I have bad posture. I am getting better at standing up straight but it has taken me quite a while to get in the habit. My biggest motivation has been seeing myself in pictures hunched over. My sister in law, who also happens to be editor in law of this blog, has great posture. Always standing up straight in photos. So does her mom. So a family photo op including me hunched over is uber flattering as you can imagine.
I think having kids makes your posture worse. Your back does all sorts of shifting around during pregnancy and then you spend the first several years of their life scrunching over to breastfeed, change diapers, pick them up out of their cribs, pick them up off the floor, pick up the toys they left on the floor and finally sitting hunkered down on the floor to create whatever craft it is that is due in the morning for school that you forgot about until the last minute. In fact, a certain blogger and gynecologist you know might be snuggling up with her heating pad after just finishing a school project and picking up after two children.
If you churched with me today you heard a sermon out of Luke 13 where Jesus heals the bent over woman. She has had a spine deformity for 18 years. Most biblical commentaries relate this to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis affects women more often than men and can result in a fracture of the spine, hip, wrist or another bone. In the US almost 8 million women are affected with osteoporosis. Over half of women over age 50 will break a bone due to the disease. A broken bone might not seem like a big deal but many of these women will require hospitalization, rehabilitation, and some will even have life threatening complications. And guess what? I have already passed my prime when it comes to bone health. Peak bone mass is reached in young adulthood. This 38 year old can do nothing but keep her bones as healthy as possible. That’s why it’s important to make sure your kids do things like eat food rich in calcium, exercise daily and get enough vitamin D. And for you, who like me, have already reached peak bone mass, we need to keep our bones healthy by continuing with calcium and vitamin D intake, strengthening our bones and muscles with weight bearing exercise and avoiding falls by improving our balance.
But what I found most interesting from today’s sermon was not the shout out to osteoporosis but the revelation that this woman not only struggled to stand tall because of her physical disease but because of the shame heaped on her by her own community of faith. You see, this was a woman who had a disfiguring physical ailment. She was labeled as the outcast and treated as such. What Jesus does in this passage is three-fold, with the miracle of healing coming last and maybe leaving less of an impression with me than the first two.
First, He speaks to her. While her community of faith had worked to suppress her into a folded bundle as close to the ground as possible, Jesus seeks her out and calls to her.
Second, He touches her. Not only is she a woman but an untouchable broken diseased woman. And He just reaches out and grabs her hand.
We are all surrounded by people who have been bent over and crippled with shame by our culture. Can you imagine if we called them by name and reached out to take them by the hand? Whether or not you believe in Christ and the miracles found in scripture, you can imagine what kind of world we would create by loosing the bonds created through the oppressive nature of the systems in which we live and work. If each one of us took a moment to call out to the woman shamed by her past or treated by her society like she doesn’t matter as much as the man sitting next to her…if we reached out to grab the hand of someone who suffers from physical or mental illness…if we dare to move beyond the labels we have given to others, we just might create the change we all are longing to see in our world.
There are lots of things I love about this Jesus character. But one of the best is the way He is so practiced in His hospitality toward the shamed, the marginalized, the outcast. Like He’s been doing it His whole life…because He has. So just like your kids need their milk and yogurt and exercise now when their bones are growing, our kids need to practice calling out and reaching out to the broken, shamed and marginalized among us. They will strengthen their bones of hospitality and mercy so that when they are old and tired and picking up after small people they remember to speak names and grab hands of those left out by society. And for those of us who have already reached our “peak bone mass” so to speak; we can still practice finding the suffering and shamed among us, bent over and crippled by the weight of all we have put on them through the years. We can still strengthen ourselves to become a person whose posture mimics that of a man who had the audacity to call out to and grab the hand of the crippled woman in the back of the room.
And by the way, someday we will all find ourselves crippled and bent down low, waiting for someone to call to us and grab us by the hand and bring healing into our lives. May we be surrounded by a community that has been practiced in such hospitality.
(photo credit: the internet and @okcfirst on Instagram)