Matthew 9:18-22 (New King James)
While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples.
And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.
Last night, as I turned to our worn bookmark for a Bible story with my girls, this was the story we read. This morning I don’t even remember if the Bible story commentary was about the ruler’s daughter or the bleeding woman. I just know what happened in my own heart as I read to them. Hearing those words…how the woman just wanted to touch Jesus…pricked my heart, highlighted my own thirst and stirred a recognition in my soul.
My genuine motive for starting this blog was to be “real.” I have lived many days, weeks, months and years trying so hard to live up to the expectations of others, especially in church-world. Tasting the freedom in being real, honest, sincere, genuine…myself…has changed my life. Yet, lately I have been struggling. For so many months I encountered the presence of Jesus on such a regular basis… be it at my kitchen table, on my porch, driving in my car, on my knees or hands lifted toward Heaven gazing out of a window. Jesus honestly became the medicine that cured me. Touching Him, being near Him, altered my perspective of others, myself, my purposes and on and on. Being filled with His Spirit changed everything about my life. When I say filled with His Spirit, I am talking about a very fresh and daily encounter in which I live in the overflow of His joy, peace, passion and power. Touching Jesus has been the only way I ever discovered how to truly walk in His Spirit.
So, the real part. Lately, I have come to see how easily the demands of life can begin to drain us. Even things we know we are called to do by God can make us tired. And honestly, I am starting to believe that as we grow increasingly tired, worn out and feel helpless to adequately meet the demands of life, we become negative and resentful. Oh, we may not admit we feel resentful. Especially if we are trying to “be Christian.” But it’s there. And we know it. Instead of starting the day with a fresh perspective and enjoying the opportunities God is giving us as husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, employees, leaders, sons and daughters, we feel annoyed. We feel overwhelmed. We begin to see the blessings and calling of God for our personal lives as burdens we bear instead of the pulse of God for our lives. Our hearts no longer beat in time with His. We just want to take a nap or be left alone…no one calling our name, no emails to send or answer, no mirror to face.
I haven’t reached hibernation status yet…smile…but I can easily see how this could happen. I have felt the increasing demands all the while knowing the roles God has me in now are His will and hand on my life. And yet I notice I don’t seem to be touching Jesus as often as I was before. I still sit to read my Bible. I still pray. But His presence? A fresh encounter every day? Not so much. Now, there was a time this would have driven me to just quit. But if there was one decision of my life that changed my life, it was the decision I made to keep going. I will know God. I will not do it right all the time, but I will no longer count on my ability to perform to get me closer to Jesus. So, I have felt a bit discouraged at times lately. I keep thinking back to last summer and the many months surrounding that season. I keep wanting, at least spiritually, to go back! Deep in my heart, however, God tells me we are not going back. The only way through this current season is forward. Many mornings I ask Him, why is this happening? What do you want me to do? It’s not as if I don’t care anymore. It’s not as if I am under any misguided notion I can wife, mother, grow a new child, lead in a ministry or be a friend anyone wants to have well in my own strength. (Oh yeah, and have a relatively clean and orderly home with meals prepared.) Matter of fact, I know I cannot do any of these things well or see these areas bear good fruit except as I walk in His Spirit…be filled with His Spirit…touch Jesus.
As I read about this woman, I felt a deep understanding. I knew deep inside, like her, I just need to touch the hem of His garment. See, I can get up and read my Bible. I can pray. I can do what I know to do or what I have been taught to do along with a crowd of other Christians like those following Jesus that day. But I picture this woman. Bleeding for twelve years. I can only imagine her lethargy about living. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. Maybe she was as drained as she had ever been. Maybe the demands of even reaching out to Jesus felt like one more “thing” she needed to do. But somewhere along the way, her desperation for wholeness spurned her to do what perhaps no one else in that crowd had yet done. She was not satisfied nor putting her faith in being one of a crowd to observe Jesus or see what He would do next. She was not a spectator. This woman, from the edge of the crowed, reached out to touch Him. And with a crowd of people jostling about Him, Jesus stopped. I believe He knew she was there and I believe He was so happy to let her come near. And yes, in her nearness to Jesus she was made well. Made whole.
As I opened my “Jesus Calling” devotional (Sarah Young) to July 1st here is part of what I read: Be willing to fight for this precious time with Me. Opposition comes in many forms: your own desire to linger in bed, the evil one’s determination to distract you from Me; the pressure of family, friends, and your own inner critic to spend your time more productively. As you grow in your desire to please Me above all else, you gain strength to resist the opponents. Delight yourself in me, for I am the deepest Desire of your heart.
Not surprisingly, a few tears began to roll down my face and I bowed my head in an honest surrender. I sensed the whisper in my heart tell me the more He gives me in life to steward, the more essential touching the hem of His garment will be. We so easily relegate a very meaningful time with Jesus for the check marks of Bible reading and a rote prayer. We label it “quiet time” while all throughout our mind is racing and our spirit is anything but peaceful and quiet. I get it. Now more than ever in my life, probably. And somehow I know that all of those precious months where I so easily felt God’s presence and enjoyed the spilling over of His life from mine were part of a great preparation for me. For one, I got to know Him in ways I never had before. Secondly, I now know the difference. I know the difference between being one of a crowd saying the right things, maybe even doing the right things, but not really desperate to touch Him.
I cannot, will not, live in my own strength. I am not meant to. May I never be satisfied or grow accustomed to the lethargy and resentment of what the blessings of God or pursuit of peace seem to cost me. He never intended for me to live intermittently drained or with hardly any of myself left to give. I really believe He intends we live and give out of an overflow of His Spirit within us. But I must refuse to not be filled.
Just to touch the hem of His garment. Just to be near Him. There is wholeness, healing, strength…in close proximity to Jesus where He can speak to me and I can hear Him…this is the place where I am filled with His Spirit, His power, His passion, His perspective.
Here I am…an average person experiencing what most of us do…and I pray it continues to drive me to reach out and touch the hem.