Apologies to the Bard, to King Henry V, and to St. Crispin.
While He was going, the crowds were nearly crushing Him. A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, who had spent all she had on doctors and yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the end of His robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are hemming You in and pressing against You.”
“Someone did touch Me,” said Jesus. “I know that power has gone out from Me.” When the woman saw that she was discovered, she came trembling and fell down before Him. In the presence of all the people, she declared the reason she had touched Him and how she was instantly healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
– Luke 8:42b-48 (CSB, emphasis mine)
What is it like to be sick?, you wonder. I know you wonder, because some of you are brave enough to ask. The asking is not offensive. I’d rather an honest query than the silence of judgment or speculation. After all, the words “liver disease” automatically conjure up images of bottles, needles and pills (never mind that equal damage can be caused through poor diet). Surely I must have some awfully scandalous activity in my past.
Not that kind of scandalous. Plenty of rebellion, but no drugs. Plenty of late nights, but no drunkenness. (The few times I did set out to get hammered, I just got sick after a few drinks. And that, I recognize as Jesus, protecting me from my own stupidity, maybe shaking His head or rolling His eyes as He did so. Lovingly, of course). The breakdown of my body is, simply, the result of losing the genetic lottery in a world gone haywire. I am a walking, talking testimony to the truth of Genesis 3.
Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to suffer well. To be an example of courage, endurance, faith, and resilience.
I want to be courageous. I want to endure. I want to have faith. I want to be resilient.
But as I look at my arm, bruise growing darker because the good phlebotomist was off his game today but I had to get the tests done anyway, I want to throw a glass across the room. Watch it explode into pieces too small and jagged to reassemble. Then I want to throw another. And another. I want to hear the satisfying clangs and pings of destruction, a destruction that I cause, as a destruction that I do not cause, and have no control over, rages within.
What is it like to be sick?
It’s tension. All the time, always. Wanting to take a deep breath unencumbered by the constant pain my side, the pain that trails up to my collar bone and down to my hip, the pain centered beneath my ribs. I hate my liver, if it’s possible to hate an organ. It’s piece of crap. I want a new one.
Except, I don’t. Even though I’ll probably have to get a new one someday. And that means more slicing and dicing, more long scars across my abdomen, and whole lot of pharmaceuticals.
It’s being old before my time. Sort of, because I will throw myself into whatever activities I can with as much energy as I possess until that’s no longer an option. But the white streak in my hair, the one that started with the shock of surgery, grows. Spreads. I don’t mind it, on an aesthetic level, because I can’t be bothered to stress out that much about my hair, which always does whatever it wants to do anyway, but on another level, it’s a reminder.
Along with the aching joints. And the constantly itching skin. And the eyes that betray my weariness, every time.
It’s that woman, so tired, so scared, sneaking up behind Jesus and brushing His robe with her fingers. In that action, it’s as if she says, “Don’t look at me. Don’t notice me. Nothing else has worked. I’m desperate. Maybe this will help. Maybe it won’t. I’ve heard about this Jesus guy. I don’t know what else to do. God, please let this work.”
I get her.
Separated by centuries and cultures, we are nevertheless sisters.
This passage is not a promise. It does not contain a magic formula. Faith in Christ does not equal an absence of trouble. I’ve told you this before, but I’ll keep telling you as long as I have breath, because, even those who intentionally battle against prosperity non-gospel ideas are influenced by them. We can’t make it compute in our minds that salvation of the soul, restoration of the mind, and renewal of the heart often, maybe even always, makes no change in our physical state.
Because the end is the same for us all.
What is this passage then? What is the point?
Sit with those questions for now.
Settle in with the discomfort of life and death joining hands.
For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.