A while back I came across some notes on Luke 8. Unfortunately, I did not keep a record of where I found them. I suspect I was reading a Grove booklet at the time, but I don’t know which one. Perhaps someone will let me know if they recognise the notes below. This is another passage where the dynamics of Shame are central!
All the accounts of Jesus’ meeting with women affirm the value of womanhood to him. The passage in Luke 8 is no exception.
“For the wounded one, who has thought her womanhood was a liability or nothing more than a source of shame, this acceptance is in itself a healing.
Enclosed in the story of Jairus’ daughter, this account of the woman who bleeds speaks directly to her sense of shame. Stigmatized and excluded by her embarrassing and uncontrollable state, she comes to Jesus from behind, where he cannot see her, and touches the fringe of his clothes. She does not want to be noticed because in her experience notice usually leads to further shame and rejection. Her condition means that she will make him ritually unclean by her touch, and there is nothing she can do about that, but he still represents hope to her – maybe her last hope.
Who knows what she felt about the fact that she was suffering from this humiliating condition. Did she question God, like job, in the long hours of loneliness? Did she rail against him, or shrug her shoulders in resignation? Was it the will of God that she should suffer this? Or was it her own fault -some past transgression the cause of her present trouble?
She had had ten years to reflect on it – years maybe of bitterness and resentment, of physical pain and exhaustion. Years of anger at her helplessness, despite having done all she could to get rid of her shame, despite having given all her money to those who claimed to be able to cure her, but who were in reality just as powerless as she was herself. Perhaps now she had moved beyond all of it, to a place of no feeling at all and no hope, deadened within, until another healer comes to town. And he – what does he do? Does he draw her to one side, as he does with some others who come for his healing, knowing how ashamed she feels? Does he sit down quietly with her alone, to answer her questions and enfold her in a new awareness of the love of God?
The wounded one sees it all in her mind’s eye – sees herself as the shamed woman, cut off from others by the unspeakable things that have happened to her and then sees the Christ turn to the woman, demanding that she be exposed for all to see. There was to be no more hiding away, no more pretence that all was well, really. There was to be no collusion between the Anointed One of God, and the religious and social attitudes that kept her isolated and increased her shame. He insisted on bringing her out onto centre stage, into the gaze of all those who had shunned her with their remarkable lack of compassion. His action meant that her shame, the shame of humiliation not of penitence, was no longer to be the controlling force in her interior life. The power has gone forth from him, to heal her physical state, drawn forth perhaps by the silent pleading of her heart, but that is not enough for him. She must own her actions, be a grown-up, acknowledge how it is with her – and hold her head up high. The wounded one knows that if he had let the woman remain hidden then the spiritual disease, the shame of humiliation, would have remained untouched and unhealed. While the shame of penitence leads to release, the shame of humiliation can only lead to continued captivity Uncomfortable though it was, it was his love which had restored the woman to wholeness. He knew her concealment was important without being told, he cared enough to do something about it, and he had the power and the desire to do so.
The story offers the wounded one the first hint of the possibility of resurrection – of a new life in which the experiences of the past are not forgotten or discarded, but which might be filled now with the presence of Christ. She opens her heart to the movement of the story, to the movement of Christ within. She hears his word to her of deliverance from shame. The past becomes charged with life not death. The remembrance of hurt and humiliation is no longer empty of love. It is lit from within by Jesus. Memory now holds the possibility of further healing and of a greater restoration to life. It is more than a simple restoration though, for in this new life she will begin to know herself and God more fully than ever before, and already there is a joy that contrasts completely with her earlier experience. Through the story of the humiliated and rejected woman, Christ himself has touched her wounded place and begun the process of healing. Christ himself is present within the wounded place at last.“