Friday, January 6, 2017

At Arm's Length

It wasn’t my most grace-filled moment. That day when the children were painting pictures on pumpkins. They enjoyed their craft immensely, reveled in their work, and wanted to celebrate with a hug from me. A hug that I refused because they were not clean. They were covered in paint, from head to toe and so I held them at arms-length until they washed because I was clean and they were not.

In the book of Luke, a woman with a bleeding disorder reached out for Jesus and was healed as she grasped at the hem of his clothes. Seems ordinary, perhaps, in celebrity culture, to get a grasp, to steal a touch, of a rock star’s hand or an actor’s passing silhouette. But this woman was anything but ordinary and that just wasn’t done.  

The Book of Leviticus depicts for us a set of rules and code by which the people of Israel abided. They were strict laws; impossible to follow. But follow, they must, or they would pay the price. A woman who was bleeding was considered unclean. She couldn’t touch or be touched. She couldn’t go to worship. She couldn’t cook for her family, she couldn’t be hugged by her husband, and no one could even sit in the same place where she had just sat until she became clean again. Anyone who touched her would become defiled, and unclean.

This suffering woman in Luke suffered for 12 years; 12 long, miserable years of being lonesome for a healing touch; 12 desperate years to go to church; 12 depressing years of not hugging her babies or chatting up her friends. She was unclean and to touch another in her state was unthinkable. The social, emotional, physical, and economic toll was incredible. And after 12 long years, she was desperate to do the unthinkable.

The woman’s desperation must have been greater than her fear of being an outcast. And in her suffering, she reached for Jesus and grasped the hem – just the hem – of His clothes. Who would dare to touch Him? Only those with the greatest of faith, I suppose. Because in spite of her bleeding, in spite of her defilement, she reached for the Christ. Jesus, feeling her touch, turned to the woman, gazed at her. He spoke. But even her 12 years of being unclean could not tarnish His holiness, she couldn’t make Him unclean. She didn’t defile the Master. Instead, He made her whole.

Aren’t we all just a bit unclean? We modern folk could never measure up to Leviticus with our synthetic blends of clothes and our penchant for pork. But worse yet, aren’t our hearts just a bit unclean? Don’t we have dark splotches of doubt where our faith should be shining? Impatience flowing where grace should grow? Weariness where there should be joy?  Hard to believe that Jesus would want me in the state I’m in, but the unthinkable becomes possible because God’s grace isn’t dependent on how clean I am.  

You don’t have to make resolutions to be a better person, or write a manifesto to get skinnier, be kinder, yell less, work more. You don’t have to fix yourself before God turns to look at you. All you have to do is reach out, grasp for Him, and believe Him. No matter how paint or what dirt or uncleanness covers you, you cannot make God unclean. Let Him turn to you, gaze at you, and make you whole.

Dear God,
Sometimes my pain gets in the way of my relationship with You. Sometimes I am lonely, or isolated, I feel alone. Sometimes I doubt, or feel bitter, and tired. Sometimes I feel like I am not good enough for You. Help me to reach for You, to believe You, to trust You. God in heaven, please make me whole.
In the name of Jesus,

1 comment:

  1. Such wonderful truths here. Thank you for sharing these reminders, truths and your heart. :)