Monday, August 7, 2017

Not a command, a promise

She stood in one place staring at the ground, 
wishing her glare alone would be enough 
to make a hole open up and swallow her. 
At that moment, she knew death was certain anyway. 
It wasn't death she was trying to avoid. 
It was the public humiliation.

The men holding her called out for the religious teacher
as if they actually cared about what she had done or his opinion.
"Teacher, this woman has been caught..."
She knew she was being made a example of
for some other purpose. It didn't matter.
"in the act of adultery."
Too humiliated to even cry,
She could feel her soul crumbling within her.

"The Law of Moses commanded us to stone such women..." 
Such women, the words sunk in. 
They might as well have called her garbage.
Even if they had let her live, she would be an outcast,
considered good for only one thing.
She was broken, and ready to die.
"So what do you say?" 

She waited an eternity for his answer.
At one point, she raised her gaze just a bit
half expecting to see a stone hurtling towards her.
Instead, she saw the teacher bent towards the ground,
writing in the dirt with his fingers
as they continued to badger him for an answer.

When he finally spoke, his voice rocked her to her core.
"Let him who is without sin among you 
be the first to throw a stone at her." 
and at that moment, she felt the faintest strain of hope.

The teacher continued to write in the dirt
as confusion swirled within her. 
What was he saying? It made no sense. 
She knew she had done wrong,
she knew the punishment that was coming.
she knew she deserved it.

But the men holding her there, began letting go.
They started walking away... one at a time.

She was still watching him write in the dirt
when he suddenly looked up and caught her gaze.
Without breaking eye contact, he stood up.

"Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?" 

"No one, Lord." 

And Jesus said, 
          "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." 

~John 8:3-11 

Those last five words always stuck in my throat.

"Go and sin no more."

Many hear those words as a commandment. Sure you are forgiven, but God still expects you to work hard to keep up your end of the bargain, right?

That's what I believed.

I had heard it preached so many times... and I just knew I couldn't do it. So I didn't. Every time I did something I knew was wrong, the guilt/shame spiral that followed led me right back to the thing that I knew was hurting me. But I also knew I deserved it. I was shackling myself to those hurtful things, letting them define me and who I was.

The day that Jesus broke those chains for me by showing me how much He loved me, without any conditions or caveats on my behavior, was the best day of my life. That's why I identify with this story. I was never an adulteress by conventional standards, but lust, envy, pride, and more definitely had a hold on me... and I was never truly free until I found out that He didn't condemn me for those things. 

I believe the woman above felt the words the same way Jesus meant them for all of us on that day. "I don't condemn you for being human. I don't look down on you for not being perfect. I am not mad at you for what you've done. I love you. And because of that, I know you can do better."

And hearing those words, she straightened her shoulders and started the walk towards home. Not as a woman full of shame who would be doomed to repeat her mistakes because she called herself by the title those men had given her, but as someone who had a newfound freedom, knowing that nobody condemned her.

You see, "Go and sin no more" is too often taught as a command from God for excellence, when it's really meant as a statement of our freedom in Christ. When we know who we are, and what He thinks of us, it gives us the power and motivation to overcome those labels we used to put on ourselves, the ones that became chains that bound us.

Abusers, addicts, and adulterers alike can find freedom when they understand that Jesus doesn't condemn them for their struggle. I know I did. And it's not, as some people claim, the freedom to continue to sin as much as we want. It's the freedom to walk away from those things, knowing we are no longer defined by them. And, if we falter along the way, the freedom to get back up, dust ourselves off, and walk with our head still held high... because none of it changes who we are in Christ or what God sees when He looks at us.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
~Romans 8:1

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
~John 8:36

Catching up

I've been at a stand-still when it comes to writing lately. There have been a lot of big changes in my life. I just never know where to start, so I decided to try with a quick recap...

Over the last couple of months one relationship ended, or changed tracks really. He is an amazing person, and I hope we'll always be friends. I look forward to seeing where he lets God take him in the future.

I went on two trips out of state, both fantastic for their own reasons. In Nashville, the girls and I fed and ministered to the homeless, both on our own and with the help of a homeless ministry there. It was a wonderful couple of days. Then, in California, I enjoyed time with my brother, saw a couple of plays (one he was in), spent time on the beach, and pushed through a huge fear to have an awe-inspiring experience.

Another relationship began. And, while I'm excited to see what happens with this great guy, I'm constantly vacillating between, taking it one day at a time... and trying not to make the thought, "this guy is absolutely going to break my heart" a self-fulfilling prophesy. I might be worse at this relationship thing than I thought.

It's not unusual for me to have a handful of unfinished blog posts at any one time, but I think I have record number right now. All of those things above are blog worthy. I just haven't known where to start. So I guess this is it. 

Some days I wonder if writing is really my calling or not. I start to think that maybe I'm not supposed to be in ministry in any big way... just the smaller ways that God works through me in daily life. But then I remember how I told Him that if He gave me a story, I wouldn't stop sharing it... and frankly, the story just keeps getting better and better. 

I know better than to think I would be happy not writing. I know better than to think I would be happy letting my story quietly fade away. I know better than to think I'll ever be happy if I'm not making a difference with someone, somewhere... 

Being open and honest about my life in the hopes that it helps other people is scary sometimes. But when I think about it... so is the alternative.

If I'm not doing the things I was created to do, being the person I know I am, then what am I really doing at all? 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord. 
Psalms 40:2-3