Nameless Women // The Bleeding Woman

She steps her toe out of the tent.

The sunlight hits her foot, and as she leans the rest of her body forward, she feels the magnitude of her movement in the pit of her stomach. Before her weight can move from the ball of her right foot to fill her heel, she shifts to her left and pulls herself back into the tent. Back under her covering. Back into the shade.

Back into the darkness.

She dances forward and back two more times before she pauses with her eyes closed.

Let all that I am praise the Lord. With my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.” She whispers the Psalm of David to herself.

Before she was outcast to this tent, her mother taught her all she knew of the God of their people; the God of Israel. Her mother used to visit her once each month during the time she was also sent away as unclean. Together, they would pray. She knew the faithfulness of Yahweh.

“What are you doing? Nobody wants you out there, cursed woman,” one of the ladies spits at her. She is drawn back to her reality and turns to glance behind her.

“Stay where you belong.”

More venom. But, it doesn’t sting the way it used to. After twelve years in this place, there is no insult she hasn’t heard, no doctor she hasn’t seen, no dollar she hasn’t spent, and no prayer she hasn’t prayed. She has begged God to let her die, to finally let her bleed fully out, but she continues to wake each morning. Inexplicably. Against all odds and against her own desperation.

With each day she wakes up, she feels resilience forming within her. The devil has come for her and the world around her believes his lies, but slowly she has recalled the words her mother spoke over her as a child.

“Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!”

She steps her toe back out to the sunlight.

“What is she doing?”

She hears the whispers behind her. Her left foot passes her right.

“Where does she think she is going?”

Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Slowly at first, then with a quicker pace.

She stepped out of the tent.

The Prophet was coming this way. If she can make it to the road before he leaves her town on his journey through, she knows he can help her. She’s heard the stories of this man. Some say he is the prophesied Messiah, some say he is the prophet Elijah who has returned to Israel, others say he is a blasphemer. All have something to say of him and his reputation has made its way to her tent of outcasts.

In her heart, she knows he is the hope she has been seeking. She dares to have faith despite her life experience saying it is absurd to do so.

“The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.”

She closes her eyes and repeats these Truths in her mind. Until this moment, her awakening has remained within her soul. But, with each foot placed in front of the other she is sharing her faith with the world.

“Teacher, where are you going?”

She hears someone shouting from the road. She opens her eyes to see a crowd descending just up the road.

“He said, ‘teacher.’ Could this be him?” she whispers to herself. She takes a deep breath, holds it, and steps back to hide behind a small home she’s near. She knows she cannot be seen.

She’s wearing her head-covering, but she pulls her garments up to cover her entire face. If anyone identifies her, they’ll send her back to the tent. If she touches even the sandal of another, they’ll have to go through an entire cleansing ritual. She doesn’t recognize her own bravery in this moment; she is focused on just catching the shadow of the One she is seeking.

“If I can just touch his robe, that is enough to heal me,” she thinks to herself.

As the crowd passes her secret place, she steps from the shadows and joins in the back. Small and frail from over a decade of illness, it is easy for her to press toward his location in the center.

“There he is…” She sees him and begins to tremble. His presence alone is like nothing she has ever experienced. She cannot see his face; she is hidden behind him. She hears his gentle voice as he speaks with those surrounding him. He is on a path to heal the young daughter of a synagogue leader.

Her heart sinks as she hears of the young girl’s illness. She immediately prays for the girl. She knows what it is to be struck with illness that doctors cannot heal. She hears the girl’s father plead with love-filled fear. This daughter is so cherished.

“Father, if not me, then please heal her. She still has her youth, a whole life ahead of her,” she prays.

The crowd continues to walk and she realizes how far she is from the tent that has held her for so long. When had such boldness filled her? When had God brought her so far? The tent held the worst years of her life, but also the years where she came to know the Word of God more fully than ever before. She feels the tension within her, recognizing she has found comfort in the familiarity of that dark place. Now, it is here among people whose presence she has longed for that she is a foreigner.

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.”

She looks down at her hands. She has dreamt of meeting the man they call “Jesus” from the first stories she heard of his miracles. She’s heard of the boldness he preaches with and she’s heard of the paralyzed man he healed. But, could she reach her hand to touch him for herself?

Would he scold her for making him unclean? Would he be angry she did it without asking? He is going to heal this young girl, he cannot be bothered with her, too. Who is she to think that he would even want to see her healed?

“The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.”

The Truths she’s memorized and the doubt within her are at odds, both fighting to win over the next actions she will take. Her hands are trembling as she reaches out, slowly at first. She is within an inch of his robe when desperation takes over. She spreads her fingers wide and opens up her palms.

She presses her hands to the back of his robe and the feeling is overwhelming. Her heart feels like it is going to beat out of her chest. Her stomach twists and she feels like her entire body is lifted off the ground, yet her feet stay planted. In an instant, she knows the bleeding has stopped.

His feet stop moving. “Who touched my robe?” Jesus asks.

She holds her breath.

“Look at this crowd,” his disciple, Thomas, laughs. “How can you ask, ‘who touched me?'”

“Master, the whole crowd is pressing up against you,” Peter replies more softly.

But, Jesus knows. He knows that someone has reached with purpose. With hope. With faith.

Conviction and worship are bursting within her. She falls to her knees, face to the ground, and weeps. The crowd steps back, expanding the circle surrounding Jesus. Some of them recognize her and are repulsed. Others are confused, unsure what is happening. The synagogue leader is anxious.

Jesus reaches his hand down to touch her shoulder. The feeling is so unfamiliar. It has been years since anyone has touched her.

“Daughter,” he whispers.

She whimpers and falls lower to the ground. For twelve years she has been called nothing but unclean and unwanted. Daughter. She wants to lift her eyes to meet his, but reverent fear fills her. “Who is this man?” she asks within her soul.

“Your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over,” he speaks softly over her.

She looks up. No one has ever said such a thing to her and in the depths of her soul she knows that every word is true.

As Jesus is speaking with her, they are interrupted by hurried messengers. The synagogue leader begins to weep. She overhears the news, “Your daughter is dead.”

Jesus looks deep into her eyes, squeezes her hand, and turns to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

With mixed emotions, she prays for the faith of the synagogue leader and knows that he is about to experience something that will change his life forever.

She turns her back to the crowd and walks in the opposite direction.

“Praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom. Let all that I am praise the Lord.”

Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Slowly at first, then with a quicker pace.

Until a few moments ago, her awakening remained within her soul. Now, it has been witnessed by a crowd. With each foot placed in front of the other she is sharing her faith with the world.

She stepped out of the tent. Now, she steps back into the world. Healed, whole, and filled with a new hope. Her faith has made her well, and for the rest of time, her story will inspired the world.

Inspired by Mark 5:21-36, Psalm 103, NLT

Image: “Starts with the First Step” by Scott Erickson

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