The Beat Up and Bent Over

My biggest problem with going to church is deciding what to wear.

Do I wear the pants that are too tight? Not for another 5+ pounds.

Can’t wear the pants that fit. They’ve been in the dirty clothes basket for the last three weeks.

Maybe the dress I bought three years ago thinking that I might someday need to wear a dress? Nope, I never bought shoes to match it.

I stand at the closet door in an indecisive daze.

My husband, who got tired of waiting in line the day God gave out patience, rolls his eyes and reminds me that Jesus doesn’t care what I wear to church.

I roll my eyes back and tell him that I’m not worried about what Jesus will think.

I quit dressing up for him a long time ago.

I hope I am never again among the people who put on their best to meet God. That’s way too much pressure. Gotta keep it clean. Gotta hide the fact that it doesn’t really fit. Gotta walk straight and tall to ensure it doesn’t drag in the dirt.

Those people miss Jesus . . . the ones who walk straight and tall in their best.

There was a crowd of them in Capernaum one day. They walked beside Jesus and never knew He was there. They met him on the road and didn’t see him. They were walking tall with their eyes straight ahead.

But not her.

Let me tell you her story:

For 12 years, she had lived with a shameful disease. It caused her to be always weak and tired and then it separated her from anyone who would care.

The sickness was her own fault. That’s what the doctors and the priests said. She had committed a sin that angered God and He had cursed her body and caused it to bleed continually. She believed them, of course. The priests could not be wrong.

The blood flow made her unacceptable in her community. Cultural rules decreed that no one could have physical contact with her without adverse consequences.

If she had a husband, he had not, in all those years, kissed her goodnight or touched her hand while they watched the sunset or held her when the disease took all her energy. If she did not yet have a husband, the disease determined that she never would.

If she had children, they had not, in all those years, kissed her good morning or sat in her lap while she told them a story or fallen asleep on her shoulder. If she did not yet have children, the disease determined that she never would.

In all those years, she had not wrestled with a brother or felt her sister brush her hair or hugged a friend.

In the first years, she fought the disease. She ranted and cried and searched for a cure.

But ranting, crying and searching required energy and eventually hers was gone. The disease took her physical strength. The condemning accusations of sin broke her spirit. The terrible loneliness dried up her heart.

After 12 years, there wasn’t enough of her left even to hope.

Then, she heard about Jesus.

Maybe she heard about him from the blind man He healed or the leper He touched. Or, maybe, it was from the adulterous woman He stooped to help.

Somehow she heard.

And, in him, she hoped again.

Hope squeezed itself into her heart and whispered that if she could find Jesus, she would be healed. And hope fueled her with enough strength to walk the road to Capernaum that day.

When she found Jesus, He was surrounded by people on the road. She couldn’t let them see her face. If any of them recognized her, she could be stoned for approaching them. If Jesus looked at her, he would know that she was bad inside. He would see that sin . . . the one that caused her curse . . . and He would withhold healing. She was sure of it.

So she approached them from behind. She pushed her way through the crowd, bruising her fragile body with every step. When she finally saw Jesus, she reached out with faith and touched the back of his garment.

She knew immediately that the bleeding had stopped; that she was healed. In that moment, she also realized that the man she had unlawfully touched was, indeed, the Son of God. She turned quickly to leave before someone realized what she had done.

But, Jesus knew. He knew she had touched him for healing. He also knew that if she left, she would miss the best of what He could give her.

Jesus stopped and looked around. He asked who had touched him.

She was afraid to answer. Would He be angry? Would He see her and know that she was unacceptable? Would He withdraw her healing?

But, she couldn’t lie to the Son of God. So, she walked past all those who were standing tall in condemnation and approached him.

Then, beaten up by the crush of the crowd that day and by the unrelenting blows of the past 12 years, she bent over and fell at the feet of Jesus.

And she cried.

She cried hard.

With tears in her eyes and snot in her nose, she told Jesus all about her disease and the constant fatigue and the awful loneliness and the cruel accusations and the hope that He would heal her.

Jesus smiled.

She closed her eyes and opened them again.

He was still smiling.

He looked into her eyes with a resolve that exposed all the fragments of her soul to him.

And He smiled!

He wasn’t angry with her. He was pleased with her faith!

Something inside her stirred for the first time in years. His pleasure put new life in her worn-out heart.

Jesus did not come to mankind to heal diseases and afflictions. Those were meant to be signs and testimonies to his power. He came to bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to open the prisons of those that are bound.

She had come to him in secret desperation. She intended to walk away having taken only the power to heal her body.

But Jesus called her back to give her more.

What a terrible waste it would have been, if she had walked away from Jesus with a healthy body but without the opportunity to look into the face of God.

And while looking into the face of God, to see that He found her acceptable.

That is the blessing of the beat up and bent over.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)

This story can be found in the fifth chapter of Mark. It has been embellished with information gathered from researching the Jewish culture during the time of Jesus.

Background verses: Isaiah 61:1; John 10:10 and John 10:25.