In Luke's Gospel "the woman healed on the Sabbath" is unnamed. In imagining her version of the events, it was important to me that she have a given name, and it seemed appropriate that she be called "Dinah."
as told by Deborah
One Sabbath when Jesus was teaching, a woman came to the synagogue. A spirit had crippled her for eighteen years; she was completely bent over and unable to stand up straight.
When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from what has been done to you.” The instant he laid his hands on her, she stood up straight and began praising God.
But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had done this on the Sabbath, kept repeating to the congregation, “There are six days for work — those are the days for healing, but not on the Sabbath.”
The Lord was outraged, “You hypocrites! Every one of you unyokes his oxen or removes the burdens from his donkey and leads it to water on the Sabbath — so shouldn’t this woman, a daughter of Abraham who was wickedly crippled for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”
When he said this, those who opposed him were ashamed; and everyone was delighted by all of the wonderful things that he was doing.
as told to Deborah
I was in a valley, at dawn; mist was rising from hillsides covered with shimmering wildflowers. In the distance I could see a robed figure moving toward me: a man? a woman? it was impossible to tell — I only knew that we were meant to be together…. and I started running, running, running and my heart was filled with an extraordinary joy.
Then I awoke. And began to weep. It was that dream, again; it pursued me like a demon, taunting me, tempting me with its siren song of What Might Have Been. Running — me with my crippled back? Seeing a distant figure — when my eyes are always focused on the ground?
Perhaps it was God’s gift, and not a torment; for a few minutes in the nighttime I was free and whole. I must, in faith, believe. Surely the One who made me shows mercy on His damaged child.
I struggled free from the blankets and grabbed for my walking sticks. After rocking back and forth several times I was able to rise from the bed and make my way, slowly — for me it is the only way — over to the kitchen fire.
The only sound this cold morning was my gasping breath; each step brings another sharp stab to my back, and of late there are endless pains in my shoulders and my elbows. And my hands ache from gripping the walking sticks. But if those fail to hold me up, what will happen to me? I must go on, I must stay strong….
As strong as one can be who is weak.
A soft caress stops me, and brings a smile to my lips. God’s gift on four legs: Solomon, my cat. His purr wraps around me like a cashmere shawl; warm and gentle and loving — taking no note of my lowly estate. From the lower shelf (I can reach no others) I remove a sliver of cheese, which he gratefully devours.
“Yes, my friend,” I say, watching him at his meal, “You are right: ‘in all things, give thanks.’”
Today above other days is one to be thankful. It is the Sabbath, a day of rest, of peace; a day of particular sanctity to our Lord God.
I wonder about being thankful; my body requires it of me. How to be thankful — why should I be thankful — when I am in such pain? Thankful for my furry companion, yes; thankful that I have not been utterly abandoned….
I sigh, and through the open door I catch the fragrance of cut grass, and hear the distant murmur of sheep — discussing the shepherd’s haircut, my grandmother would say. And I smile. Yes, for those things I can be grateful: for air, for earthsongs, for memories of those I have loved.
Bidding Solomon a tender farewell, I take a deep breath and begin the long journey — as it is for me — to the synagogue, to honor the Lord. If the psalmist can say, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live! I will sing praises to my God as long as I exist!” Well, so shall I!
Although I had walked — well, as much as it can be called “walking,” this hobbling on my two sticks — as quickly as I could, the worship service had already begun by the time I reached the sanctuary.
There were those who would have preferred that I turned back, considering it disrespectful to arrive late to give praise to our God. They had no idea how long and painful my journey had been; how difficult each step along the way.
And so I entered in. The sound of my walking sticks echoed along the tile floor, heralds of my arrival: She’s here, that unsightly, crippled woman; that offense to our senses; she isn’t pretty and she smells of cat.
I cannot see their faces, but I can feel their stares. And I hear their unspoken words as well, the sneering and the smirks: “Surely it was caused by great sinning, else why is she so broken?” “What must she have done to be so terribly weighed down by her sins?” “She’s carrying a demon on her back.” I’ve heard them all so often, those vile comments thrown at me.
They know nothing of the abuse I have withstood, (stood! if I were only able!), they have no understanding of the pain I have endured — made worse by their heaping on of scorn and sanctimonious judgments. How could anyone stand up under the weight of all their stares and their whispers?
I pause, perhaps I should turn back. It is a moment … a moment of eternal timelessness. In that sudden silence it was as if there was nothing there but me and my God.
A voice called out, and I blinked — in both confusion and recognition — it was like awakening from a dream. That shining voice was calling out to me.
It was a voice I did not recognize and yet which seemed intimately familiar, and it spoke to me again: “Dinah, come here.”
And so I followed the call.
The earlier silence instantly transformed into a buzzing as though the place had suddenly been invaded by a swarm of angry bees. “What’s he doing?” “How dare she!” “That’s not part of the worship service!” “We don’t do that here!”
But Jesus — yes, it was he — ignored their noise. With a gentleness that I cannot describe, he reached out and put his hands on my weary shoulders, “Woman, you are set free from your suffering.”
The instant he laid his hands on me, everything changed. I was no longer afraid or ashamed or uncertain. I was no longer enslaved to the past, no longer bound by my history or my reputation. I was free from all that had harmed me: I was a beloved child of God.
It was as if I had been reborn, renewed — and all the world around me was renewed, as well.
I turned and faced the congregation — yes, I, the scorned and ignored poor woman — and lead them in a Psalm in praise of God.
Since that day many things have changed, and not only in me. While I have grown much stronger, those around me have, as well. We’re learning to be kinder; to judge less and love more — and believe me, it is a process, we’ve all got far to go! But we have started on the Way.
in Christ’s healing love,
P.S. And Solomon still loves me just the same!
In what ways do judgments cripple your life?
(Both judgments made by you and judgments made about you.)
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,