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?  

In Sickness

I’ve felt sick the last few days.  It’s nothing, really.  I have a cold, or a touch of the flu.  It will pass within a week almost certainly.  It has been hard to focus, and since I very rarely had headaches growing up, I’ve never really learned to cope with them very well.  A bit of nyquil and a bit of rest and I’ll be on the mend soon.  For me. my wife was the carrier of this particular malady, but I know how she came by it, and these things do happen.

It is easy for sickness to overtake you.  Viral and bacterial infections are built to spread, replicating themselves in some unwilling host until they find a new vector to expand into a new host.

In the same way, hatred and rage are diseases built to spread.  They often grow quietly inside of a host, waiting for a way to express themselves to the outside world, spreading as they do.    We’ve created new vectors, new disease paths for this hate to grow and spread, although we usually just call it social media.

My cold (assuming this a viral pathogen) is not cured by the medicine I take, instead the medicine is simply masking the symptoms while my body fights the infection.  In the same way, we often choose to hide our hatred in subtle ways.  We mask the fact that we are filled with rage in interactions with those around us.  It may look like we have been cured, but it isn’t so.  We’ve only hidden the symptoms of our true feelings.

In physical sickness, sometimes healing just takes time.

In this emotional sickness, we have to seek out help.  We have to purposefully choose to remove the infection from our lives, there is no automatic process.  There is no antibody for hatred.  We can not simply wait for our feelings to subside, as the disease still lurks below the surface.

God asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  He then has the audacity to ask us to pray for those who persecute us, to do good to those who harm us.   We are to return peace for pain, love for hatred.

It’s tough medicine.

It’s about time we give up.

There come’s a time when the only option left is to give up.

Frankly, I must tell you that this point in your life is not a pleasant place to be in.  People tend to be pretty resilient, accomplishing grand feats in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds against them.  We hear the stories of those who have accomplished so much when so little seemed possible, and we long to be like that person, to hold on in the face of adversity until we conquer the obstacles set before us.

We try to instill this in our children, with stories of little engines that could.  We take them to Dr. Seuss for advice about the places they will go.  We encourage our children to stick with it, no matter the cost, no matter the temporary pain they go through to reach their goal.   The pain makes you stronger, we say.  We preach that “Pain is weakness leaving the body”.

We teach our children to stand against those who wish to harm them.  We explain to them that you have to stand up to those who wish to bully you.  We show them that they have to fight against those who abuse them emotionally or even physically.  We teach our children to protect themselves against all who stand against them.

Still, there come’s a time when the only option left is to give up.

Do not misunderstand me.  Fighting for your happiness, your health, your friends and family, and even your very life is a noble cause.  I do not wish to convince you that non-resistance is the path to peace.  The cross-country runner should dig that last sprint out of their very bones and leave every ounce of passion in the grass smashed beneath their thundering feet.  The children in danger of mistreatment and neglect should seek safety and the love they so deeply deserve.   Those spouses who are being abused should not give up the fight until their situation has changed, and they have protected themselves from those who seek to do them harm.  

Yet, in every life, there comes a moment when you must choose peace over power.

This moment of surrender is not in the midst of the fight.  Rather, this moment is when all of the fighting is finished.  When you have done everything in your power to set right what is wrong, and there is no further path to take to ensure your well-being, this is when you must give up.  You have to give it all up.  You have to let go of your power.

The pain.  The hurt.  The scars.  The hatred.  The past.

Even when you are victorious in conflict, the time comes to give it all up.

You have to forgive those who have hurt you.  You have to give up the right to claim anything from them.  You have to accept that what you are owed, whether it be an apology or reparations, will never be enough.  The equation can never be balanced while you hold on to your half of the numbers.  You have to forgive.  You have to wipe the slate clean and walk away.

You don’t have to try to solve the same equation again, but while you hold onto the numbers, you’re still fighting for a balance that can never be found.

We see the greatest example of this modeled for us from the cross.  “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.”

Give up friends.

It’s our only hope.

Peace be with you.