Empty nester. I have been struggling with this label for a year, unable to discern what God has for me in this new season. When I asked him to give me some verse that would speak to my situation, almost immediately the story in Mark 5 of the woman with the issue of bleeding came to mind. I was perplexed until I began to examine her story and God revealed some interesting similarities.
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"There was a woman who had suffered continuous bleeding for 12 years..."
Twelve years. I groaned empathically when I considered that she could've felt like she was on her period for 12 YEARS! "Lord, have mercy" never seemed so appropriate. Very likely, her bleeding was her last thought each night, and her first thought each morning. It dictated the rhythm of her days, her weeks, her months, her years.
I thought about what had dictated the rhythm of my life. Ironically, my son-also "the issue from my womb"-and his activities no longer brought structure to my days. The years of making lunches, overseeing piano practicing, and double-checking the calendar to make sure we didn't miss whatever activity was scheduled had come to an end. I ached as each day began without an agenda, and wondered what could restore purpose to my days.
"Bleeding that made her ritually unclean and an outcast according to the purity laws."
Jewish women could not attend synagogue while they were menstruating. They were considered unclean by Mosaic Law. They went through a cleansing after every cycle in order to be restored to spiritual fellowship.
So, if she was bleeding continuously for 12 years she would never have been allowed to join her community and participate in services. She was in a spiritual desert. Again, I could relate. As a parent, my life had been so busy that I'd neglected my soul life with Jesus. Now I didn't know how to nurture my inner life with God again.
For she said to herself, "If I can only touch his coat, I will be healed."
One little prepositional phrase opened my eyes to a startling reality: what if this woman had no friends? "She said to herself..." I imagined and was pained by the real possibility that she had no one to talk things over with, no one to help her figure out what to do.
Surely this wasn't my situation-or was it? Then it dawned on me that the natural activities that brought me in contact with other women as a mother of a student no longer existed. In the months after graduation, I looked around and realized I was alone.
As I thought about all this, I realized the difference between this woman and me was that her hope was not placed in a change in her situation. She knew that although she had expended all her resources she still had one option. She placed her hope in Jesus to change her situation. She believed she could entrust her future to him.
It was clear God was whispering to me: You have the same choice, daughter.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be free from your sickness."
Just as he did then, Jesus is passing close by today. He invites you to reach out your hand and touch his robe. A new life, a new season awaits.
A born and raised Midwesterner, Jennifer Nahrstadt now lives in Georgia while her only son attends college "back home." After eight years in the South, her friends say she still can't say "y'all" convincingly.