“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” Luke 13
He. saw. her.
And when He did, He stopped the world for her.
Actually, he stopped more than that. In fact, stopping the world for this broken woman would have been a lesser offense than the audacity Jesus had – in healing – on the Sabbath.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
But Jesus wasn’t about doing things their way. That much He had shown in His short time of ministry on earth. He was good at kicking the proverbial ant piles of the Pharisees and all those who knew religion but had no clue about a relationship.
It was His heart – the heart of God Himself – they had completely missed all those years.
Jesus had been sent on assignment by His Father. And in that very moment, His assignment looked like a broken woman, bent over in pain.
She was the reason He was even there that day, I suppose. He was teaching, yes. But when He saw her, nothing He had to say was more important to Him than how He could demonstrate the love of His Father to this crushed daughter.
Indignant at the self-righteous, cold response of Mr. President, Chief Pharisee of the Temple – Jesus rebuked the man (and the others whose hearts had murmured what their lips had not):
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
….should not this woman, a daughter of Mine, not be set free from the evil bondage Satan has held her in for eighteen long years?
And I see it. Heaven open wide and spilling onto the page in front of me, tear-filled eyes trying to focus on those words: for eighteen long years.
He knew! He knew her years. He knew the exact number of years, days, hours, minutes and seconds of her affliction. And it was her years that moved Him to compassion. His sense of eternity did not blind him from her every labored minute confined to her pain on earth.
And if He knew her years, He knows mine, and He knows yours.
He knows my years….
He knows the years the blond, curly-haired, little girl that I was held shame deep inside and hid from the world, barely speaking to anyone.
He knows the years that man after man ravaged my small body for sick, demonic gain.
He knows the years I spent following orders that no little girl should have to follow, just to stay alive.
He knows those years I spent owned and in front of a camera, my torture permanently recorded, to satisfy the sick pleasure of not one man, but many.
He knows the years I spent trying to be a good girl and please my daddy – the decades I gave, desperately trying to make myself something other than carnal gain in His eyes.
And he knows the years since I stopped trying that I’ve grieved the fact that I never could please him enough to make it stop.
He knows the years I spent as a teen searching scripture for evidence of His love for me, and how I couldn’t find it in those pages because I did not deem myself worthy of that kind of love.
He knows the years that all I wanted was for one person to wrap me in their arms and tell me that somehow it would all be ok someday.
He knows the years I’ve longed to have my little brother back – my only childhood friend and my little buddy who meant the world to me – how badly I wanted to protect him and failed.
He knows all the years I’ve spent believing their lies – especially the lie that I was created only for pain, and the lie that Jesus would never help me.
He knows the years I spent in school hiding, protecting my abusers, and even being abused by men at school who could read the sign on my forehead.
He knows the years I spent ravaging my own body trying to pay for all the sin that wasn’t mine.
He knows the years I forgot and just floated, and the years I have relived it all in terrifying horror.
He knows the year my body finally just gave out and I couldn’t walk or sit or stand for more than a year, and all the other years I have endured excruciating body pain – a constant reminder of the hell I have endured.
He knows the years I paid the highest price of all, bringing to life my heart’s greatest fear because I was too scared to leave him even though I was grown.
He knows the years that I have lived isolated and alone because that was the only way to keep my children safe.
He knows the years I spent in my marriage, silent and alone with my pain locked deep inside my heart, kept even from one who would have loved me anyways.
He knows the years I spent as a young mom, grieving the loss of my own.
And He knows the days I spend even now, as a veteran mom, still grieving the loss of my own mother, longing for someone to rejoice with me over all of my children’s beautiful firsts, loving them almost as much as my husband and I love them.
He knows the years I’ve spent looking into my children’s beautiful eyes with desperation, wondering how long they could stay before they would inevitably be ripped from me – because a heart that has known only loss assumes that nothing will ever stay.
He knows the years of hopelessness that have wrapped my mind and heart and body in chains unseen, but oh, so thick.
He knows the years I’ve spent crying myself to sleep, praying I would never wake up.
He knows the years and decades of loneliness and judgment I have received from the Church who was always quick to judge my pain and my decisions – because I could never defend myself without putting myself and my children in more danger.
And He knows the years I have spent not telling my story – to anyone.
And even now as tiny bits of my story leak out from my heart through my fingertips onto this screen, they are only drops in an ocean – the slightest glimpse of the full scope of what I have endured for all these decades.
Another human will never fully know all the pain this heart has held.
And yet – when there is no person on earth who can possibly understand what you have endured, there is One who knows it all.
Because we all have a story, and we all have hearts that hold years that can only be understood by Him.
He knows every single minute of my pain, and yours. And when the pain and trials all begin to run together, forming one never-ending blur of torment and affliction, He alone knows in intimate detail every second of every minute of all of that pain.
When others are quick to admonish me to have more faith or more endurance, because they do not know or understand that endurance becomes a suffocating weight when a life is only just enduring – He knows.
And even when decades pass and the pain, memories and threats do not, He knows.
He knows that this infirmity that has ravaged my body more aggressively than ever for the last year is only a reflection of the pain held by a heart still searching to find Him good in all things.
And in my searching, I have only just begun to understand how like them I am:
It is His heart – the heart of God Himself – that I have completely missed all these years.
And finally, I think I am just beginning to know His years – all the years that He has spent pursuing my heart, waiting patiently and tenderly calling, seeking, drawing my shattered heart to Him, one broken piece at a time.
He waits with eternal patience in unfailing love to have all of my heart – when all I can manage to offer up is one broken, tiny, jagged piece at a time. And even so, He rejoices with each piece, placing it carefully into the mosaic He is masterfully creating out of my broken mess.
My friend, He knows our years. Our pain-filled, wrecked years are not overlooked or minimized in any way by His eternal greatness. Instead, those years draw His gaze to look upon His bent-over, broken, bloody, demonically bound daughters and they move Him to compassion.
And I am finding, that as I am able – by His grace – to surrender each broken piece to Him, that His touch – applied with great care to each part – is sure and it is complete. And each time I come, offering a piece of my heart to His loving touch, He turns my face to His own and declares my freedom.
And it is that loving, sure, complete touch from Him that delivers us from our years and opens our mouths wide in praise to Him as He declares us FREE from them all.
He hears every cry, collects every tear, counts every second, and never forgets us.
The Lord hears the needy and does not despise His captive daughters. Ps. 69:33
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me. Ps. 66:20
The Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones. Isa. 49:13
For He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in His sight. Ps. 72:12-14
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Ps. 147:3
I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my Hands. Isa. 49:16
This is what the Lord, the God of your father David says: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears – I will heal you.” 2 Kings 20:5