43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” – Luke 8:43-48 ESV
Most are probably aware that there are a variety of ways to read the bible- but not all valid nor created equal. In many pockets of the church, reading your own story into scripture can be dangerous and undermine the meaning of the text. In many respects, more people in the pew should learn to consider, weigh and dissect passages for what they contain in their meaning as well as where they drive for application – how the story of scripture impacts the story of our own lives. Ann Swindell’s book, Still Waiting, strikes a unique chord in locating how the passage above beautifully extends to her story – and for what many of her readers will discover in her book - your story, too.
The passage of Luke 8 gives a small glimpse into the life of the isolated woman whose faith made her well. Ann’s story likewise opens a small window into her own story, her own life and offers a legitimate, overlooked and unengaged application of this beautiful narrative we find in the gospel of Luke.
Trichotillomania. It’s a condition that affects about 2.5 million people in the United States. You likely have never heard of it, and for understandable reasons. It’s a condition, like the unclean blemish of bleeding that afflicted the woman in Luke 8, that isolates and afflicts many today. As cited in Ann’s book:
Trichotillomania is a poorly understood disorder characterized by repetitive hair pulling that leads to noticeable hair loss, distress and social or functional impairment. The peak age at onset is 12-13 years, and the disorder is often chronic and difficult to treat. In DSM-IV, it is categorized as an impulse control disorder…Although rising tension and subsequent pleasure, gratification, or relief are integral to the current diagnostic criteria for trichotillomania, many people with debilitating hair pulling do not endorse these criteria.
I’ll be honest, before I read Ann’s book and was told of her condition, I quietly doubted and wrestled with the validity of applying the women’s story of Luke 8 to Ann’s. Writing this review after having read her book and knowing that future and current pastors in the church will be reading Ann’s story, I can say this to the following question: is Ann’s story a valid application of Luke 8? Absolutely, emphatically, yes, 100%, it is.
Still Waiting uniquely gives a fictional, but biblically reasonable and plausible background into the story of the bleeding woman whose name we never learn. Ann very artfully crafts her prose and that woman’s story into a near seamless and accessible read. But it’s not an easy read. In terms of style- yes, it is easy, but in terms of content- it is hard. It caused me to wonder, and to my own shame and regret, that I have not considered or thought conditions like this were legitimate. I wonder, did people think the bleeding woman’s discharge as legitimate after years of not being healed? Was her isolation of ritual uncleanliness like the isolation we make others feel through not engaging them or not lending legitimacy where it is due? We have many people in the pew, many people disenchanted with the church that are afraid to make their struggles known. They are like the people that Ann writes for – they are still waiting. She writes:
Alone, none of us can overcome our weakness, stop our sins, obtain healing, or find happiness. Our attempts to control our own destinies prove futile. Love crumbles, we lose our jobs, we experience a miscarriage, healing doesn’t come. If we stop long enough, we become unmistakably aware of our inability to pay the cost for the things we so deeply desire. Waiting only makes the awareness more acute; it forces us to stop long enough to notice all that we aren’t attaining, all that we aren’t getting.
Still Waiting is a redemptively vulnerable story that will challenge us to think through the unengaged, the afflicted and to wrestle with God’s will, desire and timing. It is for those still waiting to be healed and need to take heart that one day Christ will ultimately, totally, and finally do so. It offers encouragement where healing is often absent and it illumines hope where many have despaired.
Ann’s work is an excellent story of scripture’s application to our lives. Her chapters draw the reader deeper through the layers of meaning and depths of waiting on God. When waiting makes you broken, when it makes you weak, when it costs you everything, when it claims your identity, when it feels offensive, when it brings you shame, when it feels like suffering, and when waiting is risky. Ann’s delicate and gospel-saturated words drive us to wait with grace and lead us humbly and redemptively to be laid out grasping for the hem of Christ’s garment- looking for healing in faith and in hope- but are and may be left still waiting.
 “Trichotillomania Statistics: The Number Behind Hair Pulling Disorder,” TrichStop, http://www.trichstop.com/info/general/trich-statistics
 Samuel R. Chamberlin, Lara Menzies, Barbara J. Sahakian, and Naomi A. Fineberg, The American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 164, issue 4, http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/ajp.2007.164.4.568.