He Called Me Daughter
By Helga Doermer
There was a time before my time when the mark of womanhood was celebrated and revered. It was understood as a sacred power, a symbol of self cleansing in preparation to conceive new life. But by the time I was born, the mark of woman-hood was judged an impurity under the law. Under normal circumstances I could have borne the stigma, but as it was, it changed my life.
At first, my life was like that of any young girl in my community. I was born into a wealthy family and I had many friends. When I became a young woman, I knew the experience of all other women at ‘that time of month.’ For that time we set ourselves apart, and then participated in a cleansing ritual in order to rejoin the community again. It was simply a part of life.
My life began to unravel when my period of impurity did not come to its usual end. It was as if my body began to tell a story that I could not put into words.
It was as if the bleeding had become a symbol of all that women were not allowed to live – dreams that could not be conceived. It was as if my body sorrowed that I would never be considered a whole person, a bearer of the image of God.
For twelve long years, the blood that once pulsed through my veins drained from me daily, drop by drop. I visited an endless steam of physicians. None of them helped. None understood. They took my money and left me feeling more humiliated and violated than ever before. Those I loved had to keep their distance as they could not risk being near me. Gradually, I lost all I had ever known. Without family, friends or finances, I was left to live with my illness in isolation, on the periphery of society. I had become one of the untouchables.
My heart ached with devastation. Despair filled my soul. I felt like I was living hell on earth, with no way out. Then one day I began to hear whispers of a new physician, who healed what no human could heal. When I heard that he was coming, hope stirred in me again. A daring courage, born of faith, had me on my feet. What did I have to lose beside a life already gone?
I hid my face behind a veil and mingled with the crowd following the one called ‘Jesus.’ I would not dwell on the risk of discovery, but walked to the cadence of my heart singing, "If only I touch his garment, I shall be made well."
Carefully I made my way ever closer to Jesus. He was almost within reach, when I could bear to wait no longer. I stretched out my arm. My fingers brushed against the hem of his garment. In that instant, I knew the hope of my heart had been fulfilled. The bleeding stopped.
Wonder flooded my whole being. I had been healed. Then as I stood still with the shock of this new reality, Jesus stopped.
"Who touched me?" he asked.
My heart pounded. My whole body quaked. To be found out meant certain death. I had broken all the laws.
The disciples answered, "Who touched you? Look at the crowds pressing in on you. How can you ask who touched you."
Slowly Jesus turned around until his eyes caught mine. I could not move.
As I was held in his mesmerizing gaze, I wondered what fate would follow.
It may have been the compassion in his eyes or the knowledge that sooner or later someone would find out what I had done, that had me suddenly kneeling before him in fear and trembling. I answered, "It was I," and then I told him my whole story in one big rush. When I finished, I could barely breathe as I waited for his response.
Love shone from my Healer’s eyes as he spoke words of Life to me. "Daughter, your faith has made you whole; go in peace."
I, the unclean woman who had broken every law and dared to touch a holy man had been called ‘daughter.’ I could barely contain the overwhelming joy. Where I had been prepared to lose my life, I had gained it back. With those words I knew I was a woman who once again belonged and was loved. More than that, I knew myself as a woman of worth. I had been granted the gift of wholeness and had received a blessing to live in peace.
Jesus, my healer, knew what it meant to bleed. The forces of evil did not want him to conceive a dream. His dream was of a new humanity, marked by a love that engendered unity – a whole and holy living. And for that he was crucified. What evil did not know was that he would rise again and his blood would birth a people to carry on his dream. Around the globe, across the centuries, people gather in his name. They gather as a community of believers, symbolizing his Christ body. They gather around the table in remembrance of blood shed to give new life, just as he gave life to me that day.
Helga Doermer is a free-lance writer. Her reflective work is shaped by a Master of Divinity and her personal journey. She resides in ‘sunny’ Manitoba, Canada with her husband and two sons. You can write to Helga through the Letters page of this magazine.