Sometimes there are no advocates, no allies, no other choices but to be the one to take a risk with no guarantee or promise of success, of justice, of healing.
That’s why I am repeatedly drawn to the story of the bleeding woman in Mark 5. Like many women of my evangelical faith tradition, we don’t know this woman’s name. We only know her by her “sin” and her story, and it is one of courage and desperation in the face of injustice against women.
She has been suffering for 12 years — a bleeding that no amount of money or expertise has been able to stop. Bleeding for women meant being unclean or untouchable for the duration of their menstrual cycles, but for this woman her bleeding meant years of suffering, of separation from community, of being unclean and untouchable.
You are forced to know that she has no one else to speak on her behalf. There is no husband, no brother or sister, no family like the dying girl found in the same passage, no one to make a way for her like the paralyzed man who is lowered through a roof earlier in the gospel of Mark. We don’t even know if she is young or old. We just know that the chips were stacked against her, because in that time, if you were a woman, you needed a man.
So she makes a way for herself.
She isn’t loud. She isn’t the kind of “leader” who would grab your attention and keep it. She is afraid, and she is desperate. She has heard of Jesus and the miracles he has done, and she chooses to break the rules, even if quietly, to make her way through the crowds to touch his cloak in hopes of finding healing. She doesn’t have anyone to go with her, and she certainly doesn’t announce, as protocol would’ve been, that she is unclean.
I don’t know if I could’ve done or could do what she did. Making her way through the crowd was so foolish, so brave, so powerful, so beautiful.
Jesus’ response acknowledges that, and their interaction is what I often reflect on during seasons of self-doubt. Jesus invites the woman to speak for herself, to tell her story despite her fear and trembling. He makes room for her in a way no one else did, and he waits.
She could’ve left. She knew she was healed. She felt it. She could’ve left, but she didn’t. She took the space and tells Jesus her story.
Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace, and be freed from your suffering.”
His power. Her faith.
I am not a quiet person. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, on my face that is often in “resting b****” mode, and in the tone of my voice. I speak my mind, often loudly, often clumsily. I do not want to rock the boat, but I also do not think that injustice should be allowed to continue without a fight.
It’s easier for me to write about something before I speak about it, but so many of my words are calculated, thought out, planned to bear as little risk as possible — because I am more afraid than perhaps I appear.
But when I look at the bleeding woman, she becomes the woman of faith and courage because of what she did. She made her way through the crowd. She overcame her fear. And she inspires me day in and out.
She told Jesus the truth when she could’ve slinked away into anonymity. She stayed. She told her story despite being afraid. Her faith continued to guide her. And then she was freed.
I reflect often on the bleeding woman who becomes the woman of faith, because I believe one day all my sisters will be freed. It won’t be easy. We will be afraid. But when there is space to tell our stories and walk in faith, I believe we will be healed, be in peace, and be freed.