Before I was a Christian I was appalled by blood.  The way that Christian hymns and Christian jargon throw blood around, sometimes literally: we’re "cleansed by His blood," after all.  I always thought, gross.  The only cleansing by the blood I could conjure up was that scene in "Carrie" and it didn’t look very sanctifying.  "Carrie" expresses very effectively modern America’s ideas about blood.  At the beginning of the story Carrie gets her period, and finds herself doubly shamed; her classmates shame her for her ignorance and her mother shames her for the blood, the undeniable flow that marks her as grown up and eligible for sin.  That pretty much sums up being a woman these days.  She attempts to embrace that womanhood and is immediately betrayed and baptized with pig’s blood and how depressing is that? 

We like to keep it clean.  It seems like we’re supposed to.  I’m not supposed to say that I’m bleeding – I’m to say that I "got my period" and I’m not really even supposed to say that.  It’s hard to know where the shame comes from but the shame is pervasive.  I think we want to think we have conquered blood, that life is under our control and clean and predictable. 

It took a while before I came to understand the talismanic, sacred nature of blood to the ancient Jews in the time of Jesus.  I can understand the woman’s point of view – when there’s no pregnancy test and no pap smear, the blood is all you have.  When the blood came for the first time you were a woman and your father gave you away to some guy you probably didn’t even know.  When the blood stopped, you were going to have a baby, and the baby came in pain and blood (at least that part hasn’t changed).  If the blood didn’t stop after the baby came, you died. 

The men were concerned with blood as a measure of justice.  The ancient Jews didn’t think justice was served until blood was shed.  I used to think this was barbaric and not relevant but it represents a human truth.  If someone hurts me they should pay, maybe just with an apology, maybe in more serious ways.  Sacrifice = justice is in our DNA.  Blood was like currency back then – the blood of your best lamb or bull was what you spent to show God your devotion.  Blood means you’re serious.

I want to be serious.  I feel like I’m on the sidelines without a child.  I so want the transformation, to be one of the women who’s been pregnant, who’s been through labor, who knows.  Being fertile is a completion of who I see myself to be, and without it I’m not quite living.  I’m simultaneously not-grown-up, and too old.  I’ve been detoured around the beating heart of life and I’m not sure exactly when it happened or why it has to be this way.  I don’t give a hoot what society thinks; the women in Bible times needed to be fertile for their livelihood and their status, whether they wanted it for themselves or not.  I need it for my soul.  My life has been bloodless thus far, too clean; and that’s not what I want.

My few hopes of pregnancy, and my short-lived actual pregnancy, ended not with blood but with doctor phone calls and peesticks and the dead silence of unpregnancy that I have come to know.  The blood has never been a surprise.  It isn’t today, either, as my first pregnancy was officially over last Saturday.  From that day to this has just been waiting. 

Tomorrow is Good Friday, the oddly barbaric reliving of Jesus’ torture and death.  It’s very bloody.  Only when I came to understand Good Friday did I begin to understand blood as a sacrament.  A sacred gift.  Jesus didn’t just bleed on the cross; he sweated blood in the garden as he contemplated the torture that was coming, he was beaten and his head scored with the crown of thorns, and he was flogged with the metal-studded lash that cost him still more blood.  By the time he got to the cross he had lost enough blood that we wonder how he was even conscious.    By this we know that he was serious. 

It’s good to see how ugly and violent and painful and scary it really was.  My husband and I will watch "The Passion of the Christ" tomorrow night to observe Good Friday.  We don’t want to sit in church this year, we don’t want to talk about it, we don’t want to sing songs about it, we just want to go through the story one more time.  We have guilt and agony and unresolved longing, regret and anger and fear; when we see what Jesus went through, we can know that He is strong enough to bring our baggage to God and that we can be forgiven.  We’ve got serious needs, so when we see all that blood, we know that he’s a serious God. 

I need that.  Without that blood there’s no sacrifice, without sacrifice there can be no forgiveness.  Without forgiveness I can’t trust God, and without God I don’t know how to live.  I used to think the blood-sacrifice-forgiveness stuff was hard and primitive, but now I know that we are a hard and primitive race and we can’t hide from our blood. 

I’m glad to see my blood today.  Getting your period is cycle day 1, after all.  It means I can start again.  It’s sad because it is the physical end of two babies that didn’t get much chance to live.  But my blood, and the blood of Christ, say the same thing to me:

Hope.

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