FREEDOM AT THE FRINGE
On her wedding day, Marilyn opened her bridal dress package with great eagerness, her fingers trembling with excitement at this awesome event in her life. Tugging at the thongs she finally got the box open and gazed at the beautiful white dress in rapture. There were sighs of wonder and streams of joyful tears. Marilyn bowed her head and raised her hands, carefully allowing her bridesmaids to help her slip into the gown. As they were about to pull it over her head, there was a gasp of shocked surprise. The fringe of the dress hadn’t been done. Pandemonium!
The fringe of a garment – how seemingly minor yet how important and crucial.
During a retreat, one day, I sat before the Lord and wondered what place I held in the Mystical Body of Christ. It seemed to me that I was at the fringe of His garment. How dismayed I felt, to be juxtaposed, to be set aside, somewhere out of sight, out of mind, – in one word, ‘ordinary’. I sat and pouted. I went about like the Ninevites, whining in my sackcloth, feeling the knots of the fringe and wearing myself out with expectations gone wrong. What had I done wrong?
I look back at that moment today. Why did I feel like that? What was I looking for in Christ? It was a humbling moment indeed when I realized that in spite of having spent so many years in close company with the Lord, I hadn’t yet learned the basic lessons He taught…. but more so, the Greatest Lesson about The Least. He reminded me that the most ordinary places of life are ones intersected by God’s Power and can serve as opportunities of Grace, Witness and Transformation.
In His mercy, the Lord did not abandon me to my mood, but led me ever so gently, to understand once more, the value of belonging to Him and loving Him with a pure heart. Gradually I learned to say again, “I love Thee Lord, though there be no Heaven to win, nor Hell to punish my sin!” (Prayer of the Church on Holy Saturday)
Finding Hope At His Fringe
In chapter 8 of the Gospel of Luke, we read the very familiar passage of Jesus onward to His mission, the crowds pressing upon Him and the sudden interruption of a stranger’s touch. Jesus stops His tracks and looks around. “Who touched me?” demanding for an answer but receiving nothing but perplexed stunned silence. Then one of the courageous disciples’ signals, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” But Jesus persisted, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” (Luke 8:46).
Jesus was right. A woman who had suffered haemorrhage for twelve long years, had mustered the courage to bravely reach out and touch His garment – finding hope, healing and help at the fringe. Yes, at the fringe! There is Power, even there because it belongs to Him. What adds comfort to my heart is knowing that there are some sections in society that will make it as far as only the fringe. Don’t we deter them from rising? Don’t we shun them, reserving places of honour only for ourselves? Some will come, fighting through the crowds, silently, discreetly for they dare not interrupt the ‘religious’ activity, of those who have important offices to perform.
Yet the Lord, at His fringe, made Himself accessible to these children of Abraham who lived at the margins of society and He makes Himself accessible and available to us. He desires none be lost (John 6:39) and that all receive the banqueting display of His love (Psalm 23:5).
Unnamed But Not Forgotten
Dear sisters, God has fashioned you to be in the most strategic position for His kingdom right where you are. Wherever you are, is no ordinary place. This is the place of your potential, your purpose and your influence. Sometimes, the long years of suffering like the woman in the Gospel may tempt you to feel forgotten, other times it may tempt you to think the ordinary fringe is all that is reserved for you. But these are not ordinary for the Lord.
What might seem set aside and ordinary can become for you the greatest season of your healing and victory as it did for this woman.
She is unnamed, perhaps named by her issue? Not to Jesus, her struggle, her pain, her sickness and her attempt to find healing even at the fringe was important to Jesus and so is yours. What about you? Do you feel unnamed and forgotten? Perhaps silenced by the popular mob for your bravery? Do you find it easier to settle under the fringes of mediocrity and lukewarmness?
During Lent, we are lovingly reminded that even the most shy and lonely, the most backward and fearful, the ‘unclean’, the ‘untouchables’ have access to the throne of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. All can come, to taste and see that He is good.
The Cross shines as an exemplary emblem of the Father’s refusal to forget those who are weak, poor, broken and weary.
Joy In The Ordinary
My prayer for you is that you will find reasons to rejoice, mindful that as beloved daughters, we enjoy not just ‘fringe benefits’ or ‘crumbs’, but a full measure of His Divine Grace as Children of God. The secret of the fringe is that it shares as completely in the importance and healing redemptive power of the Lord as any other part of the garment.
We never know how the Lord has worked through us. We never know just how many have found healing and the courage to live just because of us. Recently for example, a student of mine got in touch just to say “Thank You” for what I had done for her, her sister and her mother. They were destitute then, but “Now I am doing fine” she said. She had studied, worked, built herself a house, looked after her family and now had plans to move on to a new job in another city and have her own family there. What a great testimony of heroic courage in the ordinary.
The happiest person I have ever known often said aloud, “I’m an ordinary man, but everybody loves me, so I must be a great man!” He was a man who had embraced his ordinariness and found JOY in it. To the end of his life he was singing, making people laugh, appreciating them, making them feel worthwhile with his appreciative remarks, remembering and asking us to contact them on their special days. People would come from far and wide to visit him, make phone calls, send letters and gifts and always ask about his health before asking about ours when we met them.
Yes, my Dad had discovered the pearl of greatness in the field of ordinariness. He bought that field for himself and us as family, and today I can share it with you. It’s great indeed to be ordinary. Wherever you are, is a place of Power and Influence. The world is desperate for this witness. It begins with one step forward, clinging to the Holy Spirit for courage to push through the crowds, to touch His fringe – the place of healing and victory.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sister Berlinda D’Cruz is a Canossian nun based in Mumbai, India. Having spent over two decades in formation and administration across Africa and India, she is passionate about helping people through education and mentoring, to wade out of oppressive systems in their lives. Sister Berlinda confesses her ordinariness albeit she encases an extraordinary secret: of course I’m in a muddle, but God still finds me delightful!