Bleed (Part 4)

“You’d better hurry, you’ll lose them.” A clear, quiet voice said to her.

Startled, she glanced quickly around, failing again to find the source of the encouraging voice. A bit confused, she had stopped to adjust her worn sandals, but with the voice seeming to repeat in her head, she took a deep breath and set off again quickly towards the corner. She approached the end of the street, and as she rounded the corner a quick flash of memory struck her, as she recognized where she was. A moment later, she was struck heavily on the head.

Stunned, she dropped to her knees in the dust. Her eyes swimming with tears she struggled to regain her feet when she was pushed down forcefully from behind. Her face was driven into the ground, she heard the hiss of the beggar as he spat out a cruel curse.

“Filthy woman! Just where do think you’re going?” growled the beggar. “Not chasing after Jarius are we? What would a woman as unclean as you have to do with him, a leader of the synagogue?” He forced his knee into her back as she tried to push herself back off the ground. Struggling but weakened from the fall, she was unable to free herself from him.

“Let me go! I’ve given you all I have!” screamed the woman. “Let me go! Help me someone!”

“Who would care enough to help you? You’re worthless.” The beggar crowed as he ground his knee into her back, her shoulders pinned down by his hands. Leaning down next to her face, he smiled sickly at her, as she redoubled her efforts to escape. She could smell the liquor on his breath, probably bought with the few coins he had stolen from her that morning. The missing teeth made his devilish smile terrifying. It was becoming difficult for her to breath as the beggar put more and more of his weight unto her back, his knee jammed between her ribs. She fought to turn her face away from his, choking on the dust of the road as she struggled.

Gloating, the beggar began to laugh, and shifted his weight so he could whisper in to her ear.

“I’ll kill you, worthless woman. I’ll kill you and they’ll all thank me for it.” He hissed.

It was getting harder to see, black creeping in around the edges of her sight. As she continued to struggle, her thoughts began to wander, and flashes of memories came unbidden to her mind. Each memory staying for only a moment, but seeming to last forever. Memories of her mother and father, of her home, the sea, the stars. She was seeing stars, both through the eyes of memory and her eyes in the present. She didn’t mind them now, as they helped hide the hatred on the face of the beggar as he laughed at her.

Her mind returned to a memory of her father, who was telling a younger and happier her, one of her very favorite stories. It was the story of the birth of man kind, how God had formed the woman from the rib of the man, and how the man himself had been formed from the dust. God had breathed the breath of life into the man, filling his lungs for the first time. She longed for that same air, as she lay there unable to take the next breath her body so desperately needed.

Her attempts to free herself from the beggar had almost stopped now, her face lay motionless in the dirt. Sensing the end was near, her attacker shifted his weight, driving his knee mercilessly into her ribs as his manic stare focused on her nearly lifeless eyes.

Somehow though, she could suddenly breath again. Her mouth drew in a lungful of air, and choking on the dust, she coughed it back out violently. The beggar, eyes wide, was blinded by the dust forced from the road by her cough. He jerked backwards, wiping at his eyes with his hands.

It wasn’t much of an opening, but it was enough.

She rolled away from the knee that held her down, instinct taking over as she gulped in another breath of air, her heart racing and lungs burning. As she stumbled to her feet, the black began to fade from the edge of her vision, and she ran back the way she had come. She could hear voices now behind her, but she didn’t dare to stop until they faded away. The tears had returned as she ran, and now she couldn’t see through them. She turned down a small alleyway and was forced to stop herself with her hands as she nearly ran into the wall in front of her. She sank down with her back against the wall, crying uncontrollably into her hands.

Shaking, she wept. The events of this morning completely forgotten in the shock of the attack. She could still feel his hands on her shoulders, his knee in her back, the crushing pain in her rib. Her head ached from where he had first hit her. She was unable to focus her thoughts on anything but the cruel hissing words of the beggar. They screamed over and over in her head, as she fought to regain control.

She was filthy. She was worthless. She deserved death.

to be continued…

Bleed (Part #3)

It seemed the rest of the crowd was interested too, and there was a surge of people all trying to get closer to the shouting man. In the mob, it became difficult to move, but she learned several things as the people around her began speculating.

“What’s wrong with Jarius?” A nearby woman asked.

“Is the synagogue in trouble? Is there a fire?” questioned the man to her left.

“Maybe it’s thieves again, or the Romans!” she heard from behind.

“Maybe if you’d all be quiet we could hear!” The sick woman loudly interjected.

