Heal me, Lord
by Alison McGrath
I am sitting on a rocky outcrop looking out to sea, the gulls wheeling overhead, rough grass tickling my arms as they grasp my thighs. I pull my knees tight against my chest in a semblance of a hug. Down below, the crowds gather on the beach, excited, chattering, jostling as His boat nears the shore. A figure vaults over the vessel’s side, throwing up a rainbow of salt water. Children break away from their parents and dance into the surf to meet Him. Together they wade through the breaking swell to shore, leaving Peter and the others to haul the boat up onto the sands behind them. Jesus, his figure unmistakable, bends to scoop an arc of water into the air above their heads and they run, shrieking, from this joyous baptism.
I sit still, clutching my knees, clenching in a vain attempt to stop the flow, fighting to control the urge to throw caution to the winds and run to Him. I know that if I do there will be shame and horror, a foul slither and slide of blood down my thigh that will not be dammed, spreading stains as the cloths fail, a red trail left behind to mark my unclean passing. There will be sounds of revulsion and derision that I can bear no more. No. I will remain here on my rocky perch, an outsider, longing to be a part of the wonder unfolding just beyond my reach. Look up and see me Lord. Please see me, heal me. Please.
A disturbance in the crowd and a man is ushered forward, Jairus. Now there is someone who is always visible in a crowd. He is tall, imposing, handsome, apparently with the world at his fingertips, and yet today he is haggard and agitated. His daughter has been unwell for some time, fading before his eyes despite the army of servants, rabbis and healers summoned to help. She is a sweet girl and the apple of her father’s eye but not for much longer it seems. Jesus leans towards him, holds him by the shoulders and leans in, forehead to forehead, man to man for an instant before they turn. They become the eye in a swirl of bodies that sets out up the hill to Jairus’ house.
I can’t bear it. I had planned this morning carefully, knowing that He would come, hoping that this time I could summon the courage to approach him, that I might avoid the attention of those who would recognise me and turn me away. I have a little bread and cheese carefully wrapped in a napkin, a skin of fresh water, a supply of cloths in the hope of staying clean for just a few hours.
All must be kept spotless for the Son of God. There is no place here for a woman whose passage is marked by drops of blood.
I have picked my spot carefully, far enough away from his favourite perch to avoid the crowd’s censure, close enough to drink in every precious word. All for nothing. Misery washes over me and a revulsion at my selfishness as I think of that frail child waiting for him. Maybe it’s already too late for her. Who am I to seek help before her?
A still small voice pierces my misery. ‘Are you not also my child? Come to me, now.’
Without thinking I leap to my feet, food discarded for the seagulls to loot, cloths falling unheeded, unneeded and I run. My bleeding has weakened me; even walking up the hill behind him should be a challenge, but the voice carries me on winged feet.
‘Come to me.’
I hear the beloved smile in his voice and forget myself, jostling my way through the heaving, grumbling crowd until I can stretch out my arm and grasp the hem of his cloak.
It is like grasping a sunbeam as warmth flows up my arm from fingertips to shoulder, swirling around my body, filling my belly like the heavy weight of a child, kicking, churning. I double over in shock and fall to my knees. He stops and turns, his followers closing around him protectively, angrily, shielding him from the sight of me huddled in my blood-soaked rags in the dust. ‘It is no-one Lord,’ Peter reassures him, urging him onwards on their rescue mission. But He resists the crowd, gently moves them aside and stands over me, smiling down.
‘Somebody reached out to me,’ He teases, one eyebrow raised in a challenge I cannot avoid. ‘I felt the power leave me.’
Suddenly I am laughing and sobbing at his feet. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that at long last the bleeding has stopped. I left my weakness and fear on that rocky outcrop and suddenly I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me.
‘Forgive me Lord.’
There is no need for explanations or justifications as He bends to kneel with me in the dust and wraps His arms around me, my blood-stained skirts hidden from the outraged crowd beneath His cloak. Now we are both stained, defiled in the eyes of the devout.
I am in the arms of my God. He knows me. He made this imperfect vessel and has walked beside me every miserable step of the way from physician to physician since the flow began.
‘Foolish woman,’ He chides. ‘Did you think I didn’t see you there? Did you really think I couldn’t find time for you, if only you would ask?’
‘But Lord, the child … she is dying … who am I to ....?’
‘You are mine.’ He replies simply, wiping my tears with the hem of his gown before drawing me to my feet. ‘Go’, He smiles. ‘Your faith has made you well.’