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Practical lessons from the woman with the issue of blood

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Practical lessons from the woman with the issue of blood

Ramona L. Hyman

Ramona L. Hyman, PhD,is an associate professor of English, Oakwood University, Huntsville, Alabama, United StatRamona L. Hyman, PhD,is an associate professor of English, Oakwood University, Huntsville, Alabama, United States.

 

While studying the Bible story of the woman with the issue of blood, I was reminded of a familiar cultural marker: a griot. In many cultural communities, griots are the people who tell and testify of the tales of a tribe—social, cultural, histori­cal, and spiritual. They often represent one of the tribe’s narrative legacies or prevailing ideas as well as one of its pedagogical models.

The woman with the issue of blood serves as a griot. In addition to being an example of a curative text, her body is a testimonial healing narrative that has served as a therapeutic faith modal­ity in the lives of Christian believers. Many believers, living in contemporary culture from a myriad of cultural com­munities, have garnered practical life lessons from this woman’s story of healing and restoration.

There are three practical lessons from the woman with the issue of blood that may benefit the sick person seeking healing—be it psychological, physical, or social.

Lesson one: The Holy Spirit leads one to healing

The woman with the issue of blood was led by the Holy Spirit to position herself for healing. Like the protagonist in a story, she stirs the narrative into being when she journeys out of her house to find healing. One could say the woman’s Holy Spirit–activated exploration into her own healing resembles what the novelist Ralph Ellison identi­fies as “the autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.”1 She does not bemoan her sickness of bleeding. Guided by the Holy Spirit, she moves quietly, inspiration­ally, and passionately. Her following the leading of the God who carries her in the direction of Jesus exemplifies her faith; yet, no verbal announcement that she is a believer in Jesus was said.

Her actions speak of her belief. Indeed, her actions are evangelistic in that she moves beyond her own weak body. The lyricism in this text rests in the quiet revolutionary practice of this sick woman whose weak, disenfran­chised body is the authentic voice of this text. Her body as voice, prayer, protest against sickness, an evangelistic model, and justification drags itself gracefully into the crowd (i.e., commu­nity) in search of healing. The text does not indicate that she intentionally or rudely bumps into the other people in the crowd or speaks; she simply “came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched” (Luke 8:44, KJV). She is bleeding, and she belongs to what the activist Angela Davis identifies in her text Blues Legacies as “an outsider:”2 “If a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And everything that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean” (Lev. 15:19, 20). One must understand that she carries a psychological, physical, and spiritual weariness, weariness with social impli­cations; it is unyielding because her bleeding is unyielding. Although she is weary, the woman moves through the crowd with a grief-stricken hopefulness that pushes her beyond the temporal reality of her physical condition. Ellen G. White suggests that this woman has a “soul hunger and living faith.” 3 Her walk into the crowd to find the Jesus she heard would heal her is a performance of protest against the issue that has betrayed her body. As she moves to transcend her condition, I can imagine, like many Christians, she may have sung that hymn of healing:

“The Great Physician now is near, The sympathizing Jesus;

He speaks the drooping heart to cheer,

Oh, hear the voice of Jesus!”4

This woman heard the voice of Jesus as He called her into healing and thus was determined not to be enslaved by her physical condition. She was not willing to accept her physical condition and, in fact, inten­tionally attempts to be a member of her community. One must remember this: she goes out into the community, a community, including the disciples, that does not come looking for her. It is, indeed, important to note that the woman’s community does not seem to notice, sense, or embrace her existence. The members of her community do not realize this: the unclean woman is pressing on them; therefore, like her, they are unclean. Sometimes an encounter with [Jesus]. Although she thinks it will be a quick, unnoticed, one-way meeting, she soon learns that Jesus engages those who encounter him, especially one who draws power from him.”6

