She had been bent low for 18 years. 18 years of a deformed body and a deformed identity to match. 18 years of staring at feet rather than faces, crowded streets rather than cloud filled skies, dirt rather than dusk. 18 years is a long time to be bound.
Every movement took more effort than we can know. Every step hurt. Every trip to the market or well an invitation for pain, both in the knotted muscles of her back, and the broken place that used to be her heart.
She could not hide her infirmity. She limped and slumped and groaned a bit when she passed. Everyone saw her weakness. Perhaps the adults turned away from her pain, maybe the children giggled, I’m sure they judged- after all, it was a spirit keeping her bound. They wondered aloud what she had done to receive such punishment just loud enough to hear over her labored breathing.
And yet, she made her way to the synagogue on that Sabbath. We know simply that. Was it her custom or had she heard that the miracle man would be there? Did she file into her regular place in the pew or slump hopeful in the back? Was she welcomed or shunned at the door?
It doesn’t matter.
Every minute of the the last 18 painful years was about to disappear. Every glance and giggle, every judgement and whisper was about to be redeemed. See, Satan and his servant spirit that had danced on this woman’s spine for nearly 2 decades were about to meet the One who created it.
And no one stays bound in His presence.
Whether she felt scrutinized or invisible up unto this moment, Jesus is about to see her. SEE HER.
Not just her weakness, but her strength. Not just her body but her heart. Not just what had her bent low, but the possibility of her freedom.
Teaching, he looked up, saw her, and called her forward. In the synagogue. In front of everyone.
And obediently she bravely went. .
She hobbled forward to His beckoning. Because even though He saw her, she couldn’t really see him, not from her bent over point of view. He placed his gentle hands on her brokenness and said simply, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” (Luke 13: 12)
And IMMEDIATELY she straightened up and praised God!
What Satan had spent 18 years binding, Jesus broke in an instant.
Loosed and free, the physical and emotional burden lifted. The spiritual chains broken, she could finally see the one who had seen her. And she rightly worshiped Him- for her healing, for her freedom, for her life back, for His kindness.
No one stays bound in His presence.
I have been sitting with this bent-over to walking-tall woman in Luke 13 for awhile now. I know I have read her story before but I feel like I have just met her, really. Seen her for the first time.
I think it’s because I see me in her hunched over heaviness.
You don’t see me in her. You wouldn’t. My hunch is hidden. I bet yours is too.
I look like I am walking tall, have it all together, whole, healthy. But inside I bend beneath the weight of it.
What has you bound today?
Spiritual attack of the mind?
The pressure to walk tall for your children, your family, your community?
The hidden hunch may be the most dangerous.
But just as Jesus saw the bent-over woman in the synagogue, He sees you too. He sees me. He hates the heaviness we are carrying.
See, I bet the woman bent low had stopped thinking about her stoop. It was just a part of who she was after a few years. How it would ALWAYS BE.
Until it wasn’t.
And I wonder what parts of ourselves we’ve forgotten aren’t really a part of ourselves?
You don’t ALWAYS have to struggle with that sin, that thought pattern, that shame or insecurity. Your marriage doesn’t ALWAYS have to be that way and your friendships don’t ALWAYS have to look like that. Freedom is on the other side of that obedience.
And the invitation is the same. Come. Step out of the darkness. Be brave and take hold of what He is offering.
His presence is the healing. No one can stay bound there.
But just like my friend in Luke 13, we play a part in our healing. We must show up. We make meeting with him a daily rhythm. We place ourselves in the path of His presence. And when He calls us to walk away from the burden, from beneath it’s weight, we are brave and obedient and come.
And though the religious leaders were angry with Jesus for healing the woman bent low on the Sabbath, it says in Luke 13:17 that the people were DELIGHTED.
The world needs to see our freedom. Our bravery and our obedience, and then our FREEDOM! It’s the hope for every other soul bent low.
The same Jesus of Luke 13 is the Jesus of today. He offers the same miracles, the same healing, and the same freedom.
No one stays bent low in His presence.
It’s time to walk tall.