Tag Archives: Miriam

Longing for Wellness (Part 2)

     In my last blog post, I re-printed an earlier post telling the story of deep longing seen in a woman described in the Bible. (Luke 8:43-48) The description of her as the woman with an issue of blood speaks volumes. I imagined calling her Miriam, and I told the story of an ancient-say Miriam as I thought it may have played out.

     Today’s post if a re-print of Part 2, the story of a modern-day Miriam. I actually sat face to face with this Miriam (a pseudonym). I’d invited her to my home for lunch, and over my favorite autumn recipe for Butternut Squash Soup, she unwrapped the remarkable story of her longing for wellness.

A Modern-Day Miriam’s Longing for Wellness

     Miriam told me she relates to the woman with the issue of blood. Physical pain, public stigma, being shunned—all of these were part of her reality a few short years ago.

     She began by telling me 12 years ago, she didn’t even know how much she weighed. Numbers on her home scale didn’t go that high. This she knew: her energy was depleted; she suffered continual pain in her back and knees; she felt chronically fatigued; she was unable to get a decent night’s sleep because of sleep apnea; she had a family history of diabetes and heart disease; she had tried multiple weight loss programs with no sustaining success; she was clinically depressed; and finally, she longed deeply, although privately, to be healthy. Miriam’s physical problems were significant. She realized she’d probably die at a young age if her situation didn’t change.

     And, Miriam didn’t want to die.

     Emotional angst may have been even more acute than physical pain. Miriam recalled going with her daughter to an amusement park, both eager to ride the infamous Timber Terror roller coaster. The line was long, but the wait worth it until they were seated. She wasn’t allowed to ride, turned away because her body was too large for the seat. I observed the scar of humiliation as Miriam described walking away from the ride in front of the long line of people waiting to board.

     Later, a trip to Disneyland, intended to be the vacation of a lifetime for Miriam and her beloved daughter, became instead a painful memory. She recalled being so exhausted walking around the large grounds that her daughter needed to push her in a wheelchair.

     So much pain in body, soul and spirit.

     “I wasn’t born fat,” Miriam said. Abuse typified her growing-up years. Her father was a violent man. Her home wasn’t a safe haven. She suffered sexual abuse by people she believed were trustworthy. “The best thing I could do was try to be invisible,” she said.

     Entrenched in loneliness, Miriam overate, each year packing on excess pounds. “Food became my comfortable friend,” she told me. As she was gaining weight, she was losing her ability to trust. Along the way, Miriam concluded the only person she was ever going to be able to trust was herself.

     God—or any type of spiritual faith—wasn’t permitted in her family of origin. In addition to being violent, her father was an atheist. She said her only childhood recollections of religion were unpleasant.

     When Miriam was 32 years old, a business associate introduced her to Christ after sharing the compelling story of his journey into faith. Even though her conversion was life changing, Miriam’s pattern of mistrust and addiction to food remained. She prayed often about her health dilemma, saying, “I believed God can do anything, but never believed God’s power extended to me.”

     One desperate day, she cried, “God, this is bigger than I am. Help me!” She recalls after praying this prayer, peace settled over her, and she decided, “This is my lot in life. God wants me heavy.” Miriam told me, in retrospect, she’s convinced the plea for God’s help, accompanied by the relinquishment of her desire, created a pivotal point in her faith journey. For the first time in many years, she allowed her heart to trust in someone else.

     In spite of being at peace with the relinquishment, a lingering flicker of hope burned deeply. Miriam’s physician assured her she was a good candidate for weight loss surgery. He encouraged her to attend a seminar given by a surgeon, whose skill performing the surgery was well respected in the local medical community. Instead of one, Miriam attended multiple seminars. Exiting the meeting room each time, the hope she’d held so long was squelched by a stark reality of impossibility.

     $30,000! That was the cost of the surgery. Her modest income, working for the church she attended, was inadequate to cover that expense. And, weight-loss surgery wasn’t covered by her medical insurance. Even though there seemed to be no solution, her dream never died, and the peace, which arrived with her earlier acceptance, never waned.

One Sunday at church, Miriam chatted with a woman she knew only slightly. She’d noticed this woman and her brother both had lost significant amounts of weight, and she asked about their success. The woman reported she and her brother had undergone weight loss surgery. Coincidentally, their surgeon was the same doctor who conducted the seminars Miriam had attended. “Oh, I’d love to do that,” Miriam wistfully told the woman. “But, there’s no way I’ll ever be able to afford that surgery.” Then, their conversation ended.

A few weeks later—a workday for Miriam—one of the church pastors asked her to come into his office. Upon entering, she was surprised to see the woman with whom she’d been visiting as well as the woman’s brother. The pastor asked her to have a seat, explaining his visitors wanted to speak to her about an important matter. One of the siblings prefaced the conversation by telling Miriam, “God has been very good to us.” Then, coming right to the point, the other continued, “We’d like to pay for weight loss surgery for you.” Miriam, relieved she was sitting, could utter only an incredulous, “Why?” Their answer was simple. “We want to change someone’s life.”

Miriam told me her first reaction was skepticism. Through the years, her carefully constructed emotional shell thwarted trust. “I was skeptical of the motives of anyone who tried to give me anything. Receiving was difficult for me,” she said, “but, their motives seemed so pure, and an internal voice assured her this gesture was from God.” Within three months Miriam had the surgery, “a gift that gave me health, hope and a reason to keep living.”

     Within nine months, she lost 170 pounds. Her weight did not fluctuate more than eight pounds in three years. Today, she eats moderately and exercises regularly. Her daughter also lost some excess pounds and has adopted her mom’s healthy eating practices.

