I’m a little late to the party. Of celebrating International Women’s Day, that is. In studying Luke 13:10-17 today, God showed me the tenderness of the situation of the severely bent-backed woman. I usually pay attention to the disagreement between Jesus and his opponents, so this was really moving to sit and stew in, to see what compassion Jesus had for the woman. What Jesus did to free sufferers is the ultimate world revolution to me. It trumps all feminist movements, by far, in history. Ever.
She’s nameless. A face in the crowd, nothing much to notice about her, silent, she doesn’t make waves.
Every Sabbath day, she shuffles into the synagogue like the others. Hears an elder read from the scrolls. How she loved the words that rolled off his tongue and escaped his lips. How she enjoyed hearing about the coming of a king who would one day free them all and make the Jews a prominent people again. That would certainly remove one layer of discrimination. The other layers, not so easy. She’s Jewish, she’s poor, she’s a woman, she’s disabled, she lives alone. He rolls up the scroll, she files in line just like the others, reaches into her satchel for a few silver coins. She grips them a little more firmly than she should, but quickly shakes the thought out of her head. “I mustn’t hold this back from God,” she repeats to herself. She couldn’t quieten the other thought that lingered, contradictorily, “but why does it feel like He’s held back from me?”
She drops the coins into the wooden box at the front of the court, right in front of the watchful eyes of the synagogue leader. Not that she saw him. She doesn’t make eye contact, but she can feel his stare. Her eyes kept on the ground, her feet shuffle out. She can’t remember the last time she looked up at the sky to see clouds. On her way out, she smells the burning of an animal sacrifice. She’ll never be able to afford that, a few silver coins each week just has to do. There’s little work in this town for a hunchback. Besides, she couldn’t work for many hours before her back hurt so much that she had to stop altogether.
She passes through the market and buys a few simple ingredients to cook for one. Her son won’t be visiting her soon, he’s busy preparing for the arrival of her grandchild. For eighteen years she watched her son grow bigger, stronger, taller, until she could not see him from waist up. She was glad to welcome a little one into the family that she finally could see again.
As she pushes open the door to her home, she lets out a tiny sigh. It’s getting harder and harder to move around these days. What was it that elder was reading today about God’s covenant with Abraham, and why did this elder sound so different like all the others? In fact, he sounded much younger. His voice didn’t drone on and on like they usually would. There was something in the way he spoke that made it sound like he actually believed everything he read from the scrolls, as if these were his very own ideas. She grabs the broom lying against the wall and begins to tidy up at home, counting down the days till the next Sabbath day where she could go to the synagogue again, hopefully this new elder would be reading from the scrolls again.
to be continued…