems to her that the I AM does not require a human of renown, only a human willing to believe in Him. She thinks of the promises the prophets spoke, of the Messiah her people long for…could this Nazarene – one who casts out evil and takes sickness away with a word – be the promised One?

The Messiah, he is coming, this is all she knows.

I believe. She says it loud, to the darkness and to the pain that keeps her from sleep. Slowly, carefully, she moves to a window and looks again to the sky. Again, she surrenders herself to the Almighty. For even if she is to live all her days with this burden, He has been the comfort of her years and has not abandoned her despite the declarations of priests and family alike that she is unworthy to enter the temple.

Never could she say it aloud to anyone without accusations of blasphemy, but it seems to her that though she could not find admittance into the dwelling of the I AM, the I AM has come to where she dwells. Only to Him can she attribute any peace of mind. Only to Him can she credit her joy, even now, in the beauty of this world that disdains her. “The Lord is my shepherd,” she says. “I shall not want.”

In the dim but steady light of the moon, she holds it deep within her, the glowing flame of faith that she refuses to live without. 

*******

Little Joshua knocks on the door, his basket of fruit nearly empty.

“There isn’t much left to buy,” he says with a shrug. “Too many people in the streets today. They were hungry.”

“Why were there so many?” she asks, keeping her careful distance.

He grins, sudden like a flash of lightning. “The prophet from Galilee is on his way through,” he says. “I saw him myself.”

“Jesus?” The name dances out of her mouth in a whisper.

“Yes,” he says. “My father says he is a liar, but my mother says he is the one the prophets spoke of because no liar can make a blind man see.”

Her skin wakens like a cool wind washes over her and she knows only one thing: she must see him.

********

Her eyes search the crowd.

She wonders at the way they follow casually, some eating chunks of bread, some laughing at a newly told joke, some gossiping about the man and his miracles like he is a million miles away instead of right within their midst.

Have they not heard?

Have they not seen?

Can he be any other but the Promised One?

And if he be the Messiah, if he is one sent from the I AM – how are they not all on their knees? How can they not run to him with their hungry relatives, their sick brethren, their own fear-filled hearts?

She pushes past, murmurs of complaint following her. Maybe some recognize her, for they back away. Unclean, they must be whispering.

But most don’t notice. They are too busy with their conversations, their own worries.

She stops a stranger, a woman with a child clinging to her hand. “Where is he going?” she asks.

“To heal a child,” the woman says. “A dying girl.”

She nods her thanks, keeps stepping ahead, looking for the man that has brought these people together.

And, there, in the middle of it all, men walking all around him — there He is. She stops, so suddenly that someone bumps into her, muttering annoyance at the collision. Never before has she seen this man and – yet – somehow she knows Him. “Jehovah-Jireh,” she whispers. “I believe. Help me believe.”

This is her chance. Her moment to call out to Him, to receive healing.

But she stays totally still but for her eyes, which follow Him.

Because there is a little girl, so sick that her parents fear death is her fate.

She thinks of the babies she has never held, the love-loss she has mourned.

No, she will not disrupt His journey to that child. She will not hold Him back from comforting a mother who cries for her daughter, a child suffering.

She watches as He walks further and further away. An ache deep in her stomach is so sudden and sharp that she gasps aloud, bends slightly with rushed breath.

Perhaps — perhaps she can get just close enough to touch Him. Even the slightest touch of His robe — it would be enough, she is sure. She will not bother or detain Him. Only grasp the hem of his robe, just for a moment.

One foot in front of the other and the closer she gets, the more determined she grows.

Paying no mind to those blocking her path, she weaves and ducks and squeezes through until He is there, before her, and the pitter-patter heart-beat in her chest is all she feels. Almighty Lord, she prays, my life is in Your hands.

Quiet, though no one could hear her in this chaos, she steps quick and light. She stretches her arm out, fingers reaching–and the hem, it is soft between fingers for but a second and gone, pulled forward. Her hands fall back, empty.

But the weakness she has worn like a second skin drops away.

Her very bones feel brand new and she stands taller, joy like sunrise filling her with warmth. Is her skin glowing? Can her body hold such power? There is no surge of blood, no faintness of head or heart. She is whole. He has made her whole!

Oh, but the beauty of this Man and the holiness of this place!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul!” she sings it, sings it straight to the heavens, her eyes never leaving him, this prophet who is more than a prophet, this man who is more than a man.

And he stops. Stops, looks to His left and right- He says something to the men who walk by Him. They all stop, looking around and shrugging. He turns around.

The conversations of the crowd cease.

In the sudden stillness, His voice is clear – “Who touched my clothes?”

One of the men nearest reaches out to Him. “You see all these people, all crowding against you. How can you ask, who touched you?”

Her palms are slick with sweat, her legs shaking beneath her. Of course, of course He felt her touch. Despite her best effort, she has interrupted His journey, infringed on His time. She is just a woman, a woman who does not deserve this blessing — perhaps she misunderstood what was asked of her. Perhaps – of course!- she should have sought some freedom from her impurity before touching Him. A sacrifice — many sacrifices — offered in the temple…for what can she offer Him now? She has nothing.

He is still looking and she is trembling, but there is nothing to do but confess. Nothing to do but accept whatever the Holy One wills.

She moves forward and falls at His feet. She does not dare look up.

“Master, I am the one. I touched you.” Tears come fierce. “For twelve years, I have been unclean with an issue of blood that no man could heal. I’ve been forgotten by my people, but still I have waited upon the Lord – I knew I must come to You, though I didn’t want to stop You on Your journey — and, Master, I am made whole by one touch of your garment. If I have offended you with my touch, I am sorry – so sorry-” The words can no longer push through the sobs shaking her body.

“Daughter.”

His voice is low and edged only in compassion. Daughter? In His holiness, He would claim her kinship? Her nerves still and the tears slow – she looks up.

“Daughter,” He says again. “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

He is smiling. Smiling, at her – with eyes that know her, with eyes so full of love like she has never before seen.

To Him, never unloved. Never forgotten. To Him, never useless. Never hopeless.

For He Himself is her hope and her future. Jesus – the Messiah, sent straight from God.

She sees it now, sees how He always has been there and always will be.

She sees how He felt the healing given to her body, but even more felt the need of her heart. She couldn’t ask Him to stop — but He stopped, anyway, and He stopped just for her.

At His feet, she lingers, and in His eyes – she sees Truth – she sees the light carried within now standing before her, never to be hidden again.

He has changed her story.

All she can do is cry out praise, because something within her knows: He has come to change every story.
_________________________________________

He changed her life, this woman who had suffered for so long. He gave her healing, peace of mind…He gave her freedom. Because she believed – because she followed Him – everything changed.

Who am I today? The woman so sure of her need that she will reach out to Jesus and fall at His feet in total dependence upon Him? Or am I a face in the crowd, content to hear of His works but not ready for Him to work in me?

I hope that I am like the unnamed woman, seeking Him always. Never self-sufficient….finding hope only in Him, no matter the circumstance.

What I know for sure is that we will be changed when we reach out to touch Him, believing Him. If our situation doesn’t change, what we hold inside will. He is never too busy, never unavailable. What I know for sure is that even if we don’t feel like we can ask Him to stop for us, He already has.

He came into our world to change our story.

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence.” ~From Col.1 (MSG)

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