This story suggests the participa­tory aspect of the healing experience: “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed” (Mark 5: 22). Therefore, she is found “swimming through the crowd . . . . She touches people, bringing them in contact with blood. All are drawn into an unexpected orbit around the holy mystery of life because of her desperate desire to become ordinary  again.”7 As an outsider, she lives in a state of paradoxical invisibility, an invisibility that ultimately empowers her to touch the clothes of Jesus. In the contemporary sense, what this means is Jesus’ bodyguards—the disciples—do not know who is in their presence. She does not announce her infirmed body. She moves through the crowd because of what she has heard about Jesus. She has one objective—to touch Jesus so that she can be healed. She is desperate. I was trying to understand and visualize what it means to be desperate. I thought about some Christian African American historical foreparents. It was 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. My historical foreparents were tired of bus segregation, so for 381 days they stretched their consciousness up toward the sky and gathered the strength to walk until bus segregation was ruled unconsti­tutional by the United Stated Supreme Court in December of 1956. Desperate, this woman was so desperate that her pain—the bleeding—became her pur­pose. Her purpose was to be healed. Her body is a symbol of justification; it is “revelatory”; the touch, not her speech, causes a biological alteration: “And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ ” (Mark 5:30, NKJV). This woman seeks to birth a new text by merging her infirmed body with the cloak of Jesus Christ. This woman had hope. Hope energized her to get out of her house, and go into the crowd because Jesus was in the crowd. That woman, my sister in Christ, went out into the crowd—weak. I kept asking myself, What drove her? My answer: She is trapped in a promise.

Lesson three: Illnesses and challenges can draw people to Christ

Sometimes illnesses, the chal­lenges in a Christian’s life, are the avenues by which we find healing. When the believer becomes trapped in a promise that God has imparted into the spirit, the believer is fueled with an expectation that provides strength to one who may be physi­cally, psychologically, or spiritually weak. This woman was trapped in the promise of healing.

The consciousness of the Comforter, I imagine, the Holy Spirit, available to each and every believer, spoke to her; she heard, and listened. Although she lived in the not yet of being healed, God, in His grace and mercy, empowered this woman and her weak body to leave her house, to go out into the crowd to find Jesus. The result: the restoration of the woman’s womb, her healing, and a pedagogi­cal testimony for the contemporary believer on possible steps involved in finding healing.

Implication for contemporary society

The woman with the issue of blood was trapped in the promise of healing. She went to what many call “ground level” to receive the promise of healing. That is a lesson for the Christian believer about the healing God offers each one of us. If, moreover, the woman with the issue of blood lived in contemporary society, I would say she is a woman who lived with a bold, authentic purpose. Although she journeyed out into the crowd so that she could see and touch Jesus, she was not concerned about the crowd. If she were, she would not have gone out because bona fide bleeding women knew they were “unclean” and should not be among people. She focused on the target of healing: Jesus.

A powerful message exists in this evangelistic performance act for the believer who reads this story, and that is this: a healing emerges when a sick person is psychologically healthy enough to recognize illness and becomes determined enough to crawl into the presence of God and touch the bottom of His garment. By going to the bottom, the woman with the issue of blood was able to get up. She was healed. There is irony in this healing moment: it was not the touching that actually healed the woman. It was, says Jesus Christ, the touch of “faith that . . . made [her] whole” (Luke 8:48).

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1 Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act (New York: Random House, 1953).

2 Angela Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism (New York: Vintage Books, 1998), 123.

3 Ellen G White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1940), 347.

4 William Hunter, “The Great Physician Now Is Near,” Hymnal.net, accessed December 17, 2015, www .hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/990.

5 Virginia Durr, Outside the Magic Circle (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1985).

6 Robin Gallaher Branch, “A Study of the Woman in the Crowd and Her Desperate Courage (Mark 5:21–43),” In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi 47, no. 1 (2013): 3, dx.doi.org/10.4102/ids.v47i1.649.

7 Richard W. Swanson, “Moving Bodies and Translating Scripture: Interpretation and Incarnation,” Word & World 31, no. 3 (Summer 2011): 274.

1 Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act (New York: Random House, 1953).

2 Angela Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism (New York: Vintage Books, 1998), 123.

3 Ellen G White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1940), 347.

4 William Hunter, “The Great Physician Now Is Near,” Hymnal.net, accessed December 17, 2015, www .hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/990.

5 Virginia Durr, Outside the Magic Circle (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1985).

6 Robin Gallaher Branch, “A Study of the Woman in the Crowd and Her Desperate Courage (Mark 5:21–43),” In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi 47, no. 1 (2013): 3, dx.doi.org/10.4102/ids.v47i1.649.

7 Richard W. Swanson, “Moving Bodies and Translating Scripture: Interpretation and Incarnation,” Word & World 31, no. 3 (Summer 2011): 274.

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