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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