A First Person Imagining from the Gospel of Luke 13:10-17
The road was dusty and I noticed every pebble, every crack under my bare feet. I saw the claw marks of chickens, the hoof prints of donkeys as I passed the empty marketplace, plodding to the synagogue. I heard the chatter of voices, of my family, but no one spoke to me. The youngest skipped ahead to throw stones along the road, my son and his wife walked stick straight ahead of me. I could not see above their legs, their smooth gait, a rhythm I couldn’t follow.
I slunk into the back of the synagogue, with the women, the old women, widows and outcasts, because my condition brought dishonor to my family. If I were righteous, they said, I wouldn’t be bent over. God was punishing me they said, for some transgressions rooted so deeply in the underbelly of my soul that I did not know what they were.
I couldn’t believe that was true and if any one looked into my eyes, they would’ve known that. But no one looked into my eyes. I was only the top of a head, someone to be looked over and ignored. It must have been two years since I’d spoken, and I was the only one who noticed, who mourned at all the absence of words. I had nothing to say and no one to say it to. The spirit that had crippled my body had paralyzed my soul.
When I was a child I’d loved synagogue, the chanting, the prayers, the burnt smell of candles and sacrifices. I was sure that the rabbis and priests kept God alive there. I came, always came. My family was devout, a model for our community. But I’d felt nothing for years; only the claustrophobia of the women’s section, the smell of perfume, the oppressive heat, and the whine of babies.
That morning I felt Jesus’ eyes bore into me. How he saw me, how he noticed me, I never knew. I’m sure my son wondered the same thing, and worried our family’s status would suffer as a consequence.
“Woman, come here,” said Jesus.
The dormant spirit in my heart leapt awake at his command and I obeyed. His hands on my shoulders were like lightning striking rock, breaking me open, and searing something black within me until it disintegrated, became ash and blew away at the sound of his voice.
“My sister, you are healed.”
I stood straight, like a curled new sprout of grain that opens tall. Then I said, “Praise to you, Lord, who heals body and soul.” My rusty voice traveled through the synagogue and echoed in the faces of the men and women. I stood tall, my voice no longer swallowed into the ground, swallowed into silence.
There was a clamor among the rabbis but I didn’t hear them. I stood by Jesus and there in his sphere of light, I felt whole, I felt cherished. I felt that God had loved me all along, especially in my suffering.
Then the crowd cheered and my son and the men from our village descended upon Jesus, ferrying him from the synagogue into the sunlit outdoors, the Sabbath disrupted with celebration. I stood straight as a pillar while the crowd swept past. The leaders fumed and rattled about in the synagogue until the last of us stragglers, the infirm, the outcast, shuffled and blinked into the daylight.
I stood, staring at the treetops I hadn’t seen in so long. The wondrous sky was dotted with clouds and the sun glowed like a golden crown. I stepped onto the path toward home. It was exactly the same, yet entirely new, as I was myself.
©Cathy Warner 2006