A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5: 24-34
In Jesus’ time, things like nosebleeds and hemorrhaging marginalized people. Strength and health were associated with dryness. You were supposed to be contained. Bleeding showed signs of being out of control, irregular, weak, and feminine. Like so often still today, a hemorrhaging person would have been avoided as cursed, fearing contamination or contagion.
We can imagine, then, that this woman had been shunned for twelve years. She was so desperate for wholeness, love, healing, and touch that she snuck up on Jesus. And how interesting that Jesus shows his own porousness in healing this bleeding woman. In the story, he did not consciously heal the woman, he just felt the power flow from his cloak. It seemed to alarm him a bit, yet when he saw the freedom that the seeping power offered to her through restoration, he was at peace.
Have you felt the porous nature of love? We call it lovesick when we can’t sleep or focus due to daydreaming about a new person. We extend ourselves out of love. Teachers stay late to help struggling students. Activist march and fast and cross lines in the name of what they believe. Mothers know a messy love. In pregnancy, where does one body stop and the other begin? Or take breast feeding, for example. In The Stranger, Angela Garbes writes:
To produce breast milk, mothers melt their own body fat. Are you with me? We literally dissolve parts of ourselves….
Mothers dissolve their bodies to feed their children. The porousness runs deep:
When a baby suckles at its mother’s breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant’s saliva is sucked back into the mother’s nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. This “baby spit backwash,” contains information about the baby’s immune status. Everything scientists know about physiology indicates that baby spit backwash is one of the ways that breast milk adjusts its immunological composition. At the same time that it is medicine, breast milk is a private conversation between mother and child.
We are still encouraged, in today’s society, to be self-contained, clean, dry and put together. Yet so many forms of true love undo us. When we deeply love another, it is not clean and contained. We do become more porous. Boundaries dissolve, leading to freedom. When love leaves me a little tired and drained, a little messy and undone, I think of Jesus love and ministry, so generous that it flowed from his being and his clothes.