“But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, ‘Daughter…’”
Society has mastered the “art” of ostracizing. If one believes contrary to the accepted norm, s/he can be almost immediately cast aside by peers, strangers and even family and friends.
This is not a partisan political statement because it happens on every edge of the political coin. It also reaches beyond party affiliation, its tentacles found in arts, sports, religion and beyond.
Regardless of where one finds her/himself on a topic, the possibility of name calling, belittlement, physical threats and exile are commonplace. This “shame to shun” mentality has even found its way into the Church, with preferences over baptism, spiritual gifts and other similar subjects being the crux on which many denominations have split and relationships forever marred.
We may be coining new names for it, but the concept—and the pride behind it—are nearly as old as time.
The human race has long had a proclivity toward degrading those deemed different, odd, weird and abnormal. If someone does not fit into one of its neat and tidy boxes, society dubs them a dud and oftentimes leaves them to fend for themselves, at best. We see it over physical attributes such as cleft palettes and other developmental disabilities all around the world, especially in developing countries, as well as a host of other reasons, spanning from choice of faith to choice of spouse to choice of career. Society may even intentionally instill roadblocks to prevent said people from ever re-entering its acceptance.
Perhaps you are one of those people, or at least have felt like it depending on your social circles at the time. Or maybe you are/were on the fringes, not quite accepted but not yet ostracized either, somewhere in the ugly middle of being tolerated and ignored. Maybe it is something you did or a habit you cannot kick. Perhaps it’s less about your actions and more about your personhood—your intelligence, physicality, upbringing or social standing.
Regardless of the “why” and its root, you have found or currently find yourself outside a group of which you were once a part or to which you would like to belong. That group may be your family or friends, a social organization or career-related group, an informal club or an organized institution. Again, the shunning party is not the primary focus, nor is the reason behind your wanting to join their ranks; the key is the reality of your exclusion for a so-called specific reason (or in some cases, reasons) with no foundation in fact or valid concerns, only your being labeled less than, different or not up to snuff according to the world’s standards.
In a sense, we have all been there to some degree at least once because most of us have been to middle school and we all belong to a family, even if you have never met your biological family.
I know for me, though I have two remarkable parents who love one another and me (and have always expressed it), along with a childhood where all my needs were met and I had plenty of opportunities, I have felt “less than” or like an outsider for much of my life. No matter what I did or tried, said or mimicked, thought or believed, I often felt out of place and as if I didn’t belong.
Only when I met someone and truly started to get to know Him did the pieces begin to assemble and the emptiness within me start to fill.
Most of the time it was in minor ways, but other times it was more prevalent and visceral. I didn’t just feel different, but unwanted, unworthy and unnoticed. I never knew why I felt like that (part of me still doesn’t, at least not entirely), but I eventually came to accept it as my reality.
Society has tried to tell me it is because I have been oppressed and/or abused in some way; they have tried to pull me from the mold which I alone was meant to fill and reshape me into something new—a new identity with a label they devised. Fortunately, I was raised in a way that helped me see the frivolity of such thinking, and thus I knew forcing a man-made identity—and all its baggage—upon myself would only compound the confusion while adding despair and a lack of purpose, especially when its entire premise is rooted in fiction, or at best, misconception. Only when I met someone and truly started to get to know Him did the pieces begin to assemble and the emptiness within me start to fill.
This man, unlike any other, helped me see the bigger picture of life as a whole and my role within it. He exposed me to true love, loving me when I was unlovable and giving me far more than I deserved. He held my hand when I was afraid and never left my side. He encouraged me to be the person I was created to be, but also, with great compassion, held me accountable when I fell short, all while showing me the way to being better.
He never made me feel hopeless or like a failure but convinced me there was something better in store. He made me feel loved, seen and accepted as I was and always helped me know it was only the beginning of a greater story.
At times, I’ve felt as if I need to earn His love, only for Him to patiently remind me there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more—not because of anything I am or am not but because of who He is.
Though I continue to make mistakes—as we all do—He extends His hand every single time, brushes the dust off my back, cares for my wounds, restores my strength and holds my hand as we move forward together.