Thankfully, no one seemed to have heard where the suggestion had come from, and they must have all seen the sense in the request. The crowd quieted down just enough that she could begin to make out the words of this man who was apparently called Jarius.

“My daughter is sick, I need to find the healer! Has anyone seen him? Has anyone seen the man Jesus?” Jarius’ pleas filled the small square around the well as she struggled to get through the crowd. The woman redoubled her efforts to reach Jarius, planning to follow him to this Jesus they both sought. Surely someone here would know where to find the healer.

Moving through the crowd reminded her of the time her family had gone to the sea together. She had been much younger, and her father was still alive. They had played in the early morning sun, splashing each other and enjoying the cool water as they explored the shallow water near the shore. After the frenzy of splashing and chasing each other had worn them out, they floated calmly in the bright sun, slowly drifting with the gentle waves. She had drifted pretty far from her parents when the air temperature suddenly changed. She had opened her eyes to a darkened sky and ominous grey clouds overhead. The faint cry of her mother calling her back to shore only just discernible over the suddenly growing sound of the wind.

Her panic had grown as quickly as the storm had. With arms beating frantically against the water, grabbing at the surface ahead she crawled forward towards the shore. The wind blew spray into her face, blinding her for a moment while she blinked away the water and tears that mingled there. Each stroke took all that she had, but with each stroke she was driven back from the shore. It seemed that she would be swept out to sea. “Father!” She had cried! “Father!”

Then he was there. Her father, swimming powerfully towards her. Stretching out his hand for hers. With her last gasp of strength, she had lunged forward to reach him. Her hand fell into his, where it was grabbed firmly. As her father began to turn back to shore he shouted to his daughter to hold tightly to his clothes. She grasped at the hem, and held on for her life.

Fighting through this crowd felt the same way to her. It seemed for every step she took towards her goal, the crowd pushed her back. She struggled to keep her eyes above the sea of people separating her from her goal. She fought back tears as an elbow smashed into her from the side, taking her breath away like the storm driven waves that day so long ago. Where was her father when she needed him? How could she ever reach Jarius by herself?

“Jarius is not the healer, so why are you chasing him?” a quiet, small voice said to her.

Looking around for the source of the voice, the woman could see no one. Yet the voice still seemed to echo in her head. Jarius wasn’t the goal. Jarius couldn’t heal her. Jarius himself sought the healer!

Like the changing wind that day at the beach, the woman turned and began pushing through the crowd again, this time not towards Jarius, but rather, in the same direction Jarius was going. It suddenly seemed as though she swam through the crowd, slipping between people as if they were standing aside to let her pass. She quickly made her way to a narrow street that lead away from the square, finding herself just in front of Jarius as he entered the dark alleyway.

He was met there by a young man, who grabbed his hand and began to lead him quickly through the city. She followed them as best she could, beginning to fall behind as the men’s long legs carried them further with each hastened step. She could hear Jarius telling the man about his daughter, 12 years old, whom he was afraid was dying. Between ragged breaths the man told Jarius of the widow’s son, who Jesus had raised from the dead not long ago, adding that his own mother-in-law had been healed of fever by Jesus himself.

“It was only a touch.” the man told Jarius. “He healed her with the simple touch of his hand!” “Surely he can help your daughter.”

As they rounded the corner and slipped out of sight, the woman found comfort in the young man’s words. It was only a touch that had healed his mother-in-law. It was a simple touch of this man Jesus that had restored her to health.

to be continued…

Bleed (Part 2)

She knew she couldn’t focus on the fact that she had no money left. It was hard enough to remain hopeful in the face of nearly half a life of being an outcast from society. When she had first entered her womanhood, it was strange and frightening experience, but also one that her mother was there to guide her through. It wasn’t until a few weeks had passed that she noticed her mother was uncomfortable and even seemed worried. After a month, they had quietly sought the help of a well regarded older woman in the community. The medicine they were sent home with didn’t provide any relief, so the slow search for a physician who could help was begun.

By the time her mother had passed away, they had spent nearly 8 years seeking a cure all over Galilee. For the last 4 years, she had been on her own, with her mother’s savings slowly dwindling until she had to leave the home she had grown up in. It had been a sad day when she left the house for the last time. She still remembered the smell of her father when he would hold her on the window sill, watching the sunset over the hills most nights after he returned from work. His laugh boomed in her ears and she couldn’t help but smile when she thought of his silly jokes. She remembered how hard it had been to look out of that window after her father had passed, and she remembered her mothers hand upon her shoulder as she was guided away from the star filled sky that was streaked and clouded by so many young tears. She remembered the longing for that same kind hand on her shoulder that would never again come after her mother’s death. So many memories in that home, but they were often tempered with sadness too. Now she was the only left who remembered her family as it really had been, the only one who didn’t see a family cursed by God and struck down for some unknown sin.

