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This devotional is part of a series in January that tells stories of “Bold Faith” written by CBF field personnel and members of a team composed of clergy and laity from across the Fellowship who are leading of process of prayerful discovery that will result in a faithful response. Find out more about this process called Toward Bold Faithfulness.
By Courtney Stamey
She was spent—physically, emotionally and even financially. Proved and prodded by doctors who offered no relief and, worse yet, no answers. Twelve years of bleeding! Twelve years of being unclean. She was unable to worship, unable to touch anyone without making them ritually unclean as well. She was spent.
She had nowhere left to go. Desperate, she followed the crowd. Desperate still, she pushed in closer. She thought to herself, “Maybe if I touch this miracle worker, He can give me an answer.” She was spent.
She thought of all the big questions that consumed her day and night in this disastrous decade. “Am I being punished? Has God forgotten me? Why am I alone? Am I loved? Is there a place for me?” She was spent.
With her last push of energy, she reached out her withered fingertips and grazed his robe. Even if he retaliates, she thought, it’s worth trying. Immediately, her energy was regained, her bleeding stopped and, I imagine, her questions subdued.
When I think of bold faithfulness, I think of this healing miracle of Jesus. Our energies are zapped from us, and many of us do not know where to turn. Maybe we have tried this church or that program, but nothing seems to capture our imaginations. Nothing seems to offer holistic healing. Like the woman in chapter 5 of the gospel of Mark, maybe you are on your last effort to be healed. And maybe like her too, you feel alone in your efforts, isolated from a faith community to support you. Maybe you are spent.
Before I moved to Mississippi, I did not know much (if anything) about the Civil Rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer. After hearing a rousing presentation on voting rights at William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Mrs. Hamer believed that she should register to vote and encourage others to do so as well. Fannie Lou was beaten, arrested and rendered unemployed by her convictions. A horrific attack in a jailhouse in 1963 left her with kidney damage, a blood clot behind the eye, and a permanent limp. In a now-famous speech given before the Credentials Committee at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City in 1964, she preached this word, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Mrs. Hamer was spent. For too long she had been crowded out of her dignity, and cheated from her God-given worth. She reached out her hand to touch Jesus’ cloak and was healed. She wanted her community and country to do the same.
The good news of Jesus is that there is still “power, power, wonder-working power,” for all those who are worn out and discouraged. When Jesus heals the woman in Mark, she is healed physically, but by no longer being unclean through bleeding, she is also restored back into community. Her healing is holistic. Who would want to get in the way of that?!
Sometimes congregations can let their church antics become like the crowd around the woman. We can make it difficult for folks to experience true healing by getting in their way. This may be through our exclusivity or our unwillingness to change.
It may be through turning our backs to those who have been historically excluded from worshiping communities. There is no doubt in my mind that there are people like the bleeding woman who are already living into bold faithfulness. There is no doubt in my mind that there are folks like Fannie Lou Hamer, telling us they are spent. They are reaching with their last bit of energy for Jesus.
But what if for the others of us, those at the center of church life, what if for us, bold faithfulness means getting out of the way? What if bold faithfulness is taking down all obstacles so those who desire healing can reach Jesus? What is, bold faithfulness means that people can be healed?
Courtney Stamey serves as the Senior Pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., is a CBF Fellow, and serves on the Discovery Team for Toward Bold Faithfulness. If you would like to help shape the future of the Fellowship, take CBF’s online survey today at www.cbf.net/survey.