Abuse victims are perceived as ‘unclean’; yet they reach for the fringe of Christ’s garment
Matthew 9:18-26 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 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. And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district.
This story conveys the woman’s plight so poignantly. She’s been bleeding for years; and she’s unclean and untouchable according to the law. Shyly, inconspicuously, but with a determination that springs from her deep pain and need, she reaches for the fringe of Christ’s garment. And she has simple, profound faith that He will make her well. He will staunch the flow of blood, bind the mysterious wound inside her which has been depleting her energy, stripping her of all her social respect, and filling her with shame.
Her unobtrusive approach to Jesus shows her shame. She knows the crowd will shame her if they discover her condition; but she knows Jesus will not shame her.
And the way her story is slotted into the middle of the narrative of the ruler’s daughter, is similar to how she unobtrusively slips up behind Jesus in the crowd. It is also similar to the way Christian authors often write about abusive marriages: they slip in a brief mention about abuse, in passing: a parenthesis here, a sentence there, a paragraph or maybe even two; but rarely a thorough treatment of the complexities of the topic. Book after book is written about marital problems and how to fix them, case study after case study is paraded down the cat walk, most of which have happy endings (are these case studies real, or are they invented by the Christian authors who write marriage books?) but usually the topic of abuse makes only a cameo appearance. Yet readers whose pain is deep and whose wounds are un-staunched, continue to reach for the fringes of Christ’s garment.