by Hannah R. Reid, 2021
Recently, I was sitting on my couch in my living room, looking out my big front window that faces the street. The view from the window includes my neighbor’s house and a tree that stands directly in front of the house. Besides the occasional car or children running across the street, this is my view from my favorite spot in my living room each day. I often find myself here, journaling and drinking tea or coffee.
It was on that morning that I found myself staring at my neighbor’s tree. I suddenly felt so far away from it. Why? As I wrote in my journal: “Between the tree and I are very few things: a small living room, a window, a small yard, and a road. Why do I feel so far from the tree? What keeps me from climbing its branches? The tree feels impossible to get to, to examine, to touch. There is much between the tree and I. A life as a young woman places half an hour of physically preparing myself between the tree and I. Property ownership stands between the tree and I. My unfamiliar neighbor stands between the tree and I. The eyes from other living room windows stand between the tree and I. The orderliness of the houses down the street, their square yards, their cars parked in the driveway, stands between the tree and I. Who would challenge the coherence of such a place as this?
Later, as I worked through Luke 8:43-48, I was reminded of the journal entry that I now refer to as “The Tree and I.” Luke 8 is filled with stories of Jesus healing people who cry out to him, yet doubt him. The chapter begins with the parable of the sower, which compares ways in which people receive the Word of God. Luke 8:15 says, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by preserving produce a crop.” This parable lays the foundation for the rest of the chapter. Before Jesus calms a storm, his disciples on the boat with him question him, they yell at him to wake up because there is a storm. Jesus effortlessly calms the waters and says, “Where is your faith?” Jesus later is addressed by a demon-possessed man who yells at Jesus and begs him not to torture him. Jesus casts the demons out and the people who saw how He healed the man were afraid and asked Jesus to leave. But it is in the last story of Jesus’s healing in chapter 8 that hidden within another story is the small mention of a faithful bleeding woman. It was in a crowd that was yelling at Jesus, prompting him to heal the daughter of Jairus, that a quiet woman who had been bleeding for twelve years managed to slip through and touch the cloak of Jesus. Immediately her bleeding stopped and Jesus spoke out to ask who had touched him. When she came forward he said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” The delay of the healing of the daughter of Jairus caused someone to come from the house and declare that the girl was already dead. Jesus yet again questions the faith of men and says, “Stop wailing...she is not dead but asleep.” And Jesus awoke the child.
Amidst all of the stories of Jesus’s healing, it seems to me that it was the brief mention of the bleeding woman that reveals what it means to have good soil. The woman did not fight for Jesus’s attention, but believed that simply touching part of His cloak would be enough to heal her, and it did. This act reveals to me that this woman knew the character of our Savior on a level that the others in Luke 8 did not.
I believe Luke 8 exists to call Christians to examine their hearts. So often, we have an agenda. We are, as humans, constantly worried and in a rush. We want God to see how we are hurting, so we yell out to Him, we feel the need to get His attention so that He will look at us and fully see our affliction, because surely He must have missed it if it still exists. We cry out to God, “Don’t you see that there is a storm?!” “Can’t you see that my family needs help?!” “Why are You idle?!” But it is in each of these stories in Luke 8 that the reader learns something significant about the character of God. All of the yelling and crying out and prompting of Jesus only leads him to ask us, “Where is your faith?” We bound God to our small human existence and forget that God is not bound by place or time. Who should think that he is capable of controlling the work of the Holy Spirit? How highly would we have to think of ourselves and our circumstances to try to rush the Creator of the universe?
I am willing to bet- and I have just recently done this myself- that everyone who hears this message has at some point tried to put God in the box that the crowds in Luke 8 tried to put him in. What would it look like to humble ourselves, to submit to God’s timing, and to have simply enough faith to reach out and believe that God is who He says He is: our Savior and our Redeemer. The woman who touched the cloak of Jesus was not controlling Jesus, she was not begging Him to see her or yelling at Him to fix her problem. But she had bled for twelve years and knew in her heart that all she had to do was reach out to the opportunity tht was finally right there in front of her, and accept a little bit of God’s grace.
I later wrote another entry in my journal about “The Tree and I.” This was three days after I was sitting in my living room, looking out the window at my neighbor’s tree: “The other day I was walking to my car, and just before I turned fully into the driver’s seat, I remembered what I had written about the tree and I. I felt so much anxiety about such a simple act. But I had decided in my mind that I wanted nothing between the tree and I unless I put it there. I walked over and touched it. It was meek. I probably looked like I thought I saw something on the ground and went to pick it up as I touched the base of the tree. But I drove off feeling a couple pounds lighter because, for a second, there was nothing between the tree and I. I could do anything.”
I wonder, what is one thing in your life right now that you are not trusting God with? In what ways are you limiting the power of the Creator who works outside of time, yet always has perfect timing? And finally, I ask you to consider how you can be like the bleeding woman and practice enough faith in our God to reach out and know that He will heal you, because your future is already secure in Him if you will just touch His cloak and believe.