“Every girl young and old has to face her own reflection
Twirl around, stare it down
What’s the mirror gonna say
With some luck, you’ll measure up
But you might not hold a candle to the rest
“Is that your best?” says the mirror to Little Miss
But there’s a whisper in the noise
Can you hear a little voice….”
– Excerpts from the song “Beautiful for Me” by Nichole Nordeman
Recently, I was sitting in a group of women, listening and discussing personality types and as the women shared, it struck me just how obvious it was that so many women didn’t feel they had anything to offer their families or the world. I realised that as a society we are often suffering from a sickness that allows Satan to weave his tentacles into the very core of our being. It is an ailment that we have learnt to cover up and society has told us it is okay to have. It is often hidden under the guise of humility. We question whether we are measuring up. Whether we are being the wife, mother, woman that we want to be. And we look in the mirror picking apart our bodies, picking apart our personalities, comparing ourselves to other, fuelling the flames of lies and learning to view ourselves as negative and lacking.
In Matthew 9:20-22, we see a small little story with profound implications:
“And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.”
According to Levitical law, having a discharge of blood meant being ostracised and isolated from the community, your family, your husband. When a women had her menstrual period, it was public knowledge as everything was unclean that she came in contact with- a chair she sat in had to be cleansed afterwards, a bed she lay in was classed as unclean and needed cleansing, anything she touched was made unclean and needed to be washed before anyone else could touch it without becoming unclean because of her (Leviticus 15:19-32).
I remember studying Puberty in Year 9 Science. We watched a documentary on a British girl who was talking about just getting her periods and what it was like. She talked about how her father took her out for a chocolate eclair to celebrate ‘becoming a woman’. My response? I was mortified at the thought- imagine it being a public occasion and something so widely broadcast- I couldn’t imagine anything more mortifying! When I read Levitical law and what was expected of women, particularly how public everything had to be so that people knew they needed to go through cleansing if they touched a menstruating woman, this Year 9 documentary comes back to my mind and I feel that sense of embarrassment all over again. But after 7 days, women were cleansed and brought back into relationship with their husbands and families and all was right again (until next month that is). Why did this happen? It was a constant reminder that God is holy and humanity is not. Regular reminders such as relationship breakdown every month, highlighted the fact that there was nothing a person could do to be clean and holy in themselves. They needed cleansing and sacrifice.
In Matthew 9:20-22, we read of a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. She didn’t experience the restoration with her family, because her bleeding just didn’t stop. She was completely removed from relationship with people. In Mark 5:25-34, we read this same story with some extra detail. We read that this woman had been to numerous doctors and had spent all that she had, but instead of growing better, she grew worse. I imagine what this woman’s self-esteem would have been like. She had been separated from her home, family and society for 12 years with no hope. That was until she heard about Jesus.
This unnamed bleeding woman, knew it wasn’t about who she was, it was about who HE was that mattered. She didn’t even feel worthy to confront him in front of the crowd. Instead, this woman knew she only needed to touch his clothes (Matthew 9:21) and she could be healed. She was taking a risk even being in the crowd with her condition, for being there by Levitical law made everyone ‘unclean’. Yet she knew it was her only hope. So she forged on.
What I love most of all though about this story? It would have to be the reaction of Jesus: “…”Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well”…” (Matthew 9:22). He acknowledges the woman and lovingly calls her ‘daughter’. In the fast-paced book of Mark, we read this story in surprising detail, telling us that Jesus even questions the disciples and crowd about who touched him, causing them too to stop and in turn acknowledge the woman (Mark 5:25-34). It reminds me that no matter our failings, weaknesses, blemishes or number we are currently registering on the scales- Jesus sees us, acknowledges us and calls us “daughter.” We just need to realise that it is Jesus we need to be around for us to truly be made ‘well’.
Today, take heart from the closing of this passage, “He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”(Mark 5:34). Let us strive to be free from our suffering of comparison and trying to measure up. Let us realise it isn’t who we are or what we do but who HE is and what he has DONE. I for one am hoping that I do the work now on seeing myself through the eyes of my Saviour so that my daughter may grow up to understand her worth and value in light of the richness of his grace.