By Denise Griebler. Part of a continuing series on badass women in the bible.
“If I could but touch the hem of his garment.
If I could but touch a part of his robe
I know I’d be healed, my sins all forgiven.
If I could but touch him I know I’d be whole.”
– the chorus of a gospel song by Rev. George A Rice
The story goes that while Jesus was walking through a crowd, she touched him and was restored to herself. Imagine that gutsy move.
She’d been hemorrhaging for twelve years. Her search for a cure had bled her of everything she had and after all that, her condition was worse not better. Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza says through this woman we glimpse of the impoverishment of the permanently ill. And she didn’t just suffer an incurable illness, but she was also permanently unclean and impure. Whomever she touched would also be made unclean. Imagine 12 years of untouched isolation.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all relay the story, though they fold it inside another making it a story within a story with Jesus at the center of both. They never mention her name. I wonder if Jesus asked her name? I hope so, but I’m not counting on it.
They were telling a story about Jesus. He was on his way to the house of Jaruis, a ruler in the local synagogue, to see about healing his ailing, or according to Matthew, already dead, 12-year-old daughter. They never do mention her name. Jesus makes his way to her through a crowd of people. It slows him down. And now an unnamed woman reaches beyond the illness that marks and makes her unclean, impure, untouchable and not-to-be-touching-others, to touch the hem of his garment. Which will make him unclean. It doesn’t stop her. But it does stop him in his tracks. He feels her touch and even more, her reach. He felt the gift of her gutsy faith and told her it was enough to heal her. And it did. I hope he asked her name.
Neither she nor girl who was just coming into her blood-time as a young woman are really the point of the their gospel storytelling. But they are the ones who always touch and move me.
When I was serving as pastor in a white working class suburb of Chicago, I felt like my gifts for ministry had about dried up. Twenty years before when I was muddled in a crisis of vocational discernment, I had tried my hand at the potter’s wheel in hopes of finding my own center. I had an inkling that sinking my hands in clay would nurture my soul and call me alive. But I never managed to make more than a wobbly and muddy mess. I walked away from the potter’s wheel embarrassed and even ashamed. I have a harsh internal critic! But now, twenty years later, gifts and soul gone dry in mid-life, clay was calling me again. Really? I was terrified.
I told my sweet husband, Curt, now gone to God, that I was pretty sure clay would help me find my center and my call. I thought it would help to bring me back to life. And that I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.
He asked how much it would cost. My heart sunk. We had two children, he was in graduate school and I was the sole bread-winner and making a pittance. He wasn’t out of line to ask. I said, “$200 for an 8 week class.” Asked he (rightly), “And what about the next 8 weeks? And after that?” It was out of the question.
We had a deal in our marriage that we’d check with the other before spending more than $100 dollars. It worked for us and we both honored that agreement for a good 15 years. Then the week after the clay conversation I had a funeral and received a generous $200 honorarium. I went straight to the clay studio, signed up for a class and paid for it on the spot.
Curt and I hardly ever fought. But we did that night. I held my ground. I didn’t apologize. And it turned out that touching clay really did heal me and is still making me whole.
I’m older now. Even on the other side of my monthly blood. It’s easier to reach for what is good and healing for my own soul. I’m better at knowing what I know and trusting it. I’m learning to quiet the inner critic. Some things are not meant to be negotiated or compromised. You just reach for what you know will heal you and bring you into your fullness.
What is the healing you need to reach for? No matter what others say. Even the good, reasonable, loving ones.