Sisters: Someone Else

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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)

Jesus is on His way to save someone. A little girl, twelve years old. Her father begs Him to do it. The Savior is compassionate. Loving. He turns toward the house. His feet begin to take the path that will lead Him to her side.

Jesus is always on His way to save someone.

The saving doesn’t always look the same.

The question we all have: Why did so-and-so get healed but this other person didn’t? We don’t understand why one is snatched from cancer’s grip while another is crushed by it. Makes no sense. God hears our prayers, we are told. We believe it. So why, why, does He sometimes say “no?”

Why does He seemingly go out of His way to save her, to heal him, while others are left reaching for His robe?

I can’t answer that. Nobody can, and anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.

This where we see life and death holding hands. This is where we are confronted by our lack of control, by our inability to place all experiences and people into neat and tidy boxes. This is where we learn to say, through gritted teeth, “…even if not, He is good.”

Is He? Is He really good as He walks toward the little girl? Is He really good in letting the woman follow? After all, He is God. Incarnate here, wrapped in frail flesh, but still God. He knows her. Knows her pain. Knows her deep loneliness. Why does He not stop and hep her first? Look her in the eyes? Hold her?

I did throw a glass across the kitchen once. To my annoyance, it bounced instead of breaking. I threw it again. That time, the crack, the splintering. Shards fell from the wall, scattering across the floor, throwing rainbows onto the ceiling as they caught the afternoon sunlight. A flash of beauty in brokenness.

And I thought, “I really understand very little.”

What if the God who is outside of time and therefore not bound by its strictures really does know everything, and better than us? What if “why?” is not the question, but “what?”

As Jesus walks, He opens up space for faith exercised in the midst of suffering. This weak woman, likely anemic after years of constant bleeding, is drawn to Him. Imagine her. She takes a breath. A deep one. Musters up the bit of energy she has and presses her way through the crowd. Weaving between the bodies. She crouches. Shaking hand reaches out, into the space He has left for her.

And it’s not about the healing, though that matters. Not about her body, though God cares for it.

It’s about her soul.

Not the “why?” of her suffering, but the “what?” of her faith. The Person.

What He will do.

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For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.

Sisters: We Few, We Not-Always-Happy Few, We Band of Sufferers

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Gentle Reader,

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.

It sucks.

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.

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For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.

Five Minute Friday: Overcome

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Golden-hued light streams through the windows across the back of my house. In the front yard, the color of the maple tree shifts from bright yellow to near-orange. Dark green veins on the leaves flicker and fight on, valiantly drawing nutrients from the rough, graying trunk until the last possible moment. Cold, frost-bitten mornings keep the dogs abed later than usual. Their fur grows thicker and fluffier.

Autumn continues to wind itself around the landscape. The view changes daily, a transformation made almost as if by magic. Blink and you’ll miss it. But the animals, they know. They begin slow down. Their Creator whispers that it’s time for them to rest. Gather up sustenance for snowy days ahead, curl up in a ball and drape your tail across your face.

One by one, the birds will stop trilling. The squirrels will stop darting across busy streets. They will hunker down and observe the turning of the seasons, confident and content in the care of the hands that fashioned them.

Kate says: overcome.

Go.

The technician smeared the cold jelly across my abdomen. I closed my eyes, preparing for the onslaught. Down came the probe. She was just doing her job. But I wanted to kick her or bite her or something. I bit my lips and clenched my fists to keep from screaming. A few tears sneaked past the lashes pressed tight against my cheeks. She pressed harder, moving across the long scar, stopping when she reached the spot that hurts the most.

A tumor hunting we will go.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want…

I’ve written about Barnabas. I want to be like this dude. Without him, the church leaders in Jerusalem may have never accepted Paul. Without him, John Mark may have never gotten a second chance. He got down there, in the hard stuff with the broken people. He urged them on. He stood his ground. This behind-the-scenes servant of God did all that he could to uplift and encourage.

Part of that, I think, included speaking truth that most of us would rather ignore.

So: Don’t wallow. Don’t make excuses. Don’t whine.

Suffering is real. Pain sucks. Illness is the worst. There’s nothing glamorous about malfunctioning bodies, damaged relationships, empty bank accounts, You’re going to weep and doubt and rage at God sometimes. You’re going to hate all the tests and trials. You’re going to want to slap well-meaning people who say stupid things. You’re going to want to sit down, throw your hands in the air and quit.

Don’t.

Square your shoulders and lift your weary head. God didn’t make you so you could lay down in the dirt and die before your time. Grit your teeth. Press onward. Move forward. Don’t allow victimization to turn you into a perpetual victim. Don’t allow yourself to think that the world owes you anything. Don’t waste your time coveting what others have. Don’t waste your energy on black, soul-eating bitterness.

As Eric Matthews said, “Life’s tough. Get a helmet.”

If there’s still breath in your lungs, your race isn’t done.

By the power of the Holy Spirit within, fight.

Overcome.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

– Romans 8:31-39, 1 John 4:4 (NKJV)

Stop.

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Photo Credit: Jason Briscoe