I wonder about the bent-over woman described in the 13 Chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. She had been bent over, unable to walk upright, for 18 years. I cannot imagine what life would have been like, not being able to look people in the eye, constantly staring at the ground, encountering life one set of feet at a time. She could only engage life from the knees down. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often notice this part of the world around me. I am looking up at the trees and the sky and the birds. I look up (because I’m short!) into people’s eyes. It’s rare that I notice what is low to the ground, except when I am walking and not wanting to trip.
But this bent-over woman noticed what was low to the ground. It’s all she had. That means that she saw the animals scurrying around her. It means that she could look children in the eye easily. It means that she could see and engage the world in a way that we only do when we work at it intentionally; when we sit on the ground to play with children, or reach down to snuggle our pets, or notice the ground on which we are walking for our own safety.
The woman encounters Jesus, and she is healed by him. She was able to stand upright. She was able to look people in the eye again. She was able to notice the blue of the sky and the color of the leaves and the movement of the flying birds. But I wonder about this bent-over, now healed, woman. After she was healed and able to stand upright, did she ever again see what was lower to the ground?
During this pandemic season I hear us longing for life to get back to “normal.” We say that while having a deep awareness that what is “normal” will be forever changed. But I wonder about when things “get back to normal.” I wonder if we will be able to see the things that we have had to notice during the pandemic. Will we look in one another’s eyes as intently as we do when there’s a mask across the mouth? Will we find as much delight in taking a picnic lunch to the park to meet up with friends and family? Will we make fewer trips for errands than we used to because we found that all that running around only made life more complicated? Will we lean into that reality that sometimes an online encounter will suffice when we need the space for family and loved ones and ourselves?
I want to believe the bent-over woman still noticed the ants on the ground, even when she was able to watch the birds soar. I want to believe she delighted in looking adults in the eye while never passing up a chance to kneel down and engage a child face to face. And I want to believe that there are parts of this pandemic season that have fundamentally changed for the better how we will engage one another and the world around us.
As you continue to live through this pandemic season, may you lean into a new normal that brings health and wholeness. And may you find a delight in it.
Pastor Becky Jo Messenbrink