The woman had been so deep in thought that she hadn’t noticed the older woman approach her, and was startled when a quiet voice asked her if she was well this morning. Turning to face the owner of this quiet voice, she stammered out a greeting of her own in return.

“You look like you didn’t sleep very well last night, my dear.” creaked the old woman. “What brings you to the well so early this morning?”

“I’m looking for someone, but I am not from here, and I don’t know where else to begin looking. I guess I thought the well might be a good place to start.” The woman stammered back.

“Seems as good of a place to begin the search as any. Who are you looking for?” asked the older woman.

“I’m afraid I don’t really know, I’ve never been sure of his name. ”

“How do you expect to find someone when you don’t know their name? You’d be better off going back to bed until you could come up with a few more details if you ask me. Kids these days.” the old woman croaked. “Surely you know something? I don’t have much to do these days but gossip, maybe I can help you find them!”

“I only know of him through rumors and gossip myself.” The woman reluctantly answered. “They say he healed a centurions servant with just a word and that he teaches with that same authority. I guess in my head I’ve always just thought of him as the healer.”

“I wondered if it would be him.” the old woman interjected. “He causes a bit of trouble around here from time to time. It seems every time there is a new story of him, there’s a new reason for certain people to be mad at him. I don’t mind the stories personally. Gives someone something to talk about at least, but some of them sure are hard to believe.”

“Do you know him then? Do you think you know where he is?”

“Well, I don’t know him. I just know that he stirs things up sometimes.” the woman replied. “Now, you just stay here and wait a minute and I’ll see if anyone knows if he has come back to town.”

With this, the older woman tottered towards the well, where the crowds were starting to gather, drawing water and news for the day. As the courtyard around the well continued to fill, the woman seeking the healer slipped away from the open and hid herself in the still long shadows of the morning. The sounds of the growing crowd grew too, and as a few more minutes passed she found that she had been forgotten by the older woman, who had quickly hobbled off with a small group towards the synagogue. Perhaps it was better that she was forgotten, it made it easier to hide when no one was looking for you.

The sound of shouting brought her back from her reverie, and as the commotion grew louder she noticed a well dressed man approaching who was frantic. He was shouting something she couldn’t quite hear again and again as he worked his way through the crowd. Finding a small opening, she slipped into the throng of people and tried to work her way closer to the man. What was it that he was shouting?

to be continued….

Bleed (Part 1)

Perhaps today would be the day.

It had started like many others, with the sun peeking over the low hills as the birds and cattle welcomed the end of the long night. The woman had risen with the sun, beginning her preparations for the day with the meager breakfast she had saved in her cloak from last nights dinner, all she could afford after 12 years of failed doctors visits. Each visit approached with optimism and hope that this would be the day of her healing, but each visit ending in heartbreak as yet another ‘healer’ failed to deliver what they had promised.

As she slowly crept out from behind the stable she had spent the night in, she checked in her cloak for the last few coins of her savings. It wasn’t much, but perhaps it would be enough for this healer to have pity on her. Slipping onto the dusty street, she put into practice what years of hiding had taught her. Avoiding the eyes of any of those passing by she made her way to the center of town, quickly drawing water from the well before retreating into the shadows. In her hometown, she knew where it was safe to hide while she cleaned herself up, she knew which people felt pity for her and allowed her the grace to work unseen.

She hadn’t been to this small town before, so she worked quickly with the dampened cloth while silently praying she would not be discovered. It was always a game of hide and seek, and she didn’t always win. Even when she did win, she would eventually have to reveal herself to the physician she sought that promised restoration. When the doctor failed to deliver, they were both left trying to forget the interaction, she had learned to never give the physician her name, speaking only enough to make clear what she was there for. The physicians seemed to prefer it that way as well, especially when it became clear they could do nothing for her.

It wasn’t until she had finished that she looked up to find that she wasn’t the only one hiding in the shadows today. The beggar approached her with a threatening twinkle in his glassy eye, and made it very clear that he would reveal her secret if she didn’t give him something to forget what he had seen. She had been caught before, and knew that even though this beggar was probably the least liked individual in this small town, he still had more standing then she did. She had been run out of towns before, and it was never a pleasant experience.

