This story is inspired by Luke 13:10–17.
For 18 years, I lived crippled by a spinal problem. It began when I was a little girl and was painless at first, but over time, my spine began to ache and throb. As a child, I had many friends, but over the years, as I became more and more stooped over, their mothers wouldn’t let us get together. I heard the whispers; it was impossible not to hear them day after day. They said I was possessed.
My parents were good people, and as they got older, they worried about my future. At a certain point, I think even they became afraid of my twisted frame. And so, one day, they brought me to the synagogue. My new home was a spot next to the livestock—well, in truth, I sat next to the dung heap. The animal owners didn’t want me too close to the animals lest the demon in me jump into them. I felt worthless.
My world was small, and each day was a struggle. When I wasn’t begging, I was either at the market or washing my dress, which stunk of dung and burnt offerings. At the market, children would point and laugh. Their mothers shushed them while holding tightly to their hands, making sure no part of their bodies brushed up against even the hem of my dress, because the women didn’t want their children to become possessed too. No one ever spoke to me or made eye contact with me. This was the hardest part—harder than being stooped over, in pain, and without a home—because I remembered what it was like to smile and laugh and talk with my childhood friends. I was reminded of it each time they would avoid my gaze as they passed by me in their clean, fragrant garments with their beautiful little children. I was so completely alone and close to losing hope.
That was my life for 18 years. I lived like that until the day when everything changed.
It was the sabbath. The crowd was larger than normal because this man, Jesus, was there. I didn’t know anything about him but wanted to hear what he was saying. I figured it must be important if so many people had come to listen to him. I moved closer but didn’t dare get too close.
And then, Jesus called to me. Blood rushed to my head. Me? Is he calling me? Clearly, he must be talking to someone else.
“Woman, come,” he said again, beckoning to me. Amid loud murmurs, the crowd in front of me parted, leaving a wide open space. I slowly made my way forward until I was right in front of Jesus. My mind raced. What was happening?
He said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” And then, he bent over and laid his hands on my stooped shoulders. A shiver ran down my spine. The last time I had felt human touch was when my mother kissed my head the day she left me at the synagogue.
As the shiver ran down my spine, it felt like something that had been binding it very tightly was cut loose. Jesus removed his hands from my shoulders and, extending his right hand, took my hand in his and lifted up my hand so that my body would follow. Vertebrae by vertebrae, I could feel my spine painlessly popping into a new position. Suddenly, I was standing there completely upright, looking Jesus in the eyes.
I felt gratitude for the love in his eyes—those eyes that looked straight into mine and recognized me as a human being. Following this were tears of astonishment, wonder, and relief, along with the sadness and loneliness that had accumulated in me those 18 years. It all poured out at his feet.
“Thank you, Jesus! I love you. I praise you. I glorify you. I adore you, my God!”
As I left the synagogue that day, the crowds closed in on me. People stared in awe. My old friends embraced me as their children hung onto my robed ankles. I stood tall and strong. I had been given a completely new life, and I resolved in that moment to make it a song of gratitude.
Image via the Brooklyn Museum. James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Woman with an Infirmity of Eighteen Years (La femme malade depuis dix-huit ans), 1886-1896. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 9 1/2 x 7 1/8 in. (24.1 x 18.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.144 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.144_PS2.jpg).
Yes. this is wonderful to hear/read!
I also wonder whether old people (I’m 82) might be able to be helped to recover from their disabilities – with wisdom, courage and
FAITH! Of course, we also need to learn to be wise in the way we use nature, avoiding the use of plastic and so much artificial stuff.
Yes.this is wonderufl to hear/read!
Thanks Rebecca. Jesus heals – a reminder for all of us at all times.
I have read this passage many times in my life. Mostly looking at the words for intellectual value. A year ago I was released from a hospital and rehabilitation facility following surgery to fix the scoliosis I had lived with for most of my 64 years. While I had often prayed that Jesus would heal me in my sleep, It took 3 surgeries some complications and more Physical Therapy I thought was possible. My Surgeon had told me how difficult both the surgery and recovery would be. But as I look back over the past year, I see so many times Jesus was there holding my hand. Even to the point of making sure I had the right doctors in the right hospital with the right therapists as well as nurses, Patient Care Assistants and others. Thank you for writing this.
So nice to hear from you. Thank you for sharing about your healing journey. It sounds like it was very challenging. It’s wonderful that you notice Jesus’ presence and God’s healing in the health care professions who were with you every step of the way. Your comments bring to mind St. Teresa’s words: “Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which He looks, Compassion on this world, Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world…”
I hope you are continuing to heal and feeling better each day.
Dear Rebecca, I was wondering about her because the Gospel writer skims over her and jumps to the reaction of naysayers. I’ve been praying with her all week. She is a saint I am sure. I wonder what she did after being cured. I actually had started writing a blog post about that!
Virtual hugs to you.
So nice to hear from you! I love that we were both reflecting on this and would love to hear about your reflection on it too! I’ve noticed recently that as I reflect on these different healing miracles in the Gospels, there often isn’t much recorded about the person after the healing – yet, for these individuals, meeting Jesus and receiving healing completely changed their lives. It’s so rich.
Peace to you my friend,