A year and a half ago, I intentionally started going to the gym. Part of my initial membership included three free sessions with a personal trainer. During the first session, the following conversation ensued:
Personal Trainer: “What’s your current workout routine?”
Me: “Elliptical, then I normally do sit ups and pushups under the stairs.”
Personal Trainer: “Why do you hide out under the stairs rather than using the machines or free weights?”
Me: “I feel most comfortable retreating to my workout cave where people aren’t looking at me.”
Personal Trainer: “Wow. You really don’t want to be seen, do you?”
Me: “No. It’s totally vulnerable!”
Personal Trainer (pointing to everyone else in the gym): “Show me one person who’s not being vulnerable right now?”
Me: Awkward silence.
To borrow from Brene Brown, this exchange caused a
breakdown spiritual awakening.* This superficial conversation tapped into something deeper—my tendency to hide out in emotional and spiritual caves. Unbeknownst to me (but visible to a stranger), these “hiding” tendencies didn’t surface merely because of the skeezy gym environment, but rather, on a larger scale, were indicative of my fear of being seen for who I was. This exchange catapulted me into a vulnerability quest from 2013 - present.
My membership was up for renewal last week, and while signing the paperwork, I thought back to this encounter, as well as the growth that’s taken place since then. As I reflected, I was reminded of the hemorrhaging woman I wrote about several weeks ago.
The beauty about Scripture is that there’s always more to be mined. In Luke 8.42-49, the physical healing is only a portion of the woman’s restoration. Reaching out to Jesus for a physical cure is part one of a two-part story.
Hidden by the crowds, the woman anonymously touches Jesus. Instantly healed, she seeks to slip away with the same anonymity with which she approached. Why the secrecy? She’s a scandalous social outcast. Not only is she a woman, but she is a poor, unclean woman. She expended all of her resources seeking treatment and is now destitute. She doesn’t merely touch a man in the crowd, but the reputable teacher the crowd is following. She dares to venture into society, infecting everyone (including Jesus) with her impurity. If found out, plenty of social whistleblowers in the crowd would ridicule, shame, and mock her. **
Jesus first responds with a question: “Who touched me?” No one confesses. The woman is silent.
Despite Peter’s response, Jesus pushes the envelope: “Someone touched me, I know that power has gone out from me” (v. 46). At this point, the woman has a choice. She can hide. It’s engrained in her. It’s what she’s accustomed to. She may as well take her healing and split.
Or, she can choose to be seen, potentially exposing herself to public humiliation and shame.
The text tells us that hiding was no longer an option, and thus, she chooses the latter. Propelled by faith, she exposes herself, risking the crowd’s and Jesus’ rejection. Trembling, she falls at Jesus’ feet, confessing everything.
She doesn’t know how Jesus will respond. As a devout Jew, studied in the Torah, he may reprimand her for touching him in her impure state; he may complain about the ritual cleansing he must now undergo; or he may shame her for her impropriety.
Yet, Jesus does none of these things. While the woman wants to remain unseen, Jesus’ intention is exactly the opposite—he wants her to be seen. Her malady has forced her into seclusion; perpetually unclean, she’s been barred from society for over a decade. Her problem wasn’t just physical, but social and relational. When Jesus calls her out in front of the crowd, he wants to acknowledge her faith; he wants to publicly restore her to the very community she was ostracized from; he wants to see her, but most importantly, he wants the crowd to see her.
Jesus affirms her vulnerability. His response restores her. She risks being seen, and as a result, is given her worth and identity as a “daughter” in God’s family (v. 48).
If we’re honest with ourselves, we all struggle with being seen. Like the woman, trembling often accompanies self-revelation. We’re fearful of judgment, rejection, and failure; terrified that if people really knew our defects, weaknesses, or inadequacies, they’d fly the coop. Whether in our work relationships, friendships, or romantic relationships, we’re afraid of laying our imperfections bare, preferring to hide behind emotional blockades.
Our fears are valid, yet, it's important to remember that restoration and healing are vulnerability’s byproducts, and that hiding is riskier than being seen. When we prevent people from seeing our not-so-great qualities, we inhibit them from seeing our beauty, uniqueness, and really-amazingly-awesome attributes. Our lives are fuller, richer, and more connected with God, and with others, when we’re seen.
When God calls us out from our comfortable caves, when we have the choice to be seen or not, I hope that like the hemorrhaging woman, we recognize hiding is no longer an option.
Lord, I thank you that you are a God who sees people. Even if we don’t want to be seen, there is nowhere we can go to hide from your gaze. Please show us ways that we’re hiding; show us areas where we don’t want to be seen; help us to understand why we want to hide. Most importantly, shine light on those places, revealing both the beauty and ugliness that reside there. Give us courage to peer in, and boldness to let others join us. Amen.
*Brown, Brene. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (p. 23). Gotham Books: 2012.
** Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke (NICNT). Eerdmans, 1997.