For the past few years I’ve had this problem.
You don’t really want to hear all about it, but for the sake of what I want to share, I will tell you. I have too much estrogen. You’d think this would lead to more awesome womanness, but actually it causes several problems. It’s not just constant PMS symptoms, but also constant bleeding. The good news is that I went to the doctor years ago, and although it has gotten worse, I have stuff I can take that helps minimize these things (and totally eliminates the constant bleeding).
I continue to look for ways to be more hormonally balanced by eating differently, minimizing stress, etc. The symptom that is the most bothersome to me is extreme irritability. The difference between normal grumpiness and hormone induced irritation is marked. My rational mind tells me when a situation or interaction should or should not lead to anger and when this problem is at it’s worst, I walk around in a fog of anxious irascibility. I find this side effect the most disturbing because it impacts my relationships with other people and those are what I value most. Also, I don’t enjoy being angry!
Every once in a while I run out of the medicine that helps me and I usually keep a pretty relaxed attitude about it until, three or four days later, my skin hurts and I’m trying desperately to not bite people**.
I ran out of medicine a week and a half ago and while I’m not having horrible symptoms, I did have a revelation last night about a story in the Bible. I suddenly realized that I am the woman with the issue of blood from Mark 5 (also Luke 8 and Matthew 9)…
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.
She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. 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, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:24-34)
Maybe you know what it meant for a woman in the first century to have this problem? Basically, the Jewish cleanliness laws would have kept her almost as segregated as a leper. Was she married? Her husband probably divorced her. Was she single when her problems began? She would certainly not have found a husband. Her friends wouldn’t have been able to touch her and everything she touched, everywhere she sat, would be considered unclean.
For twelve years.
Realizing that I share this problem, I can add more to what we hypothesize of her experience. Not only was she physically isolated, but she probably felt crazy. Maybe she loved God and other people, but she likely spent her energy swinging to emotional extremes. Apologizing for the pottery she’d thrown, the door she’d slammed, trying to busy her hands as she mentally obsessed over a troubling (though rare) social interaction.
And don’t even get me started on the doctors.
But then she hears about Jesus. I don’t know her name, but I can guess her feelings as she made the absurd decision to dive into a crowd of bodies. She knew she was making others “unclean” as she pushed her way through them, praying no one would recognize her.
She was desperate.
Although her actions may have seemed selfish, she reveals her true heart when Jesus (horror of horrors) notices that she’s touched his robe. She must have been certain she could not sink any lower than this moment, when the great teacher would call out her shame in front of everyone. Yet she fell at his feet and told the whole truth. Too broken to pretend, too needy to deny and probably too startled by the healing to prepare a defense.
Even though I’ve been following him for over 20yrs now, I am still very often shocked by the kindness of Jesus. Every time I read the story of the prodigal son I weep. The woman at the well still leaves me undone. I may work as a missionary, but friends, I am just as in need of God’s love and forgiveness as I was the day I met him. You see, I am still a human and my issues continue. But every time I am brave enough to press in and reach out for him, Jesus turns to me and calls me “daughter.” He doesn’t just farewell me with peace, he walks with me. The one time encounter turns into a daily, honest conversation.
I don’t always know how to be that brave, but as I find myself so surprisingly in the story, I am inspired by that great woman’s example. And I pray for us today, that we will have the courage to reach out to him, no matter the problem that plagues us. May we recognize Jesus as he turns his fiercely kind gaze upon us and calls us his own.
**I never literally bite people