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Disciple of Joy

by Lisa Holloway  
10/08/2007 / Short Stories

"Jesus reached for me." The woman kneeling in the dust was so struck with wonder that long after, she remained unmoving.

The feel of the tiny, sharp rocks like some animal's teeth pressing through the layers of fabric, leaving fossil-like imprints in her shins, did not even register. In that moment when he had passed by, she had barely dared to hope, and could not gain the courage to ask. So she had stood there, resisting the waves of people pushing by, standing her ground until he should come.

"He looked at me. He saw me, a woman, invisible, with all my problems."

She rose slowly, the pin-sharp prickling through her legs diminishing as she walked down the road with growing vigor, remembering years past. She thought of a hill, her family's little house nestled neatly into its side, a part of the land around it. Male voices chanted the morning prayers, thankful to God for many things. Thankful to God they had not been born women.

Growing up, she'd been too busy to give it much thought and, in a sense, had agreed it was hard being a woman. Only she had sensed a hunger within herself, and had bit back impatience when her younger brother had been taken aside to learn the words of the Talmud. She remembered treasuring the scraps gleaned from thin air, drifting to her where she paused in bread-making to taste the richness of the ancient words.

Then she had been married, and two sons and three daughters later, her body never quite healed. The blood kept flowing, a slow leak like hope escaping a vessel not fit to contain it for twelve long years. She had been left gazing from the fringe, exiled from those she loved most in that little room where the physicians would visit her...but rarely anyone else. After a time, she had almost ceased mattering. As she remained unable to share life with her family, they had managed to go on without her. Small children stopped crying for a mother's embrace, then grew, never again to be the compact bodies nestled in her arms.

Yet there had still been a spark in her that had dared to hope she could matter enough to this Jesus and, in that hoping, she had sought him out as he passed by in the press of the crowd. Reaching, hand falling back, then finally the fingers rising strangely before her eyes. Tears ran down her face, a woman poor in body and spirit. Her life lost in a physical uncleanness that separated her from community, from family from her daughter's wedding she spent her days in lonely wandering through the little courtyard set aside for her use. How her arms had ached to touch her children, her husband, just as her soul hungered to touch God! Yet in her impurity she was separated from all, just as clearly as the walls that had blocked her passage beyond the Women's Courtyard.

But suddenly her fingers had closed on fabric a moment, and then he was gone. Or so she had thought, as well-being coursed through her veins, and she knew that all was in balance again. Instead of going on . . . he had stopped. She was vaguely aware of the wide eyes and drawing back of some in the crowd, even a guardedness on the faces of his closest followers, who were sometimes shocked by his choices. He chose to draw attention to one who had been set aside for many years, to point out the touch of the unclean upon his person: not with revulsion, but compassion.

She was unclean no more. She had touched Jesus. There in the dust, he had reached for her with his words, as she crouched at his feet like a blinking, caged animal too long deprived of sun. He had reached past the impurity and indignity, past her categories, past her loneliness. In doing so, he had changed more than her health: he had changed her world. And she would follow him wherever he went, caged and broken no longer, filled with the joy of his love and light.

Lisa Holloway is a Christian freelance writer, as well as a copy editor and writer for Inspiration Networks. She has served with the U.S. Navy and USAID/OFDA, and has studied in India. She recently wrote four stories for the compilation "Can My Marriage Be Saved?"

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