     Over that autumn-day lunch, Miriam smiled at me, saying, “I’ve gained 20 years in energy.” Then, chuckling, she told me she and her daughter together now fit into a pair of her old jeans. She no longer deals with excessive joint pain; her sleep apnea disappeared; and she doesn’t rely on anti-depressant medications to get through each day. Plus, she gained two new friends. Miriam’s benefactors, she said, “are still tickled about my surgery.”

     A bonus to renewed physical health and stamina—Miriam learned God’s power does extend to her, and there are people you can trust.

     Finally, Miriam, pensive in her reflection, added, “This experience taught me not to be afraid to catch a ball God tosses.”

     As we journey through life, my prayer is we will realize as Miriam did that God’s power extends to every one of us…

Sue Reeve

Photo provided by my friend, Connie Lloyd

Over my favorite autumn recipe—Butternut Squash Soup—Miriam unwrapped the remarkable story of her longing for wellness. A blessed and generous brother and sister, wanting to help change someone’s life, enabled Miriam to cross the bridge from debilitating health problems to wellness.

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Longing for Wellness (re-print from September 14, 2015)

Note: Following is a reprint of one of my earliest blog posts. The story of the woman described in Luke 8 is a favorite. This story came alive when we visited the village of Magdala, located on the Sea of Galilee, during our Israel tour last autumn. It is probable we saw the road where the “woman with the issue of blood” received healing.

In the picture below, Fr. Timothy Meehan explains the ruins of Magdala, discovered in 2009. At this site, a beautiful chapel, Duc In Altum, exalts the presence of women in the Gospel, including Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus who was one of the women who supported the ministry of Jesus. The Encounter Chapel, in the lower level of Duc In Altum, is dedicated to the hemorrhaging woman.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading or re-reading this remarkable account.

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     Persistent hope for wellness is a longing held by many women.

The never-ending desire for freedom from a destructive habit or addiction.

A yearning for physical, emotional, spiritual or relational healing.

The hope of overcoming a life plagued by fear or insecurity.

     Deep longing is seen in a woman described in the Bible. (Luke 8:43-48) Her name isn’t given. A description of her as the woman with an issue of blood speaks volumes. I contemplate what it might be like to sit down and visit with this lady. I imagine us warming our hands on mugs filled with hot coffee or tea. I hear myself calling her Miriam, and I imagine her story goes something like this.

An Ancient-Day Miriam’s Longing for Wellness

     Pale…frightened…Miriam trembled as she pressed deeper into the crowd, “Excuse me, excuse me, she implored.

     What Miriam did that day involved great risk. According to Jewish law, she wasn’t even allowed to touch another person, and here she was right smack in the middle of a throng of spectators—all hoping to see this man everyone in the region was talking about. Her jaw clenched in determination, Miriam was willing to carry out what she understood defied sacred law.

     Desperate longing drove her deeper.

     For twelve long years Miriam’s gynecological condition kept her ceremonially unclean. Constant hemorrhaging ostracized her from once familiar everyday activities. During long days of isolation, she recounted life’s simple joys—once so routine, taken for granted.

          going to the market

               chatting with her friends

                    preparing family meals

                         kissing her child’s “owie.”

     During the more than four thousand nights she had lain in bed alone, Miriam remembered her husband’s caress—the warmth of his body against hers on a chilly evening.

     Over the years, her hopes had arisen time and again as yet another physician prescribed yet another treatment. The agonizing process involved painful procedures and depleted financial resources. She had tried anything that might help and no longer remembered how many times her hopes had been dashed. Even the compassionate Dr. Luke declared nothing could heal her.

     Now, all alone, the desperate, courageous woman pressed on. If an inquirer had asked, she probably couldn’t have told him where the idea came from. All she knew was that the seed of longing had grown within her mind. A flicker of hope couldn’t be extinguished. And, today, Miriam entertained no doubt. The strange man who passed through Capernaum could do for her what no physician had been able to do.

     The internal voice assured that if she could but touch his garment, the longtime condition cutting her off from all she held dear, would disappear. “With all these people around, no one will even notice me,” Miriam reasoned as she drew nearer and nearer to Jesus. Stretching out thin, weakened arms, finally she was able to grasp the hem of Jesus’s cloak.

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     When our tour group entered the Encounter Chapel, this huge mural depicting the courageous woman reaching out in faith to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment took my breath away

     She would never forget that feeling—something wonderful she had never felt before—coursing through her body. Miriam knew the horrible bleeding that had plagued her for years was no more. “I’m well,” she thought, giddy with excitement, preparing her quick exit from the crowd.

     But, excitement soon turned to fear. Jesus stopped, looked around and asked, “Who touched me?” Silence blanketed the boisterous crowd. The burly fisherman, now called Peter, said, “Master, in this crowd, lots of people have been touching you.” Jesus persisted. “Someone touched me. I know that power has gone out from me.”[1]

     “I’m never going to get out of here unnoticed!” Miriam’s heart hammered. Perspiration beaded her brow. Trembling, she spoke softly, “Master, I’m the one who touched you.” Her story of years of pain and isolation tumbled from her trembling lips. She told Jesus about the outrageous idea that came to her. The action plan she’d developed. And, finally, the feeling she experienced when she touched him.

     Jesus, eyes brimming with compassion and approval, said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

     Miriam exited the crowd, basking in new found wellness and delighting in the Lord her God.

My prayer today for you and for me is that each of us will experience our own personal encounter with Jesus, who I imagine still says, “Daughter (or, Son)…Go in peace…”

Sue Reeve

  1. Luke 8:46

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