Mark 5:21-45

{a first-person narrative from the perspective of the woman with the discharge of blood}

They call me "the woman". They know my name. I held their babies. I rejoiced at their weddings. My wedding, even. My babies. They know my name.

They know me.

But now? They demean me by simply calling me "the woman." Disconnecting themselves from any former tie to me. Distancing themselves from my fate.

As if it were my fault. As though I am no longer worth it.

Twelve years. An eternity.

And the blood still doesn't stop. I am forever unclean. Hopelessly marred. There is no hiding this. You can even smell me coming. I have no money for perfumes or oils, so the stench of my hemorrhaging clings to me. To say they avoid me like the plague is no overstatement.

Twelve years.

My babies have grown. I hear tell of grandbabies that will never be allowed to know me. I wonder, will they tell them I have died, to spare them the shame of knowing?

I repulse them.

Forced to live in a hovel of a house on the outskirts of town, I scarcely see glimpses of those I know.

But oh, I live to try. Those blissful days that I see my children ... see them smiling at their friends and neighbors as they walk down the street. The times I see those children that I fancy resemble me or those who were once mine.

They don't know that I see them. They can never know. I shiver as I wonder what people would do if they learned of my tendency to still hide among them. There is no leper colony for those who are called cursed. So I glean community with my hungry eyes, watching from the shadows of the street.

From here,  I first saw Him.

The mysterious One. With healing hands and a voice that simultaneously challenges and invites.

I didn't notice Him at first. So plain, this Messiah. I am certain that's Who He is. He has to be. I cling to such hope.

I don't just see it in Him ... you can see it in those surrounding Him, too. His disciples know Him; love, respect, reverence, and a glimmer of the unknown shine from their eyes.

The synagogue ruler (a friend of the priest who declared me unclean), Ja'irus, I think was his name ... he trusts this Jesus. Hoping for the impossible, like me. I hear his daughter's dying.

I don't dare interrupt today's procession. Such a young soul ... not much older than my first grandchild.

I can't interrupt, but I need Him. My spirit moves with desperation.

What if I just touched Him?

I know how to maneuver and hide in such a swelling crowd. Surely, I could snag a piece of His garment. I would be healed, I know it. And He could continue on His way. He wouldn't even have to spare a look for me. All of His focus reserved for the little girl.

I wouldn't even dare touch His skin; wouldn't make Him unclean ... Could you make a Savior unclean?

I'm stalling and I know it.

I let out a silent breath and reach out my hand. I touch Him, desperately hoping. The coarse garment slips from my fingers, and the pain slips out of my body just as quickly. I can feel it; the clenching ache of the hemorrhaging of twelve years ... it's finally over. He has healed me.

But, wait. He's stopped them. Oh no. He knows. What have I done? The little girl is still waiting, and I have perhaps killed her. Her Savior probes the crowd, looking for me. His disciples question Him: how could He ask who touched Him in a pressing, relentless crowd?

I had hoped He wouldn't bother.

I wanted to preserve my anonymity. Every human instinct tells me to run; retreat to deeper shadows.

But His eyes find mine, and they say something different. He asks something else of me; silently beckons me to lay it all down. To trust Him and forget about what they may think. He invites me to step out of the shadows, once and for all, and as I look into His eyes, I know I am safe.

I step forward slowly, then, trembling, all at once. I lose my breath and find myself on my knees in the dust. The crowd must have parted for me, I dimly perceive, giving me a wide berth. I find I don't care.

I look up at those eyes.

"I'm sorry," I say. My gaze flits to Ja'irus. "I'm so sorry." He looks as though every second is stabbing. But Jesus, His face holds nothing but ... Love.

I haven't been looked at with love in twelve years. Oh, God. My heart could soar. My heart could soar. I know I must tell Him all.

"My name is Ess. I'm unclean, You can see .... I shouldn't even be here, but, I had to be. I have bled without ceasing for twelve years. The doctors could do nothing. I only grew worse, the more I tried. I lost everything I had -- my family, home, money, social standing .... I stood here empty. I knew ... I knew... I knew You could fill me. It was I who touched You, forgive me. I should have waited,"--another glance at Ja'irus--"but I couldn't. Not when I'd seen You. And now You have healed me. The blood has ceased to flow!" I bow my head down in thanks. He lifts it.

A small crowd approaches noisily, but strangely enough, Jesus only has eyes for me.

"Daughter," He calls me, "your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed from your disease."

Then the wailing reaches us. The small crowd ushers in a servant from the synagogue ruler's house. He looks to be in anguish. Oh no. Please, no.

"Your daughter is dead," he says to Ja'irus. "Why bother the Teacher any further?"

My heart threatens to break, but Ja'irus' and my eyes meet once more. We both know He is so much more than a mere teacher. We look expectantly at Jesus, daring to hope once again.

In one look, Jesus assures me that both this little child and I were safe in His hands all along. He tells Ja'irus, "Do not fear, only believe."

I can see the man stand taller. Stronger because of Who he's depending on.

I feel stronger, too.

I know for sure: the little girl is safe. She always was. We both were.

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