On Sunday, over on the Big Read 2012 Facebook page, Bex and I were having a conversation about suffering, and how much people’s real stories can help. Me and my big mouth!
25In the crowd was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26She had gone to many doctors, and they had not done anything except cause her a lot of pain. She had paid them all the money she had. But instead of getting better, she only got worse.
27The woman had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him in the crowd and barely touched his clothes. 28She had said to herself, “If I can just touch his clothes, I will get well.” 29As soon as she touched them, her bleeding stopped, and she knew she was well.
30At that moment Jesus felt power go out from him. He turned to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31His disciples said to him, “Look at all these people crowding around you! How can you ask who touched you?” 32But Jesus turned to see who had touched him.
33The woman knew what had happened to her. She came shaking with fear and knelt down in front of Jesus. Then she told him the whole story.
34Jesus said to the woman, “You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain.”
If I am perfectly honest, this passage freaks me out. It was hearing this passage read that caused me to finally trip over the pile that I had been sweeping under the carpet. It came to me that I was that women. Passed from pillar to post by doctors, some sympathetic, some less so; who could see the problem, but either passed it off as of little consequence, or admitted there was little they could do to help with the intrinsic problem.
And so, I am left with chronic illness. I have touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak – and I have not been made well…
But does that mean I have not been healed? I would say not.
We have considered during reading Tom Wright’s book, the new thing that God is going to do. To me, healing is about God doing a new thing.
During my training for Ministry, I had to face up to the illness I had already suffered – at a time when I was well again. How amazing that I was able to have that opportunity, truly awful as it was at the time, because when chronic illness struck, I has a foundation on which to build.
God has not taken my chronic illness from me, but he has I believe helped me to live with it. Once upon I time I would not have coped. Now I have some kind of understanding. I am not the person I was, I have to live with limitations, I cannot exercise ministry in the way I once did. Yet… yet in all that, I feel that God has done something new in me. From a place of vulnerability, I have something different to offer, a new way of being that I didn’t have before. God is with me, continues to touch me, and still has a use for me – though at the moment it may not be what I might have wanted. And perhaps most important of all, I am able to live with myself – even my limited self, something I would never have though possible.
This is the conclusion I wrote in an essay after a long summer of struggle and wilderness, for me the place of peace I was able to come to:
So for me, both personally, and as a basis for pastoral care, there has to be the offer of healing and wholeness, whatever the state of our mind and body. We can lay our pain with the one who took our pain upon himself, and receive Life in its true fullness. If we do not believe that what else have we to offer to a hurting world? My very practical definition of healing has to be, accepting all that we are, and all that we will never be, and incorporating that into all that we are.
So don’t be afraid to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ robe, for he will touch you in return – but it may not be in the way you imagined! God is doing a new thing – in me, in you, in the world – let’s work with him.
Thank you Lord
that as I reach out to touch you,
you reach out to me too.
Let me allow you to touch me,
my heart, mind, soul –
May I allow you to do the new work in me that you long to,
that I might be truly whole
I’ll go and read what Tom Wright has to say about this passage now!