Wiping her brow and fixing her scarf to better shield her fair skin which so easily burned, Tamar wondered. “Why can’t I look like other girls, and be like them?” Then quickly bit her tongue for even having such thoughts.
For if she’d heard it once, she’d heard it a thousand times. “Remember the words of David,” her mother’s words rang in her mind: I will give thanks to you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. My soul knows that very well. And then shaking her finger in Tamar’s face, “But you, my daughter, seem to forget this.”
“Me? Wonderfully made? With my nose too long and big ears?” Her friends had long been married. But no one, it seemed, wanted her.
But deep in her heart Tamar knew the real reason was ‘the problem’.
The one they never spoke about and that she didn’t even like thinking of. But that haunted her footsteps by day and carried her weeping to bed.
Her parents had valiantly scrimped and saved for doctor visits, spending all they had. But no one could tell what caused the bleeding. No doctor had a cure.
“I should feel lucky,” Tamar thought. “No, not lucky. Blessed. Luck is for the pagans, her mother would say.” Though few parents would have tried so many doctors they could ill afford.
But finally even staunch, fighting Zephorah admitted defeat. With no doctors left to see, and no answers. So she shielded her young daughter from the voices as best she could. But nothing stopped the looks. Of pity, and of doom. “Doomed to never marry,” they sounded. “Doomed to become an old maid.”
“Perhaps it was my pride,” Tamar once whispered timidly to her mother. “When I was first of my friends to become a woman, I’m afraid the thrill of it went to my head. I was a bit proud and boastful.”
“Nonsense,” her mother had snapped. “That’s just coincidence. Some things are just destined.” But she never offered a plausible explanation. Perhaps there was none.
That was ten years ago. Two years after the nightmare had started.
She’d always been small for her age. As some of her friends started rounding out and filling in, she’d remained as flat as a loaf of unleavened bread. “Great,” she thought, “I’ll probably be the last. Different, like always, and never fitting in.”
In logical, more sane moments, she realized how unfounded many of her thoughts were. Many friends had confided their envy of her. “Your looks are striking,” Abigail used to tell her. “Don’t you notice the boys watching you?”
But that was before. Before the problem. When she still had a life — a hope and dreams. But they had drained away along with the blood, that practically carried her life away with it.
And now, even if by some miracle the Lord should heal her, she could never marry. They’d snatched up the marriageable men long ago. And who wanted an old maid?
To never have a home of her own. Never hold her own child in her arms.
“Well, mamma,” she thought. “You can think what you like. But I think it was my pride.” So great had been her delight at being, not the last girl to blossom, but the first! A real honor! The first of her friends to become a woman. Able to marry!
“You’re too young,” her father had insisted. “No father can present his son’s case. Not for another two years.”
But the two years had come and gone, taking all her hopes with them. Her honor, pride, and delight had turned to nightmare. Unending, with no respite and no relief.
“Tamar,” her mother called from the door. “Come in now, Daughter. You’ve been out in that hot sun far too long already. It’s time to start our work anyway. Come and help me.”
“Alright Mother, I’m coming.” But there was no place she would rather be. Out in the courtyard, with God’s blue sky overhead. In such moments, the sun’s warmth made her wonder if perhaps the Good Lord had accepted her repentance for youthful pride. That even though healing might never come, he still loved her as his daughter. As a child of Father Abraham.
And life wasn’t always bad, she reflected. Some days were pretty good—when the bleeding lessened. And with renewed energy, she could do all the things she so loved doing. So with renewed hope, she determined to do the unthinkable.
She would sneak away with Abigail to hear the great teacher.
After all, lots of women went. Or so Abigail said. Tamar never got beyond her own courtyard. But Abi got out in the world. She wasn’t ill and unclean. She had a life. “It’s just because someone has to do the shopping. And look after my sickly mother-in-law,” Abigail consoled. “Not much excitement in that!”
