Daily Devotions: By the window, she waits

From Arms Open Wide by Sherri Gragg

armsBy the window, she waits. Day after day, month after month, year after long year, she sits like a specter, invisible to the throngs of life passing by in the busy street just on the other side of her wall. She listens and watches, living vicariously through neighbors, relatives, and old friends who, one by one, have all but forgotten her completely.

She is the most hopeless of the hopeless. Impure. Unclean. Most certainly cursed by God for some secret sin.

She is condemned. She is the untouchable one.

She hears the sound of sheep bleating as they are led past her window to market. The deep voices of shepherds erupt into laughter at some shared joke. A little farther away in the center of town, two boys play tag around the gnarled roots of an ancient sycamore fig tree. Their playful squeals drift into her room, past shopkeepers and donkeys laden with their wares. Then, close by her window, two gossiping women trudge along, the water sloshing in the full jars they carry on their shoulders. As they pass her home, they whisper in scandalous tones, speculating about what horrible sin she must have committed to have met such a fate.

Her heart sinks under the weight of their judgment. She wants to cry out and tell them she has searched her heart and memory for twelve long years looking for her offense. She has spent hours on her face before Jehovah, begging to be shown what evil lies within her so that she can confess and then be made whole again. But heaven is silent. Surely God has forgotten her.

Hearing fishermen call to one another as they repair their nets, she quickly lifts her headscarf to cover her hair. As she does, the faded blue sleeve of her tattered linen robe slips to her elbow. Self-consciously, she tugs at it to cover the ugly scars that crisscross the inside of her forearm, the only fruit to come from the countless bleedings administered by the best physicians in their efforts to free her from her malady.

She leans against the wall, the cool breeze washing over her as the wind carries snatches of the fishermen’s conversation to her.

“ . . . a Healer . . .”

“ . . . Miracle Worker . . .”

“ . . . coming here . . .”

She turns her head, straining to catch more of the story. “ . . . His name is Jesus . . .”

Her face flushes and her pulse quickens as her most desperate hope pulsates through every cell of her being . . . Maybe He could heal me too. She looks toward the crowd and then at her door. She knows it would be scandalous, absolutely unacceptable, for her to cross that threshold.

The crowd nears, and she can glimpse a Man in the center around whom all of the masses seem to orbit. She moves to the doorway of her room, bracing her hands against each side as she gazes across the courtyard to the outer gate that leads into the street. The roar of the crowd swells, and with a prayer for forgiveness, she pulls her headscarf close and runs.

In a few steps, she makes it across the courtyard and into the street just as the mayhem reaches her house. Trembling and gasping for breath, she pushes her way into the crowd. The sudden press of humanity hits her like a shock after twelve years devoid of human touch, but her eyes never leave the Man at the epicenter of the chaos. Using every ounce of strength she has, she pushes and shoves. Still, her progress is painfully slow, and each time she feels she has almost reached Him, she is shoved back once again by the swell of the crowd. Still, she presses on. There is no way she can speak to Him without her violation of the Law becoming all too apparent. If I can only touch Him, she reasons, I could be healed, and no one would ever have to know.

As she stumbles, she catches a glimpse of His white prayer shawl. Roaring fills her ears, and her vision begins to narrow as she struggles to remain conscious. Then, straining, she stretches out her hand through the jostling bodies, and her fingers brush the blue fringe of the garment. She gasps as pure power floods through her. Immediately, she feels the bleeding stop. Her vision clears as strength and vitality course through every muscle, every bone, each and every cell.

Suddenly, Jesus stops, and the crowd becomes silent. He begins to search the faces surrounding Him, and she hears Him speak to His disciples.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asks (Luke 8:45).

The disciples are incredulous. The crowds are pressing against Him on all sides. Everyone is touching Him.

But this touch was different, and Jesus knows it. “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me” (Luke 8:46).

A small sob catches in her throat as she realizes that hiding is futile. Shaking violently, she begins to make her way to the front of the silent crowd where she falls face down at His feet.

There, weeping, she tells Him everything. She tells Him about the twelve long years she spent in suffering and isolation, about how she had spent all she had on countless doctors who only made her sicker.

She tells Him that, for all practical purposes, she was one who was dead, but when she touched Him, she was raised to life again.

A murmur of disapproval sweeps through the crowd as she trembles at His feet, awaiting this Rabbi’s rage at having been defiled by her. She braces herself for condemnation, but instead He stoops down in front of her.

“Daughter,” Jesus says with infinite gentleness. Slowly, she lifts her eyes to meet His. Where she expects to see anger, she finds only tender compassion. 

“Your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (Luke 8:48).

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© 2014 by Sherri Gragg