San Diego, CA, Twelve Years Ago…
I was a soon-to-be former military wife and single mom starting life over again. I had been abused in my marriage for seven years and was left with nothing.
During this difficult time, I found myself seeking sanctuary everywhere I went. I would go on prayer walks, read Scripture, practice yoga, and even attended seminary but the feeling of being a sanctuary for the Holy Spirit was not yet within my reach. It would take me twelve years to regain a sense of safety and wholeness; the same twelve years that brought me to the present moment trusting again and believing in God’s plan for my life.
As I first embarked on this journey of healing, I started working at an orthodox Jewish Synagogue, Beth Jacob Congregation. There, I was met with unexpected lessons and what would become life-long friends. I traced the roots of my Jewish heritage and traditions and I learned how to take full responsibility for my life. Lessons were difficult and I often lost heart and resigned myself to a life of anxiety and depression.
One day while I was preparing for Shabbos, my friend Amira came into the office and asked me for the key to the Mikvah.
“What is a Mikvah?” I asked.
Amira smiled. She could see the curiosity and the voracity to learn of God even before I realized my purpose of being a teacher of His word.
“A Mikvah is a sacred pool for women to cleanse themselves in.”
“Like a baptism?”
“Yes, but this pool is used way more than that, baptisms only happen once.” Amira continued, “when a woman begins her monthly menstrual cycle, she cannot touch her husband at all. They cannot make love until she has been to the Mikvah. A woman cannot go to the Mikvah until she has completely stopped bleeding. Baruch Hashem to those women who have short cycles.”
Rabbi B. was gone from the office so I spoke freely.
“So, orthodox women cannot sing in front of a man who isn’t her husband, can’t touch any other man other than her husband, and she has to wait to be held, kissed, and comforted by her husband until she stops bleeding all together?”
“Yes,” Amira answered wisely.
“But what if a woman bleeds for two weeks?”
Amira then gave me this knowing smile and went to cleanse herself in the Mikvah.
Eight Years Earlier…
Tonight’s is the night. Finally, as a senior in high school, I get a solo and will sing in front of all the families and my fellow classmates at the ring ceremony for Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls. Sister Lauretta had been training me all week, gave me a recording to practice at home. I meditated on the words and thought about every way I could make a mistake and embarrass myself in front of three thousand people in Philadelphia’s largest spiritual venue, The Basilica of St. Peter and Paul. I practiced multiple times a day and even wired myself with a Walkman under my maroon and white school uniform during the week.
Finally the moment came and I stood up to sing. In my mind I thought the heavens would open and I would somehow sprout wings and illuminate the world with my wonderful singing voice (insert teen vanity eye roll here).
Water of life
Jesus our light
Journey from death to new life
Fountain of light
New sight for the blind
We come to the water
We come to find peace…
As Father Kelly doused the audience with a scepter full of holy water, I sang my solo; it lasted about thirty seconds. Father Kelly moved fast. The heaven’s didn’t open. I didn’t sprout wings, but a seed was definitely planted. To this day, I rise in the morning with this song on my heart.
We all know the popular science mantra where there is water there is life, however when I think about spiritual hydration, I feel compelled to say this:
Where there is life, there is water. Living water.
God, you are my God; I eagerly seek you.
I thirst for you;
My body faints for you in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.
Taking on life, it’s challenges and blessings, can leave us parched and in need of a wellspring that is continually flowing. Positive and negative stress causes unrest; our flesh is not meant to sustain living water for eternity; our bodies and our lives are but only sanctuaries to hold such an intangible, precious gift.
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Our purpose, to transcend our human limitations for the glory of God, requires a faith so great that we must maintain a continual overflow of peace, joy, and illumination from the Holy Spirit. We need clean, healthy, and perfect water for such a task – and we need to bathe ourselves in it.
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. -John 3:5.
Jesus’s assurances here in this conversation with Nicodemus have been the subject of countless debates as to its meaning and requirement of baptism. But what exactly does our precious Lord mean when He presents this enigmatic answer? We can only know if we traverse through the birth canal.
Our mothers carried us in their wombs; we had no other choice but to trust what they ingested nutritionally, spiritually, emotionally. We were held in creative suspension by mystery,spirit, blood, and amniotic fluid. When our time came, our mother’s bodies knew exactly what to do in preparing a way for us. The amniotic fluid burst forth as we entered the world, fresh from the other side.
The beauty of our birth stories is that there is never just one birth story for each of us. We go through the many birth canals of life as the Holy spirit bears down and pushes us into a new situation surrounded by the protection and illumination of amniotic fire.
“I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am–so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Each moment we recognize God’s presence in our life, we experience a rebirth and taste sweet communion within the Kingdom of Heaven that fills our cellular structure, our mental capacities, and our human brokenness. It is through our brokenness that we can actually see the water of life flowing. Have you ever tried to pour water out of a sealed container without attempting to open it? The Holy Spirit must have a pathway out of us so that we may become witness to God’s infinite grace and wondrous miracles.
Twelve Years Long:
Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.
Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”
His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”
Restoration & Healing:
The woman who had a 12 year long menstrual cycle was likely an untouchable, one who was considered unclean. She couldn’t even bathe in the Mikvah – her bleeding never stopped. Her hemorrhaging did, however, deepen her faith. Tears always flow to my eyes when I think of her laying on the ground with her hand outstretched, reaching through many legs and many robes, threatening to be trampled in the chaos at any moment.
Twelve years is a long time to wait for peace and healing, to wait to be well.
This woman who remains nameless, bleeds one year for every disciple, bleeds one year for every calendar month, and bleeds one year for every tribe of Israel. She may be one of the most powerful women of the bible, yet all we know is that she was considered an untouchable. Had any of the followers actually witnessed her touch the robes of Christ, she would have been stoned to death.
“Who touched Me?” Jesus asked. But they all denied it. “Master,” said Peter, “the people are crowding and pressing against You.” But Jesus declared, “Someone touched Me, for I know that power has gone out from Me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not escape notice, came trembling and fell down before Him. In the presence of all the people she explained why she had touched Him and how she had immediately been healed.…
Even though she didn’t know it, this brave and faithful woman was a part of God’s plan to teach us about blood shed for love. Not soon after she was healed by the Water of Life, Jesus our Light baptized all of us throughout space-time with his own blood and water; his power went out of him and dispersed everywhere, all the way to this tender moment.
One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out.
– John 19:34
Jesus is the Mikvah, baptism incarnate, and we the sanctuaries that hold his water of life.
How can we seek the wellspring God offers us through Jesus as our spiritual ancestors did before us?
The one who believes in me, as the scriptures have said, will have streams of living water flow deep within him.
Jesus calls us to believe beyond our human limitations and overcome cynicism, bitterness, and closed-mindedness. We must be like children to be able to have the energy to skip through the meadows of our spirit, trusting and carefree, knowing that the stream is our sacred meeting place with Him.
By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.
God presents Jesus and the great birth canal, complete with water and spirit in the form of a cloud and a pillar of fire, on the Israelite’s journey to freedom during one of the most difficult times on Earth for God’s chosen people. But the people knew that they were protected. The Israelites made a conscious choice to go forward on this journey, were aware of the dangers and risks, and pressed on until they made it through the passage.
Your “birth story” is an essential part of your God-given purpose and plan for helping others to bear down and be born. Do you possess the courage to see your suffering as a pathway to profound illumination?
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: the ones who are called according to His purpose.
God is absolutely precise and intentional. Everything that has happened in your life has been meant to bring you closer to Him. Allow the flow of water and blood to open your heart to an infinite and unfailing portion of Spirit for your greatest journey of all.