Sunday, January 24, 2016

Healed Woman (Part 3: With the Woman with the Issue of Blood)

This post is the tenth in what will be my Explorations in Womanhood Series. Please understand that while I intend to write things that are consistent with church doctrine, this blog is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For this reason, I ask that you consider prayerfully interacting with anything published here.


"For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit... For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee."
Isaiah 54: 6-7



My doubts about womanhood were given breath in very personal places. A path of revelation that was illuminated only as far as the entrance. An overcast trail that wound into sharp extended pain, and finally dropped into perceived Divine abandonment.  Promises unfulfilled. Now, this disclosure doesn't mean that my woman questions are less real or viablebut what it does mean is that they opened because of obedience. Which is an interesting idea, and probably worthy of its own post.

But that post might never get written. I've been slow lately. This piece for exampleI've been sitting on it for months. But not for laziness so much as for expectation. As early as April, I knew that this essay was going to be the last one in a series of three posts about healed women that I would write. And then, by September, I knew the angle I would take. But I've been waiting to write it. Waiting for a miracle.

Every part of this experience, the healing, the waiting, the writing, have felt like a slow gestation to me. And I haven't reached the end yet. However, I have been given a great boon since last sitting here in front of my keyboard. Something so great that I don't think I'll ever be able to move retroactively. At least not on this particular path.

And I'd like to tell you about it. But I'd like to tell you about it in tandem with the story depicted above. You're probably familiar with the woman with the issue of blood? She was a woman of Capernaum, and as you might recall, she was healed. But not for 12 years.

Four years ago a dear friend of mine married a terrific soul, and together they formed a wonderful union. As the months and then the years that followed their marriage began to tick by, both my friend and her husband came to know darkness. For them this darkness came in the form of infertility. My friend has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

It's not really possible to link the phrase "issue of blood" with any contemporary diagnosis. What we do know is that in Leviticus an "issue of blood" refers to vaginal bleeding; either monthly, menstrual bleeding or bleeding after birth. One writer has suggested that this woman's issue of blood could have been something like menorrhagia, which is a heavy bleeding that persists for several weeks at a time and makes daily life almost impossible.

I don't know much about PCOS aside from what I've heard from my friend, and a few others who share her diagnosis. Between the four people I'm thinking of the range of symptoms experienced is pretty broad. For one friend, the physical pain she endures when she ovulates is debilitating. For another, there is no pain at all, but a persistent problem with weight management. For all these women though, potential fertility is a major concern, and for the friend who I am primarily writing about, it had moved from a concern to a reality.

I wonder how heavy, repeated hemorrhaging affected this scriptural woman? Did this issue of blood closely follow her childbearing years? Or was she a young woman when it got its start? She would have been isolated from any family she hadprogeny or ancestralbecause of her condition. Under the Mosaic Law, a woman with an issue of blood had to be separated from others during the time of her bleeding. And not just separated from her people, separated from her God. What a painful realization that must have been every time one of her physicians failed to heal her. Every time she bled. Can you imagine it?

I think of my friend and every repeated negative pregnancy test. The truth is, I wasn't privy to that pain. Although I've heard about the mounting grief she and her husband felt as more and more of their loved ones conceived. Or the gradual estrangement from God that grew and grew. Sitting in sacrament meeting, or in the plush chairs of an endowment room. Who was this God that would command his children to multiply and replenish the earth and then would leave His (and Her) children unable to conceive?

I don't know anything about that painexperientially speakingalthough I'm sure there must be plenty of people who do. But the person who knows it best, knows it inside and out, knows how it breathes and how it lives, is of course, Jesus Christ. We talk about that a lot. His abilityability isn't really the word is it?that innate facet of his character that allows Him access to everyone, all pains everywhere. What we talk about less I'm noticing is how He, this man who has experienced everything, has also been healed of everything. And if we are to follow Him, I think He intends for all of us to be healed eventually too.

That's what makes the moment depicted above so iconic. After 12 years of trying and waiting and agonizing and enduring, with one final reach "the fountain of her blood was dried up." And it was over. Just like that.

As you've probably guessed at this point, my friends conceived. They're bringing a baby boy into the world this summer. And it's very exciting. Because they're my friends I am very pleased and full of happiness for them. Watching friends come to the end of a trial naturally makes a person feel very contented.

But there's more to this story. And it might surprise you. A little more than a month before they conceived, September it was, I received a very strong, very unsolicited prompting. I knew that if my friends continued to exercise their faith, that they would get pregnant. And I knew that it would happen within 40 days.

I can't answer your questions about stewardship. I really don't know why this message came to me. I guess it could be because I was listening? If you knew me personally, you'd probably know that strong unsolicited promptings form much of the territory that is my life. But even so, this one was pretty... big. In it of itself the information wasn't so bad. It was the second prompting that complicated things. I was instructed that I needed to tell my friends what the Spirit had conveyed to me; I needed to extend this 40 day promise to them. And stewardship questions aside, I honestly didn't know how I could possibly be the bearer of good news.

Maybe that sounds silly to you. But let me tell you something. I've followed a sizable handful of promptings in my life. Promptings that are so outrageous and uncomfortable that they make this one look like kiddie stuff. The promptings I have in mind have always been attached to promises. Promises not unlike this one. And those promptings? They haven't led me anywhere that I've liked being. And that is an understatement.

So perhaps I did know their pain after all. I knew the pain of hoping for something. Yearning for it.

"For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole."

You're willing to give up anything you possess to see the promises of the Lord made real. To see that He loves you. And maybe you're a woman, and you have reason to doubt that He does, love you I mean. You have reason to doubt that He cares about you. You have reason to doubt that there is a Mother in Heaven that you could ever want to emulate, because if She exists She's clearly silent, and subordinate; She's clearly oppressed, and how could you ever want to be like Her? Wouldn't you rather live in single hell because wouldn't an oppressed subordinate silent existence be hell anyways?

And so you pray and you hope and every unfulfilled promise and every continuing hurt feels like every repeated negative pregnancy test. And then the Lord tells you to step out on a limb. A big one. He asks you to tell your friends that after all their yearning and desperation, after all of their unanswered prayers a miracle is about to be thrust into their faces. And deep down, in one of the darker cavities of your soul you know it's Him speaking to you but still you wonder if He is telling you the truth. You decide to act in faith.

And you drive up to your friends' apartment and you deliver the message with your eyes cast down at their beige carpet. And you look up and you see a grimace on his face and tears streaming down hers, but you don't take back what you said because you've decided. Faith.

And then weeks pass, 40 days pass, and then it's been a few months. And at intervals when you catch yourself doubting you repent because you don't know what's going on here, and you don't want your faith to somehow adversely effect this miracle baby's entrance into the world. And one day your spirits are so low that you pray and ask for God to remind you that He (and She) can in fact work miracles. He (and She) sends you a cloudburst and you stand in your backyard absorbing the watery pellets through your severely dampened underthings, and in your heart you turn around and you wait.

And then, in December, you see your friends. Nothing seems to have changed. They greet you warmly, very warmly, but they don't mention a pregnancy. And you figure that just like always, God has muddied the waters a bit. That He told you the truth, you just don't understand it yet, but that you will in time.

And then your friend emails you. And she tells you that she didn't know what to say. Because how do you say it really? We're pregnant. We're due in June. Thank you.

"And He said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, be whole of thy plague."

And I still don't really know whose faith in Christ it was. And I don't really know if it matters. Certainly, I know that it was her faith. My friend's. She (and he) did it. She's going to be a mother. But it's beginning to dawn on me that perhaps in some small way it was mine too. I did it. I'm going to be a believer.