She had been chasing the rumors of this healer for weeks, always seeming to have just missed him when she arrived. Last night she had fallen asleep hopeful for the first time in a while, she had overheard a few women speaking at the well that the healer had decided to stay in their village overnight. She didn’t recognize the names of anyone, she had no idea whose house the healer had stayed in, but he was here! It was the closest she had been, and to have this beggar stand between her and her chance at being healed was heartbreaking. Long experience told her that she had to give this beggar what she had, but would the healer even see her if she had nothing to offer?

Tossing her few coins into the beggars cup, she ran up the street while he greedily counted his haul. She would have to do her best to find the healer, perhaps someone would take pity on her and give her a few coins for him. All she had left was hope, and there wasn’t much of even that left.

As she slowed after a few blocks of running, she reflected on what she knew of this healer. This healer was strange and unlike so many others seemed to have no office or place of business. How could this be? Why would a healer not choose to stay in one place and have people come to him? It seemed this healer wandered the streets as she did!

This teacher also had strange teachings if rumors were to be believed. Forgiveness, grace, mercy? Who taught of such things? Did the law even allow for such actions as he taught? It was rumored that he even taught that we should “love our enemies!”

If it hadn’t been for the other rumors, she would have just written this man off as another crackpot. It was said that this man had healed a paralytic, cleansed a leper, given sight to a blind man, cast demons out of a man, and the most unbelievable rumor even said that he had raised some one from the dead. It obviously couldn’t be true. No man could do all of these things.

And yet she had followed the rumors of this man for weeks now. Forsaking those few friends she had in her home town, she had chased this elusive healer for miles. Always just a few moments too late.

Of course now she had nothing left to give him.

to be continued…

In Health

Do you remember the last time you were healthy?

I always forget what a blessing it is to feel and be healthy, until the moment I start to feel ill.  It is the contrast from healthy to ill that stands out and catches my attention.  When I am well, I am unaware.  I do not wake up grateful for health, I just wake up and move on with my day.   When I am sick, I can clearly note all the ways in which I do not feel well.  I then have to chose between getting started with my day, or making alternative arrangements for my original plans and intentions.

Of course, I am sharing from the perspective of someone who has a very minor cold.  So this inconvenience is but momentary.  Perhaps if I traveled backwards in memory, I can remember the feeling of being younger and more physically fit.  Those comparisons would probably be more telling than my current contrast.  Sadly, I find that I can’t really remember the wellness of my past with any real clarity.  It’s all seen through the amber-tinted glasses of nostalgic memories that play back in the eternal golden hour of my mind.  Again, on the whole, my life has been one of good health.  However, there are many people in this world who would not really remember what it was like to be healthy, as they have been struggling against a disease for as long as they can clearly remember.

My mother would have fit into this second category, as she spent 18 years with cancer overshadowing her life.  I never got the chance to ask her about it, but I wonder if she would have truly remembered what “healthy” felt like.   It seems it would almost be a blessing to forget being healthy, when you know those days will never return.  Again, I do not know, but I do wonder.  I do know, that for her, there were good and bad days, months, and years.  It was not a straight course downward from the moment of diagnosis, but rather her journey took her from the top of the mountains through ravines and valleys with the highs and lows associated with them.  Perhaps memory would simply fetch the most recent “good” time to compare to when it was trying to assess the current situation.  Do we forget what it was like when we were well?

I think we can forget what it is like to be healthy emotionally.  We find ourselves unhealthy for so long that we no longer compare our current feelings to true health, but rather to the day or week before that wasn’t quite as bad as the present moment is.  We forget that there was a time when our hearts and souls were truly at peace.  We forget those bright moments of fresh love, of crushes and romance.  We forget the joy that held us so completely when we first accomplished some great goal.  We forget the bubbling brooks of laughter that would overtake us when we spent time with a well-loved friend.  We forget the ecstasy of mud puddles and water slides, the feeling when your bat really connected with the ball, the moment you make a game winning catch.

We forget what it is like to be healthy.  We forget what it is like to be at peace.

In Joel we read that the years the locust has stolen from us will be returned.  We have been promised a restoration, a return to health and peace.  The locust will no longer oppress our thoughts, crush our spirit, or steal our joy.  The locust will be destroyed, and we will be renewed.

When we begin to test our thoughts, and seek to follow the will of the Lord, the renewing of our minds will transform us.  We will again be truly healthy.  We will again know the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

Not exactly the peak of health, this one, eh?