This man truly is one-of-a-kind, and He is the same man who, when He met a woman 12 years disowned by her family and shunned by her community, told her that she was seen, loved, restored and now part of His family, forever.
He is the One who, when she fell down before Him, trembling, and told Him the truth, He said, “‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease’” (Mark 5:34). This man was and is unlike any other because He is not just a man. He is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world and a Friend of sinners (a.k.a all of us, see Romans 3:23).
He not only healed this woman of the very ailment which led to her banishment, He promised her ultimate restoration in a relationship dismantled long ago by her sin. When no one else saw her, He did. When no one else wanted to touch her for fear of being unclean, He drew near to her. When nearly every ounce of hope had left her body, He sought her.
These words speak to me not just because they are absolute written truth, spoken by God and recorded by those He called to record them (see 2 Peter 1:21), but because they are a beautiful word picture of God Himself.
When nearly every once of hope had left her body, He sought her.
Every time I read this historical account, I can see the dust on the woman’s face, etched away only by streams of tears. I can feel the desperation in her voice, mingled with pure joy, as she tries to comprehend the magnitude of her healing and the events leading up to it. I can hear the whispers of those around her, some of astonishment and others of disgust at the sight of such a filthy woman as herself. How could a woman like her dare touch a holy man?
I can see, feel and hear it all, but what strikes me most is the other dust-covered face leaning down so it is eye-level with hers. What enraptures me is the sight of His dirt-caked fingers softly cupping themselves around her face as His tender eyes beg her to look at Him. What takes my breath away is the soft vibration of His voice as He calls her by her true name, one she has never heard spoken to her with such love and compassion.
What leads me to my knees is Him reclaiming her as His own, a woman who for years had felt dirty, less than and without hope. He restored her hope because He was her hope.
My friend, this is not a fairytale or folklore. It is not wishful thinking or hyperbole. It is History, meticulously recorded and kept for thousands of years so that generations would know He is the Lord. It is very much for us, but it is ultimately for Him. He is the One and only God who, moved by love, came down to this evil-ridden world to be with broken, imperfect humans like you and me (see John 3:16-17, Romans 5:8 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). And not just be with us, but save us from ourselves, the bondage of sin (what has caused all the evil, pain and division in the world) and the fear of death it arouses (see Isaiah 53:4-6 and Rom. 6:23).
After all, He is El Roi, the God who sees (see Genesis 16:13). He is unchangeable (see James 1:17 and Malachi 3:6) and unshakeable (see Matthew 24:35). He is Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14) and Emmanuel (meaning “God with us,” see Matt. 1:23). Ultimately, He is the One and only God, manifested in three persons: God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ and God the Holy Spirit. Each distinct persons with distinct roles, but all equally God.
This idea of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) can be challenging to wrap our finite human brains around, regardless of how long you have known Him, but the truth is still absolute. As are many aspects of God, our ability to comprehend does not detract from Him and His truth. He does not require us to know or even understand it all to go to Him, nor does He require it as we give our lives to Him; all He asks is for us, like the woman society deemed “unclean” for 12 years, to turn to Him, lay it all at His feet and trust Him with the rest.
When we do, He will do for us what He did for that woman: wash away all our sins (the acts we have committed against Him), restore the relationship with Him which we broke by sinning, transform us to be who He created us to be and give us the gift of Himself. A gift which includes adoption into His family and eternity in Heaven with Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit, as well as all others He has restored.
So if you find yourself forgotten, overlooked, discarded or abandoned today, know there is still hope. It is not in a label created by society. It is not in a new program concocted by marketing agencies. It is not in a new political leader or celebrity. It is not a matter of you finding the inner strength and redeeming yourself. It lies in Him and in Him alone because He is hope.
Like the woman, you, too, can be healed and restored. You, too, can be seen by the One who sees, the One who created you and knew you before time began (see Psalm 139:13), the One who desires a relationship with you.
All you need to do is turn to Him, lay everything at His feet and sit there in awe as He reclaims you for Himself, tearing down the old and building the new. His hands cupped around your face, His eyes level with yours, He will say to you, “‘My Daughter/Son, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’”
English Standard Version Bible. (2001). Crossway Bibles.