EDITOR’S NOTE: Fourth in a four-part series

Jill was a first grader with reading issues. At this time, people with reading issues were called stupid. Luckily, Jill’s teacher was Mrs. Pfizer. She knew a first grader’s reading issues were more than being stupid or lazy. Jill would eventually start to read. It was important make sure that Jill did not become fearful of reading or accept that she was stupid.

Mrs. Pfizer would put her arm around Jill during reading time. When Jill would read out loud, she would stammer through the words. But none of the other kids laughed at her because Jill had Mrs. Pfizer beside her, and her arm prevented the worst learning disability of all: fear and shame.

Mark 5:21-24 gives us a story of long-lived shame. Before we meet our heroine, we meet Jairus, a synagogue leader and a man with no worthiness issues. Jairus’ daughter was very sick. He felt no shame in asking Jesus to come and heal his daughter.

Then we see this woman lurking in the crowd. For 12 years, she has suffered from hemorrhaging or uncontrollable bleeding. She was ridiculed and felt unworthy. But this woman teaches us an important lesson on shame and overcoming blockers to wholehearted living.

Shame is like a swampland for the soul. Far too many wade into this swamp. How do they wade out? Especially since shame wants them to stay there.

Our heroine had been camping in her swamp for 12 years. She lived in seclusion with no human touch. In public, she risked touching someone and enduring their merciless wrath. Touching someone would make them unclean by Jewish law. They would be forced to go through rigorous and time-consuming rituals to be cleansed.

Our heroine heard that Jesus was in town. She’d heard stories of his miracles and healings. She never considered taking such a risk. But this man could free her from this issue that seemed to be getting worse.

This meant leaving the swamp. What if this didn’t work? What if she wasn’t healed? What if he saw her trying to touch him? Would he get angry? Would he shout at her as had so many others in the past?

Shame, fear and vulnerability are blockers to wholehearted living. Our heroine had to conquer all of these. There are three things to know about shame.

We all have it. It’s universal. One of the most primitive human emotions we experience. Only people who lack empathy and connection don’t experience shame.

We are afraid to talk about it, along with love, belonging, and failure.

The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives. And shame does not want to give up control.

Shame leads to the fear of being unlovable. We feel that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

This is our heroine. In the space of shame and unworthiness, she wasn’t even sure that she should attempt healing. Hear her angst as she says “… If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” That day, being healed became more important than shame and worrying about what Jesus would think of her.

Think of the boldness! She put her healing ahead of the healing of the daughter of a synagogue leader.

Jesus realized immediately that someone had touched him with the purpose of being healed. The disciples tried to reason with him. With the crowds, wasn’t everyone touching him?

But Jesus knew the difference because He felt faith. He felt shame and unworthiness slipping away. He felt wholeness and restoration flowing into her. When he asked, “Who touched me?” something else happened. Our heroine recognized that Jesus could be trusted with her story and told him everything.

Jesus’ reaction to her could have been like so many others. But Jesus didn’t come to be part of a status quo faith. He came to stand out against those perpetuating the shame/blame game to satisfy their own unworthiness.

Instead of derision and chastisement Jesus answered with love. “Daughter, your faith made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Jesus also put her healing ahead of those in positions of leadership. Jesus came to this earth for the least of these.

Today we’ve put shame and blame in its place. We’ve learned to lean on the those who have earned the right to hear our story. May all have such a person in their lives. But remember this, every day of the week, Jesus has earned the right to hear our stories.

When we turn to Jesus, we will find someone acknowledging our worthiness. On the journey toward love and belonging, Jesus is assuring us that by his example in our story today, we can all start in the same place: the place of I am worthy.

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