On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 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. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.”
I have been pondering this story of the woman who had been held in bondage by an evil spirit for eighteen years, literally bent double. I cannot imagine being bent double for eighteen minutes, let alone eighteen years! I tried it this morning in my kitchen, and found it to be not only painful, but restricting of almost any action besides staring at my feet. When you’re bent over, you cannot see where you’re going or where you’ve been; you’re stuck with gazing at where you are. And while there is certainly value in the idea of always being “fully present,” in this instance the disabling loss of perspective takes away any advantage of that mindset. When you are bent over, you cannot connect with another human being by looking them in the eyes, nor can you lift your hands in praise to God. Yet despite all these limitations, this woman somehow doggedly made her way to the synagogue, where she could at least hear the Word of God. She did not approach Jesus or ask for healing; she may have thought that after eighteen long years, what hope could there be for her? Besides, she could not even lift her head to see Him.
But Jesus saw her.
He saw her and called her over to Him, laying His hands upon her and healing her instantly. What unimaginable joy, as she straightened up and for the first time in almost two decades looked into the face of another, and there met the compassionate gaze of her Savior.
The religious leaders did not like it. In verse 14, it says that they were “indignant” because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. With His infinite wisdom, Jesus reminded them that they also worked on the Sabbath, every time they loosed their ox or donkey to lead it to water. Just as their animals were unbound so that they could partake of life-giving food and water, even on the Sabbath, so the woman was unbound on that day by the Creator of the Sabbath, who is both the Living Water and the Bread of Life.
Verse 11 says that the woman was “bent over and could not straighten up.” The Greek words used in this phrase are antonyms: sugkupto means “to bend completely forward,” and anakupto means “to unbend.” This woman was bent, and could not unbend. She was helplessly bound, and could not free herself. She was a “daughter of Abraham,” as Jesus called her in verse 16, yet oppressed by Satan.
How often do we allow the enemy of our souls to keep us bound, stuck, and looking at our feet instead of heavenward? The current climate of a worldwide pandemic easily lends itself to a multitude of entrapments that can keep us bent double: fear, worry, apathy, anger, hidden addictions, dysfunctional family dynamics erupting in close quarters…the list is endless. Even a child of God can be oppressed by the enemy; and when you are looking at your feet, you cannot see Jesus.
But Jesus sees you.
And just as He did for the suffering woman in this story, He calls you to Him. He alone has the power to break the chains that keep you bent double. His love is the invitation to straighten up!
May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.
Let God’s presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you. --Theresa of Avila