Forever Clean

Her body ached with an uncontrollable pain in her uterus, but she hobbled as fast as she could. Through the pangs in her lower abdomen and the continuous bleeding between her legs, she thanked God for the fresh air and the smell of the lake. Though the stringent smell of fish would have felt overwhelming to anyone else as she got closer, it was not a common feat for her to step outside at all and she appreciated any new smell besides that of the soiled confines of her home. The doughy cedar fragrance stuck in the walls of her home often caught in her nostrils a remembrance of her enduring agony.

As she reached the outer walls of Capernaum, she realized she had forgotten what a crowd had tasted like – salty, dense and foul in her mouth. The thick hordes of people caused her stomach to knot, making her aware once again of the throbbing pain she has been facing for the past 12 years.  

A panic welled within her, but she knew today could be the only chance – the only chance for true healing. Wrapping her cloak around her tighter, she ignored the disgusted facial expressions with wrinkled noses, and the children’s cries of horrified bewilderment at the site of her.

A man passing by crumpled his nose and turned around to face her. “You!” He shouted and spat in her face. “You smell like a dead rat,” he scoffed and punctured a hole in one of his freshly purchased oranges from the market. He wouldn’t dare touch her out of fear he would become unclean, but he reached out and squeezed the sweet, tangy juice of the orange over her head. “Maybe that will help,” he snarled and flung the remains at her back as she attempted to scuttle away.

A boy pointed at the blood that ran down her legs despite the many rags she put in place to cover it up. “Unclean! Unclean!” He shouted as faces turned, bodies shriveled in disgust and then dispersed to flee from her.

“Why is she here?” A few familiar voices chattered amongst the crowds. “She has always been unclean and always will be.”

She needed no reminder as to why she had remained so isolated for the past 12 years – why she had been shunned for so long.

The salty substance of her tears perforated at the edges of her eyes as the past 12 years surfaced in fragments in her mind.

“Pay 411 shekels and you will be healed,” the doctors had said.

“It will simply take us 5 years to understand your condition,” the physicians had declared. “In the meantime, you can pay us 411 shekels every 6 months to ensure that we look after this appropriately”.  They had tried several remedies written in the Jewish Talmud, but still her body had no sign of restoration.

And the final proclamation over her that had crushed her to the very soul: “There is simply no cure, I am afraid.” After all the years of payment, she had nothing. Only a kind uncle of hers was willing to pay for her food each week and check up on her. She praised God every day for him and his generosity towards her.

The recollection of her uncle did nothing to increase her desire to stay in Capernaum at this very moment. She nearly turned around and fled from the city, but one step closer brought her to a tight crowd that had not seen or heard her.

A crowd perplexed with a man.

And suddenly she knew it was the man. The man they called Jesus who could heal and cure any disease. She had heard of him and the miracles he had done when she went to retrieve her water from the well some time ago. She told herself she would go today and every day until she could get close enough for Him to heal her.

Despite her pain, she mustered a strength to push through the crowd. Gatherers muttered, groaned and complained when she did so. Some jumped back in repulsion with distress that they too would become contaminated, and a few mumbled audible, rigorous comments about her odour and uncleanliness. But her perseverance was driven by the thought of even just the smallest taste of a cure. Crouched behind one man in front of her, she peaked around and saw the conversation.

A man rich in attire, but poor in rest with thick dark circles beneath his eyes, fell at another man’s feet.

“That’s Jairus,” she heard a man whisper to his wife and point subtly at the man on his knees. “One of the synagogue leaders. I’ve seen him before.”

His wife nodded and leaned into her husband in response, “and is the man standing named Jesus? The one they say who performs miraculous signs and wonders?”

With a bob of his head, the husband replied in awe, “The Messiah.”

“My daughter…My little daughter is dying,” the man named Jairus pleaded with Jesus, “Please come out and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live”.

Could it be? Her thoughts provoked her. Could it be that if I touch Him, He will become unclean? Shoving this doubt aside, she clung to her faith and hope. If he can heal this man’s daughter, He could surely heal me. If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed.

Before she even realized what she was doing, a wave of replenishment poured through her veins, and deep into her bones. The pain in her lower abdomen immediately halted, the bleeding instantly ceased and even her very skin felt nourished and glowing.

As the voice of Jesus called, “Who touched my clothes?”, she shrunk back into the crowd, a flood of emotions surrounding her mind.

“It could have been any of these faces, Jesus,” another man’s voice piped up. “There are so many in the crowd, and yet you are asking who touched you?”

Peering from behind a few gatherers, she could see Jesus’ kind and compassionate, yet urgent eyes perusing the crowd for someone to come forward.

If I step towards Him, will He take the healing away? Will I be punished in front of everyone? Hanged or beheaded for touching such a powerful man? These wonderings were spinning in circles in her head. If He is the son of God as I’ve believed Him to be, He already knows it was me. With this thought, a sudden push of peace allowed her to stumble forward.

“It was I, Lord,” she collapsed to her knees and bowed before Jesus with her face down and arms outstretched towards Him. “My painful blood disease caused me to be isolated for 12 years. I travelled all the way into Capernaum because I heard you would be here and had faith that you would heal me,” her voice sounded insecure in her own ears, and she knew she sounded muffled as she spoke at the ground. Her body trembled beneath the fearful thoughts that returned to whisper throughout her mind. She summoned the small amount audaciousness she had to continue, “I thought to myself, ‘If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed’. So I am the one who touched your clothes, and I praise you, Lord, for your good and faithful works, for allowing a mere servant girl to be healed.” When she finished her confession, she waited for a response, her eyes focused on the speckles of dirt on the ground that she had so often been compared to the past 12 years.

As a silence prolonged, she dared a glance at His face, and when she did, she was shook once again to her very core with a revival that caused her body to rise to her feet. At a standing position, her neck was still tilted to look up at him – she could not avert her eyes from the astounding love that locked her in place. It was as if a beam of pure paradise radiated from those eyes, and lifted her up from her feet.

“Daughter,” Jesus said to her with glossy eyes. She could tell in the simple title He gave her that He had seen and felt everything – every moment of suffering, every tear that had fallen from the constant rejection of others, and every piece of her shattered heart – in the past 12 years. “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace, and be freed from your suffering.”

She wanted to thank him, to jump and embrace Him in joyful gladness of the restorative renovation He had provided for her, but a commotion in the crowd from Jairus’ house called Jesus away.

But it didn’t matter that He was being pulled away because she knew that He would heal Jairus’ daughter, and that she would see Him again someday.

Daughter, He had called her. Daughter of the miracle-maker, the restorer of lives, the reviver of souls. She recalled the touch of his cloak, soft beneath the grasp of her rough gardening fingers, soft like the look in His eyes when he called her Daughter with pride. Daughter of the most-powerful, the freer of suffering, the giver of peace. One encounter with Him and she was satisfied – not simply physically, but in the soul – deeply satisfied for the rest of her life. Not simply free from physical suffering, but free from the identity she had received from others in their disgusted looks, their negligence and shunning of her. She was worth something – extremely valuable as a daughter – to the man who provided hope for all!

I’m clean, she thought as she walked through the throngs of people who no longer scoffed at her. She laughed. “I’m clean!” She shouted to those who wanted to hear. And with every measure of her healed being, she told others of the man who made her forever clean – the man who could wash them in permanent cleanliness too.

(Inspired by Mark 5: 21-34).

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