Women of the Gospels Series: "The Whole, Bloody Truth" by Addie Zierman

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

We continue our Women of the Gospels series today with a guest post from the talented Addie Zierman, one of my new favorite bloggers.  Addie is the creative mind behind “How to Talk Evangelical,” where she blogs about the language of spirituality and her own faith journey. She is working on a coming-of-age memoir by the same title, and is represented by the Carol Mann Agency. Addie lives in Minnesota with her husband two young son. You can find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Enjoy!


“And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed...’” 
– Mark 5:25-27


This is what last ditch effort looks like: a woman’s frantic grab at a stranger’s cloak. 

He is walking by, and she has heard of him: whispers of healings, echoes of prophecy, murmurings of one who carries healing powers in the tassels of his robe.

Who can say what it feels like to bleed for twelve years, to find yourself perpetually on the wrong side of the line in a culture where there is Clean and there is Unclean? 

She has tried it all –their remedies, their cures. Persian onions. Cumin and crocus and seeds, all of it boiled into wine. She knows the bitter taste of hope because she has swallowed every last drop. She’s felt it wash down her throat and disappear.

There are so many people around that day that she can only see him in glimpses. She can barely hear him for all the voices. And this is what desperation looks like: a reaching. One bold arm among dozens of others; one hand brushing the soft edge of the fabric.

And who can say what it feels like when healing travels down through your fingers, fills your entire body with light? Who can love the word “dry” like the one who has been spilling over for more than a decade?

The Rabbi stops. Turns. “Who touched my clothes?” he asks, and they who have been pressed in tight around him are not sure who he’s talking to.

But she knows. She comes forward, falls at his feet, tells the whole bloody truth. And when she has finished, when she’s spoken it out into the world, he tells her she is healed. He tells her to go in peace and be free.


I always hate to tell people about what I write. Memoir. The story of my own small life. I say it, and they purse their lips and nod, unsure of what to say next.

And it’s because there is this misconception about memoir: you write because you’ve had some kind of unusual life. You write a memoir because you are Somebody or because Some Big Thing has happened to you, and this is how we end up with tomes by the Kardashians and…Snookie.

But the truth – the thing I love about the genre – is that in its purest form, it’s exactly the opposite. I tell my story not because it is particularly thrilling, but because if I tell it right, it will tap into your story, into the collective story that we all live in.

The whole truth is in the details, the landscapes, the parts of myself that hide in the shadows of my memory. To dig for these pieces is an act of faith all its own; to assemble them into art, into story, is an act of healing.

It’s a shift in thinking. In the world of my evangelical youth, we learned to tell it small, to shrink-wrap our stories into three-minute testimonies. We crafted bite-sized portions of redemption, easy to hand out in a crowd. We gave the truth…but the sanitized version. The condensed version. A parody, a Before-and-After.

The whole truth is harder to speak. You have to talk about the bleeding in a society much too polite all that. You have to remember what it felt like to be drained, to walk into a church and feel alone, to wake day after day to more spilled blood.

To really tell the whole, damn thing, you have to describe the bitter taste of the cures that didn’t work. The margaritas. The men. The nights you were drunk and driving anyway.

You pick up the shards, and they cut your skin, but you keep working. You arrange them and rearrange them until they make something beautiful. Something with the power to touch someone else’s unspoken pain. And this…this is memoir.


On the other side of time, there is a woman. She stands in a crowd and tells the whole truth. 

She tells it loud, tells it trembling, and if you are quiet enough you can feel it reverberate here in your own bloodied soul.

She talks about pain, about desperation, about reaching.

She could be talking about you.

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