Raised to Full Stature

ballot in mailbox
“(Jesus) was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.” (Luke 13:10-13)

For most of their lives, my great-grandmothers could not legally vote in the United States. My Idaho ancestors could vote sooner than my Montana relatives (Idaho women could vote in 1896 vs. 1914 for Montana women), but both of my grandmothers were adults when women were finally legally allowed to vote in all of the United States in 1920. When I study all that women endured fighting for the right to vote, I am truly humbled. It’s something I will never take for granted. We stand on the shoulders of brave women who fought long and hard to take part fully in the democracy of the United States. For only when people can take part in the decision making of the country are they part of the democracy itself.

It seems even more crucial and important to me to vote in this upcoming election. I spent time last weekend, poring over my absentee ballot, carefully filling in each box. When finished, it was such a beautiful day I decided to walk to the ballot drop box for Ada County, about a thirty minute walk each way. As I walked, I remembered a documentary I’d seen, with its grainy, black and white videos of women marching in support of Votes for Women. It seemed that my little hour of walking paled in comparison to the many miles the suffragettes trod in the over sixty years of the movement to gain full voting rights. They did much more than just march, too! Three generations of women, beginning in the mid-1800’s, fought tirelessly, enduring jail time, hunger strikes, and beatings from police. All for the cause of women being able to vote in the United States, which claimed to be a democracy while only allowing white men to vote. (It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act in 1965 that barriers to voting were truly removed for all citizens.)

Now, how can I wiggle this into a prayerful devotion? By remembering the Gospel story of the bent-over woman…Luke 13:10-17. Jesus sees the bent-over woman and realizes her station in life as marginalized and tossed aside. He sees the true value of this woman as a beloved child of God; a “daughter of Abraham.” He heals her and literally raises her to full stature. I can close my eyes and see him gently holding her hands and lovingly gazing at her as she rises up, her eyes finally able to meet his. Author Anthony J. Gittens, in his book, “Encountering Jesus” (2002) says this of the bent-over woman:

“She is raised up, enhanced, dignified by Jesus and accorded exactly the same status as those ‘sons of Abraham’ who look upon her with such disparagement and antipathy.” (p. 60)
He also talks of Jesus, “espousing the cause of the victimized—whether precisely as a woman, or as one caught by patriarchal injustices…Jesus gives heart to all other bent-over people.” (p. 60) And a bit further: “God’s will is that everyone should be able to stand up, upright, and morally straight. God’s justice demands that everyone be treated as free, equal people, able to give glory to God.” (p. 61)

Anthony J. Gittens

voter's pamphletThis restoration of dignity to the bent-over woman reminds me of how women fighting for the vote must have felt when able to go into a voting booth and cast their ballots for the candidates of their choice. They were raised up eye-level with the decision-makers. They were no longer shut out the democracy itself but were part of the process of choosing the government under which they lived. That is enough to make any of us stand a bit taller, isn’t it?

This year voting may seem more challenging with the pandemic, but it cannot be diminished in importance. If you are concerned about voting in person, you have until October 23 in Ada County to request an absentee ballot. Your completed ballot can be mailed or dropped off at the Ada County Voting Office. If you live outside of Ada County, check with your county voter registration office to see how you can safely vote in this election. I admit, I walked a little taller after my trek to the Ballot Drop Box. It is our right, privilege and responsibility to vote in this country. We are afforded the dignity of participating in the governing process, and we should celebrate that…by voting!

Prayer...

Loving Jesus, who healed and raised the bent-over woman until her eyes could meet your own, help us to see the dignity of each and every person we encounter. Help us to see those who may feel cast aside and help them to feel their true worth as beloved children of God. Help us to see that our participation in the democracy of the United States is a responsibility to all who live here. Help us to prayerfully and wisely take part in this process. Amen.

Heidi Gainan

Heidi Gainan

Member of Immanuel Lutheran Church
Boise, ID

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Meggan

    Wonderful words Heidi. I love how you tied it all together. I also am so grateful for the women who fought for the right to vote. Checked my ballot status yesterday online–all good.

  2. James G Grunow

    Another thoughtful piece here, Heidi. I appreciate your take on the “bent-over woman” Jesus encounters. That is a new angle for me, probably one that could only have been written by a woman.

  3. Joyce Rauth-Fears

    Heidi
    Very well expressed! The “bent-over woman” was a great comparison to what past generations of women had to go through so we could vote. I voted early but appreciate this sharing very much.

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