Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, none could cure her. She had come up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped… –Luke 8:43-44
I remember sitting in Sunday school and hearing about the mysterious woman with these issues of blood and great faith, the one who thought to herself, if I only touch the hem of his garment I will be healed, and it was. And I remember knowing about the power and the compassion of Jesus before I understood the pain and the shame of this woman’s disease.
Sometimes when we see disabled kids at the orphanage and in foster homes, Chinese friends will ask me if I’m afraid to touch and hold the kids, and it seems such an alien question, because I have not only been taught from a young age that these children are just like me, that I can’t get sick from touching them or playing with them or even kissing or cuddling them, but also that they are also children of God, worthy of love and compassion.
But simply because I know these things, I can comprehend them with my mind, doesn’t mean it’s easy to live by them, or to believe them in my heart of hearts. I remember hearing from missionaries to the DR Congo about women there who (many who are victims of rape) suffer from obstetric fistulas which often cause them to live as outcasts from their communities, and even their families. Someone who has a fistula often feels perpetually unclean, the smell is overwhelming, and many women would prefer to die than go on living in such shame and pain.
But these missionaries help train doctors who perform surgeries that repair the damage done to these women’s bodies, so that they can be healed not only physically, but also socially, so that they can go back to living a normal life. In many ways, though, it’s not these women who are only in need of healing, but we who call ourselves healthy, we as a society who view them as unclean, and cast them off.
Jesus told the woman who touched the fringe of his garment that her faith had made her well, but would he say the same to any of us? Even if we know what is right, do we believe that Jesus is calling us to touch those whom no one wants to touch, to live among those whom no one wants to live with?
It’s so important for us to continue to seek to know Jesus and to live like him, not because we gain power by doing so, or so that we can perform miracles, but so that miracles can be performed within our hearts so that we can see others as Jesus did, so that we can be a society that isn’t sick with the diseases of pride and discrimination, but alive with the compassion and grace.