Monday, January 28, 2019

Woman With an Issue of Blood

So this will probably be TMI for some people, but I have been dealing with menstrual bleeding issues for awhile now. In September I started bleeding which kept up for almost 3 months straight. Needless to say, I was weak, discouraged, and utterly disgusted with my body. I made an appointment with a gynecologist to seek treatment. The recommended treatment was a D&C and uterine oblation. In simple terms, they would go in and scrape out my uterine lining, then cauterize it. I'm only a few days out from surgery, so there's no telling how successful this procedure will be long term, but I try to hold onto hope that I won't need further interventions. 

My reason for sharing this isn't to inform everyone about what's been going on with my body, but to explain why I am so fascinated and moved by the story of the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:38-48, Matthew 9:18-22, and Mark 5:24-34.

Although I can empathize to a certain extent with what the woman went through physically, I live in a much different time and culture and can't relate to her full experience. The woman with the issue of blood would have been considered unclean, and likely would have suffered social and religious isolation. (Menstruating women were required to separate themselves for seven days because anyone who came in contact with her would also be considered unclean. Because this woman had a bleeding disorder, she would have been considered continuously unclean, and would have had to remain separated from friends, family, and neighbors, except maybe other menstruating women.) She dealt with not only the issue of bleeding, but also of isolation and restriction from religious ceremonies for twelve years.

What's most amazing about this woman is her faith. In twelve years of suffering, she didn't give up on her faith. Some might feel that she had every right to turn her back on her religion because none of the religious leaders could help or heal her, and likely only added to her misery, and apparently prayers weren't helping her situation much. But she must have known that healing was possible. She tried everything in her power to achieve it, spending years and all of her livelihood seeking doctors who could help. 

What must she have thought when she heard of Jesus? His reputation for most would have been as a religious leader, maybe even a prophet, who taught about love and compassion, who healed scores of people from ailments that no physicians had successfully cured. Surely the hope welled up within her once again, that through God healing was possible.

She didn't try to send a message to Jesus, but went to Him herself. She was only one among a throng of people trying to get close to Him, to entreat Him to notice them. Her faith was such that she just knew that if she could only touch the hem of His garment, she could be healed. She did so, and immediately felt the flow of blood cease, and knew that she had miraculously been healed. She must have felt such relief and joy!

Jesus, though, wasn’t content to let her get away so easily. First He asked who touched Him, and when all denied, He then let the crowd know that He knew, which would have let the woman know that she could either admit what she had done, or have Him point it out Himself. In fear, she not only had to admit to touching His clothing, but also for what reason. If it's still uncomfortable to talk about menstruating today, you can only imagine what it might have been like back then! It had to be terribly embarrassing to someone who was already isolated through no fault of her own.

I often wondered why the Savior bothered to single out this woman. He could have just as easily let her leave and enjoy her healing. He already knew that it was her faith that allowed the healing to happen, so why highlight her experience in front of such a large crowd? 

I think that the Savior did it out of love. Even though this woman was probably scared and embarrassed, the Savior treated her with kindness and compassion. He comforted her and told her that it was her faith that helped to heal her. This would have set her at ease, and showed her that Jesus cared about her personally. Another thing this would have done is to make it clear to everyone around her that she was no longer unclean, and that even though she had not been allowed to participate in religious ordinances for twelve years, it hadn’t diminished her faith. She was worthy of healing, and should be welcomed back into full fellowship again, with no qualms about uncleanness. 

I wish that the narratives could have followed up on what happened to the woman afterward. How many people did she influence with her testimony of Jesus? What great works might she have done, now that she was freed from constant bleeding? Did this affect her fertility? Or maybe let her be done with menstruating once and for all? The scriptures relate the miracle and focus on the Savior's ministry, so it's understandable that nothing more is known of this woman. But her faith lives on as an example to me. It taught me that sometimes healing takes many years, and sometimes comes when you're just about out of hope. It shows that bodily functions sometimes go awry, and that Jesus is not uncomfortable being approached about them. Nothing is off limits with our Savior. We can literally go to Him with any mental, physical, emotional, or intellectual concerns we have and He will not only understand, He will care. And sometimes He will provide miraculous healing. Other times, He will stay by our side and give us the strength to bear our burden. Either way, He is there for us and with us. 

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