Pine trees tower over the backyard sanctuary where she sits in the cool of a spring day, head wrapped in a scarf to protect her from the sun.
She’s dying of cancer and her body battles diabetes.
I only know this because her name is on the prayer list at church, though I’ve never seen her there. She is a shut-in, as we call those who are too ill or frail to sit in a pew for an hour or make the weekly drive.
In the backyard, she almost fades into the background, unseen.
But I see her.
I know her name but not her story and sometimes when we walk by, I want to call out to her and ask how she is. Even though we’re neighbors, living on the same street, she doesn’t know me. And she might find it odd for me to call her by name and ask about her life. And I avoid standing out, being odd, whenever I can.
More often, she’s not in the backyard, which is when the sanctuary comes alive with squirrels, birds, even a duck or two.
She faithfully sets out corn cobs and fills feeders for the creatures who find refuge in her little corner of the world.
And I wonder, who will feed the birds and the squirrels when she’s gone?
Her body is ravaged. For 12 years she has baffled doctors, healers. She is unclean. Without help. Without hope.
She hatches a plan.
If only she could get close enough, touch the hem of his robe, then maybe, perhaps, she’d be healed.
It was a long shot. Her only shot.
And if it didn’t work, she’d be no worse than she was now.
The crowd pressed in. She fought for position. She had one chance.
She reached for him, and her fingers grazed his cloak.
And she knew.
She was healed.
She’d meant to slip away, blend in. But shocked by the change she felt within, she couldn’t move.
“Who touched me?”
The man’s words sent panic through her. Was he angry? Maybe she could slip away yet.
But no. The crowds had closed in. And if she tried to force her way through, she would make a scene.
“Someone touched me.”
The man was adamant despite his friends trying to convince him otherwise.
She could deny it, like everyone else in the crowd.
But then he was looking at her, and she couldn’t deny it.
When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.
“Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
For most of my life, I’ve walked a narrow line between wanting to blend in and wanting to be noticed.
In grade school, on the bus, I mostly hoped to blend in and prayed–if I could have called it that back then–the bus bully would find someone else to pick on.
And in middle school, I desperately wanted the handsome jock in our class to notice me, not as the smart girl, but as a girl. I was drawn to stories in movies, books and songs, where the girl unnoticed becomes the noticed one. The one who had always been there but who had been passed over for something better.
Then in high school, I watched from a distance, once again hoping to blend in. Put your head down, do the work, come out unscathed. Don’t draw too much attention.
College–as it is for most people–was a fresh start. Yet I still found myself blending in. Flying under the radar. I wasn’t dramatic or loud or noteworthy. To this day, I still feel the need to remind people who I am, even if we shared a meaningful experience like a semester in England. (Hi, you probably don’t remember me but …)
Then, like the desperate woman who took a chance and reached out to touch Jesus’ cloak, He noticed me.
Or maybe I noticed that He noticed me.
I read Genesis, the story of creation, of a God so big He spoke the world into being, made something out of nothing. Yet the same God knows me personally, as David celebrates in Psalm 139.
You have searched me and you know me.
You are familiar with all my ways.
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Nothing escapes God’s notice. Not a dying woman feeding the wild animals. Not a desperate woman looking for a cure. Not a woman who doesn’t know who she is and hopes nobody learns her secret.
It is a scary thing to be noticed, sometimes.
Because the one noticing you might be like the bus bully, looking for a target.
Or the jock, looking for help with homework, nothing more.
But it’s scarier to believe no one notices you at all.
When you think no one notices, no one cares and that you don’t matter, hear this now: God sees you. He knows you. And He loves you.
Forgive me, Father, for all the people I’ve not seen, not noticed. Thank You that there is nowhere we can go that You don’t see. Help me to see what You see.