“I read about Veronica again this morning. I had met her in your TinyLetter, but this encounter was different…”
I had written about Jesus’ words, “take courage,” first to a tiny tribe of encouragers, and then here on the blog. But my friend David focused on another sentence in a story found in the Gospels – of power going out from Jesus to heal a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, and of his own wondering what may have happened after she had reached out and taken courage and been healed.
He wrote, “What would happen if, a year later, the bleeding returned?”
The religious leaders of the day named her Veronica, long after the moment on the stifling crowded streets near the Sea of Galilee where she broke Mosaic law to grab the one thing that law could not provide her – a life worth living.
Her name means “true image” – perhaps because she painted a picture of what it means to risk it all for a glorious unknown. Or perhaps because she also painted the true picture of Christ in that moment when her bloodied hand grabbed his dust-stained hem. Mosaic law would render Him unclean in that moment. Her touch would damage His good name.
And yet, Jesus poured out power to Veronica.
I responded. “Oh friend, I think about those things often. And I wonder about Veronica (both the woman and me) and what comes after we are given life.”
Scripture says so matter-of-factly that she was healed. But it doesn’t talk about what normal then looked like for her. How did she respond to a life she hadn’t known for more than a decade? What was it like to be unbroken?
What if Veronica was healed, only to discover new pain? What if the bleeding stopped entirely – rendering her unable to bear children or ripping holes in a still-too-tender heart? What if not bleeding at all was as damaging as bleeding all the time? My eyes fill with tears when I think about the possibility that she may have been yet still been considered unclean or unwanted. I think about my own journey, of a surgery that removed disease from my body – and along with it the ability to bear children. The one answer to prayer became a million more questions, a million more prayers.
What if, in her new normal, she soon lost her courage because she didn’t tend to it? What if, after the one beautiful moment, there were no more moments? What if the healing opened her eyes to deeper suffering all around her – suffering she could not bear? What if the veil she wore when she saw Jesus carrying the cross was a veil to hide her pain?
Or what if the new normal led to arrogance and entitlement? What if she became unkind because of the kindness shown her?
Would it have been better then to keep bleeding, to keep clinging to even the smallest thread of better days, than for the better days to come and to find out they are still full of questioning and struggle and waiting?
Jesus said, “YOUR faith has made you well” on that day on the road with the crowds and the skeptics. What happens when faith struggles to be faithful, not because it is small or doubtful or immature, but because it’s simply weary? What if she had NO faith that day, and saw the touching Jesus’ hem as merely the next thing to do in the long list of things that might work?
Did Jesus reward her for her bold confidence, or did He perhaps give her the very faith she needed to risk in the first place?
Oh yes, my mind asks so many questions, because I have been every possible Veronica. I’ve taken courage, tasted grace, been made well. And I’ve been the grateful, the skeptic, the wonderer and the wanderer. I have felt pride rise and hope crumble.
And yet, Jesus poured out power to Veronica. And to me.
David’s words painted another picture – of the reality of Veronica regardless of how she felt or what she saw or if she ever prayed another prayer.
“Remember that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus died again anyway. There have been other people I’ve known who have been miraculously but temporarily healed. You know that I think about things like grief, pain, and suffering quite a bit (somebody’s got to do it, and it’s part of my calling). I believe that one of the reasons that all those things exist is to remind us that this life is not all there is. This world is not the end. If it were, life would be unbearable and wouldn’t make any sense at all. With that perspective, we can understand physical healing as a temporary glimmer of the world that is to come. Even if Veronica’s bleeding didn’t come back, we would assume that the normal signs of aging hit her at some point. She got ill, she maybe got arthritis. She lost loved ones. But she had glimpsed Jesus. That alone can sustain us, right? Even just the memory of Him. It’s possible some physical healing is like the glow of Moses’s face… a byproduct of time spent basking in God’s glory.
“That glow fades, but the memory is stored up in our hearts and can sustain us.”
Maybe Veronica’s real healing came not in the hand on the hem but in the months and years that followed when that same hand took the plow to work in a world that was still bleeding. Maybe that’s when our true image is revealed – not in the one beautiful moment, but in the living and questioning and laboring and always carrying with us the glimpse of glory.
Jesus poured out His power that day, allowed it to be taken. He became stained with Veronica’s blood and He poured out His for her. He didn’t demand anything of her beyond that moment – He just revealed His true image, and gave courage.
And He keeps doing it. He pours it out in us and through us – misfit incarnations bearing image and likeness and glimpses of glory. Healing comes. Pieces of it stay. More healing comes. Bit by smallest bit. Sometimes in healing pools, sometimes in mud, sometimes in a bite of bread, sometimes in just the sitting and listening.
Jesus says, “Don’t demand. Just pour. Just give courage. Be glimpses of glory.”
Glimpses of glory, Veronica. Precious true image.