Sisters: Be Her Barnabas

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Gentle Reader,

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)

Who decides to make a doctor’s appointment for 7:00 a.m.?

Me.

I throw back the blanket angrily and force myself to stand. As you do, I misjudge the distance between the bed and the wall and hit the windowsill. Stupid non-functioning eye. Stupid right side of the world that does not exist for me. Going to be a good bruise, just above my hip there.

I don’t even shower. I had planned to get up early enough to get Pilates out of the way and put on some real clothes. Definitely did not do that. My doctor, he’s known me since I was 12-years-old, so he’s seen it all. Sweatpants, messy bun, and a hat. Is what it is.

There are some awful doctors out there. I’ve heard the horror stories and I don’t doubt them. But I’ve been blessed to have excellent physicians, with a few exceptions. They take me seriously when I say that something doesn’t feel right. This could be partly because I’m a medical mystery; my ailments belong in the body of someone much older who has lived much harder, and they are very intrigued by this. I like to think it’s because they actually care, though.

Do you know that this is an uncommon experience for women?

Women are less likely to be taken seriously when it comes to medical issues, especially gynecological complaints. Old biases die hard, and there is often an assumption that pain is, at least partially, all in our heads. Or that we are being dramatic about it. Very odd to me, because I’ve only known a small handful of true hypochondriacs in my life, women who are convinced that they have every disease known to humanity and/or get a thrill when receiving medical attention. Most go to the doctor only begrudgingly, even if they do have a high and favorable view of modern medicine. It is neither entertaining nor fun to sit in a cold exam room, your most intimate parts covered only by a large paper napkin.

Imagine living in ancient times.

A woman suffering.

My heart aches for her, this unnamed sister. I know what it is to walk in her shoes. To feel the pressing and the pressure. To do what you are told to do and find no relief. To watch those who know better and more shake their heads and shrug their shoulders. To feel your soul sink as yet another bill appears in the mail.

I wait for fifteen minutes, because even this early in the morning, the doctor is running late. There is one patient before me. Something unexpected probably came up in his appointment. I’m not surprised, but I am irritated, even though this is not a new experience. I sit in the room, curled up in a chair because why get up on the bed when you don’t have to, the fourth chapter of Acts open on my Bible app:

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement)…

– vs. 36 (CSB)

I am thankful for the recent appearance of a Barnabas in my own life. Because when you’re a woman suffering, a woman who cannot count on any day to be free of pain or trouble, you need someone who thinks to check in. You doing okay? You need anything? How can I pray? Or even, You need to complain? Come, sit by me.

That matters, my friend. That really matters. No, you can’t fix it. You can’t make her better. (Unless you’re a research scientist with access to cutting-edge technology or a magic elixir or something). What you can do is be there. Create space for her to flourish in the ways God leads. Also allow space for her to be fragile and small, to need the comfort of a gentle squeeze of the hand every now and then, to walk on the curbside of life so she can breathe easier, let her guard down in the knowledge that someone is willing to take on the protective role. Be watchful for her, so that she might lay her head on your shoulder and close her eyes, for just a moment.

Because it’s exhausting, to be a woman who suffers.

We need people who know, who see – and who help us to keep going.

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For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.

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