A Modern Retelling of the Woman With the Issue of Blood (Luke 8:43-48)

Picture taken from: https://www.rickety.us/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Woman_with_an_issue_of_blood.jpg

Content: Harm Reduction/Addiction/Homelessness/Soul Sickness
Here’s a poem I wrote this morning, a modern take of the woman with the issue of blood. This woman has long since intrigued me especially after I suffered an unknown illness that robbed me of life and joy for a year (in my mid-twenties). After going to countless doctors with no answer, I related to this woman more and more. On my drive home from work last night, I thought about this woman in relation to the stigma and shame many people who are homeless and struggle with addictions suffer. I have been working through understanding harm reduction (something I admit to having quite a bit of bias about because I believe strongly in abstinence). However, as a true scholar, I have decided to spend the semester looking into it and trying to understand more about it. So in my wrestlings I came up with this piece:

SOUL SICKNESS IN THE SUBSTANCE SPHERE

Desperation. Frustration. Fear. Stigma.
I can imagine the pain of the woman with the issue of blood, because I see the same pain every day.
Walking down the streets, I notice,
There are so many homeless people, rough sleeping out in this cold,
And it makes me wonder, what happened?
Why is there still such poverty in such a rich country?
We could blame capitalism and consumerism, and they certainly play a part,
But there is a much deeper reason,
One that is not so easily answered or solved:
Trauma.
The woman with the issue of blood was an outcast,
She was ritually and ceremonially impure,
Surely God’s love couldn’t be for her.
She spent all she had not only trying to be healed from a physical ailment,
But also from the soul sickness of being ostracized.
Every penny in her jar steadily growing thin as she sought out the best of the best,
The most determined doctors, all the nicest nurses, the most superb surgeons, the most helpful healers,
As her penny jar dwindled so did her hope.
Her husband gave up on her,
She could no longer meet his needs as she lay writhing in pain upon her bed,
He tried to be sympathetic and understanding at first,
Tears welled in his eyes as he remembered the bride of his youth,
But eventually he came to the startling realization that woman was gone,
He twisted and pulled at his wedding band willing to take it off,
Gritting his teeth as he remembered the vow “In sickness and in health,”
Yet each time his ring got loose, he couldn’t will himself to throw his marriage away entirely.
Her children long since grown, had left home.
Her daughter would call from England sometimes to check in,
Her son unfortunately had chosen a different path,
One of addiction. He, too, was suffering.
He truly did care about his mother, he just lost the ability to show it.
Sometimes as the nameless woman wheeled her way into the hospital entrance,
She would see her son on the street corner with a sign in his hand asking for food,
And the woman’s heart was saddened because she knew that he, too,
Had a dwindling penny jar and had spent every last penny feeding his habit.
The woman longed to make him whole again,
But how could she when she was also broken?
The young man had tried everything he could to get clean.
The family had scraped together what little they had to put him through
Detoxes, counselling, and the most expensive of treatment facilities,
When that didn’t work, he ended up in hospitals, jails, and mental health homes,
And still he couldn’t stop.
The family tried to get him into 12 step recovery,
They brought him to church,
They told him about the love of the Jesus they had heard about and believed in.
The young man would stop at times,
But eventually his relapse would be even harder.
Finally, as the mother grew worse and worse,
As her sickness evaded her entire body and life,
Their attitude and actions had to shift to the one who
”Actually wanted to get well”
Which was sad because the young man so desperately also wanted to get well,
He just didn’t know it yet.
Would harm reduction be the answer for him?
His mom finally wondered during a long day as she lay in her hospital bed,
His mom had never considered it before, she was a firm believer in abstinence,
But she was wearing thin and as her own body deteriorated, so had her spirit,
Looking out the window, she saw a robin landing on a tree,
This small sign gave her hope.
Just then, a kindly man walked in.
He wasn’t wearing a doctor’s robe, and he looked like he was just an average man,
But what that man said to the woman that day gave her hope,
For the man told the woman there was another solution.
The woman was so weak she could barely speak,
All she could do was simply squeeze the man’s hand to let him know she was listening,
But as she lightly squeezed, power surged through her,
Energy coursing through her body.
Her eyes fluttered awake,
For the first time in days she sat upright and had a piece of toast,
And her bleeding stopped.
Her physical ailment left her, and more importantly her heart stopped bleeding,
Because she sensed that even in her worry her son would be ok.
That very day, she called around to shelters,
And in her travels she discovered an affordable housing option.
They didn’t do abstinence, they did harm reduction.
”Would it really work this time?”
The woman found herself doubting, but she fiercely pressed on,
She had been given new life and a second chance,
She loved her son more than anything and fearlessly dared to dream he could also be given a new life,
She called the place, they were happy to show her son around.
Her son has since moved in,
His progress has be slow, but it’s been steady.
He has the most wonderful laugh, his eyes light up as people started believing in him,
The last time she called,
Her son said he isn’t ready to kick his habit yet,
But he’s been slowly cutting back.
For the first time in years they had a 30 minute conversation
Where the mother didn’t worry about her son being in jail, in a hospital, or on the streets,
Instead they laughed, they cried, and before they hung up they promised to do it again real soon.
The mother still hopes her son will eventually give up his drugs,
She still longs to bring him home, hugging and kissing him as her baby,
But she also realizes that for now the little boy is a man
Who must fly solo.
She’s given him up to God,
And she hopes that one day he will also touch the hem of Christ’s garment
And be fully healed.

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