Sisters: Twelve Years

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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)

I had to miss out on an ice skating field trip when I was twelve-years-old. (To this day, I have never been ice skating and now it’s one of the things that I’m not supposed to do, because a fall could cause great damage; the non-cautious side of me would like to try it anyway). I remember laying on the couch, all the blinds closed, my brother at school and parents at work, feeling pretty sorry for myself. And mad, because why did I have to get sick right then? Why couldn’t it have hit me a week later?

It was a mysterious illness that plagued me. Might’ve been the flu. Might’ve been something else. I ran very high fevers, hurt all over and couldn’t keep food down. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

One morning during the week-plus torture, I got out of bed and stumbled down the hallway, feeling oh-so-joyful to greet the day. I don’t remember what happened next. My parents tell me I did a sort of spin and drove my face into the wall, then slid down into a heap. My dad carried me back to bed. My mom forced some orange juice down my throat. Eventually, I came to, very disoriented and wondering why my nose hurt so bad.

And thus began the saga: Marie Faints at Random and Has No Idea When It’s Coming. Brain scans, heart monitors, and blood tests all revealed nothing, except that I’m definitely a medical mystery. (A friend recently said that doctors should be paying me, since I’m so weird and maybe my blood cures cancer. I doubt the curing cancer part, but I could get into a paycheck coming my way after each visit).

I’m resigned about the act of fainting. I know enough to keep my blood sugar steady throughout the day. I don’t drive if I’m feeling dizzy. Beyond that, there’s nothing else I can do. If you find me passed out somewhere, just pick me up, move me out of the way, and get some juice in me. I’ll wake up sooner or later.

I wonder if the unnamed woman in this passage ever reached the resigned point.

Twelve years of bleeding. One day with a period is bad enough. Years? Awful. She must have been anemic. She would have been lethargic, weak, and prone to fainting. Her clothing probably had some tell-tale, too-set-in-to-remove stains. She would have carried a certain smell with her wherever she went.

An isolating experience in an accepting culture. Loneliness in the extreme, given her Jewish context.

I wonder if she ever lay in a darkened room, tears sliding down her cheeks, asking God why He did not answer her prayers. Why she had to miss out on life. Why she had to be alone. Why He didn’t seem to love her as He loved others.

As a totality, twelve years might go by in a flash. One minute you’re entering elementary school, the next you’re trying on your cap and gown. But the days? We all know how the days can and do drag. We’ve sensed the slowing of the clock. I wonder if she ever marveled at how the decade and then some had faded into nothingness, all while each day was drawn out in agony.

Time makes little sense when you’re suffering. You measure less by minutes and hours and more by events. The ones you miss. The ones you had just enough energy to participate in. The ones that amplified the pain. The ones that lessened it. In the middle of the calendar pages flipping, somehow both too fast and too slowly, you do your best to hold onto what is good.

But resignation, it’s there. And just behind resignation, hopelessness.

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For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.

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