This story is inspired by Luke 13:10–17.
Eighteen years is a lifetime. Mercilessly, the crippling spirit worked me over, a little at a time. It began like a seed, the same way resentments can grow into estrangements. I was trapped and completely incapable of fixing things. No matter how much I wanted to, I could not stand up straight. My neck ached constantly from straining to see above ground level. Anyone who has ever suffered from a painful spine can imagine how I felt as a woman bent over for more than half of my lifetime.
I know God is faithful and able to help, and so I prayed faithfully. I related to the stories of Moses begging God not to punish his “stiff-necked people.” And God relented, even after they built a golden calf! Every sabbath I prayed for freedom.
The day I met Jesus in our village synagogue began like any other. I prayed as usual to Elohim Chaseddi (the God of mercy) and God of loving kindness. I couldn’t really think of other people’s problems, because my own consumed me.
I heard Jesus before I saw him. His voice warmed me like sunlight. People have since asked me how I knew he was talking to me. After all, he generically said, “Woman.”
My body told me. I felt his call in my chest. I’d been praying silently to release painful memories. When Jesus said, “Woman,” I knew he was speaking to me. And then he touched me. “You are set free!”
When his hands pressed my head and shoulder, his tender touch also felt mysteriously like fire. Something burned in my soul, and it was like fog evaporating into bright sunshine. God’s genuine, limitless mercy broke through my emotional clouds.
I looked up into the kindest face I could imagine. His eyes melted my heart, and peace flooded me. When people gasped, I realized that I was standing upright. People later told me that my movements were effortless and immediate.
Praise God forever and always! I was set free! Jesus healed an impossible situation! The synagogue leader muttered something to Jesus, but what was said faded into the background as my soul sang and rejoiced. Women crowded close to me, grabbed my hands, whispered with amazement, reached to hold my arms, and touched my back, no longer bent. Joy surrounded me. Soon I was hugging everyone around me, and the sunrise inside spread across everyone I touched. The gift I received was moving outward.
I knew just what to do next. I would serve. I would give back to every person I met and every villager who did me a kindness during those 18 cold, dark years.
When dawn breaks, and the sky changes colors, it can be miraculous. I hope everyone gets to experience Jesus as I have. His love is contagious and motivating.
I now stand up to indifference to the plight of the poor. I stand against injustice, even when it seems pointless. “What can one woman do?” one might ask. With God, plenty!
If you find yourself crippled by a thought, words spoken, or a wound that won’t heal itself, then know that Jesus can set you free as he did me. Never stop hoping. Soon you will be looking up into the loving eyes of God.
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).