“Just cover your face so no one recognizes you,” she’d instructed. And so in the heat of the afternoon, as her parents rested in the courtyard, she slipped out the door with Abigail. Dear Abi, the one friend who still faithfully visited.
“Come on, Tamar,” Abigail pushed and pulled, “we don’t want to arrive late!”
“Late? How could we be late?” Tamar managed.
“You know my cousin who’s a servant in Matthew Levi’s house? Well, she told me the Rabbi is eating there. Hurry!”
“A tax collector’s house? Oh Abi, you’re not taking me there are you? Of all places!”
“Of course, silly! Huldah has arranged for us to sit outside the window, in the courtyard! I didn’t say anything before, because…well, you’re such a worry wart!”
“I don’t think this is a good idea. What if we get caught? Or what if Huldah loses her job? Or…”
“Stop worrying,” Abigail interrupted. “Huldah’s got it all set with the overseer! I explained that you couldn’t go out in the crowds to hear the Master. So she arranged it all!”
“Oh but, you didn’t tell her that I’m…I mean, about…?”
“No, of course not. I simply said that you haven’t been feeling well of late.”
“Of late!” Tamar thought. “Yeah, like the past twelve years…!”
“And Huldah,” Abigail continued, “mother hen type that she is, declared, ‘Oh, it would be a real shame if she never got to hear the Master. Some say he’s the Messiah’!”
At those words, Tamar gasped, “The Messiah! The Messiah??”
“Well, some think so. Could be, you know. Lord knows we’ve waited long enough!”
“Hurry,” Huldah whispered. “I’ve got to get back to the kitchen. Sit here, but stay out of sight and don’t make a sound! You’re so lucky, she added in parting, “Nearly a front row seat to hear the Master!”
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” the Pharisees sneered at the disciples. Implying that Jesus, too, was surely a sinner. But the Master, who had also heard, calmly responded, “It’s the sick, not the healthy who need a doctor.”
“The sick need a doctor. Not the healthy. But the sick.”
Those words seemed spoken just for her! “Not the healthy but the sick!”
“You need to study the Scriptures, and learn,” the Master told them. “All your ceremonial sacrifices don’t mean a thing if you’re not merciful to others. I didn’t come to invite good people to follow me. But to invite sinners.”
“To invite sinners. To invite sinners.” This man surely must have come from God. It’s as though he’s speaking right at me. As if he knew all about my sinful pride, but still calls me! I’m still a daughter of Father Abraham!”
With those words reverberating in her heart, she knew she must hear the Master again. Had to see him, to answer that call. His call to sinners, like her!
And so it was one day soon after, that dashing out her door, she joined the crowd following him to Jarius’ house.
“He calls the sick. And sinners, like me!” The words echoed in her heart.
“Tamar, where are you going?” her mother shouted. “You know you can’t go out! It’s not allow…” The words dying on her lips as her daughter disappeared in the crowd. Whatever could have come over her?
Gone were the fear and timidity. She’d heard the Words of Life. Knew that he’d come to call sinners and heal the sick.
And then she heard among the crowd, “The Master is going to heal Jairus’ daughter!”
“No,” another cried, “They came and told him she’s dead. But he’s going anyway!”
The refrain raced in her head. “Healing and life for sinners, like me!”
So she pushed closer, knowing that she just needed to get near him. “All it will take is one touch, and all will be well. Just one touch. Even to just touch the hem of his robe.”
And she was right. She knew it in an instant. And so did the Master.
“Who touched me?” he asked, turning around.
“What do mean, Master?” his disciples cried. “All the crowd is pushing in around you! How can you ask such a thing?” They couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. But Tamar knew. She’d been healed. Mind, body, and soul…
So in fear and trembling, she fell at his feet. And remembering that he called the sick and the sinners, she poured it all out. All the anguish and heartache of her young life.
And the Master said to her what he still says to those who seek him today.
“Don’t be afraid, daughter. Your faith has made you well. Go in peace!”
This fictional rendition of the woman with an issue of blood is based on Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48.