You would think me bitter if I told you I would gladly trade places with him, the man. Although they’d stormed in on both of us, it was me they took, me they blamed, while he cowered in the corner next to my bed.
But I am not bitter. I pray for him, and his wife, his children, and now his grandchildren, too. He has all and yet, I’m afraid, nothing. I would trade him places that he could have the life I have because of that day.
When the religious leaders took me, they grabbed me by my wrists and hair and pulled me into the alleyway and out into the sunlight. They bent to pick up stones along the way as we wound through the streets. Through dust and tears, I could see mothers covering the eyes of their children, men rushing toward me to yell and spit, and others standing aside, looking away.
When the leaders threw me down at last, I was not outside the city as I’d expected. I was in the temple courtyard. A rabbi sat just a few feet in front of me. I was the guilty one, but the way they questioned him, I couldn’t help feel we were both on trial.
This rabbi looked at them, then at me, and then he leaned over and wrote in the dust. The next few moments seemed to last a lifetime, as the men around me murmured and he continued to write. When he straightened back up, he looked to and fro through the crowd of men. “The one here without sin is to be the one who begins the stoning.”
And without a word, he leaned back over and continued to write. I winced, bracing myself for the first rock to pierce my back or crack my skull.
A few seconds later, I jumped at the sound of a strong thud in the dirt a few yards to my right. But I was unharmed. Did someone miss or was that stone dropped? Then another thud, this time at the back of the crowd. And then another. and another. Men began to shuffle away.
My body remained tense. But whole. I didn’t dare move.
Finally, I lifted my head just enough to be able to look at the rabbi. He was still writing. A word in the dirt immediately in front of him caught my attention. It was right side up to me, which means he’d written it upside down.
I won’t tell you what it said. But it was for me. I know it was.
When he looked up at last, I remembered I had only a small blanket to cover my shame. It was just he and I now.
For just a second, it seemed he would look at me as most men did. I’m almost certain he was tempted to. But then, his face and eyes brightened. The only way I can describe it is . . . he saw me.
Men had disrobed me with their hands and eyes a thousand times. But in that courtyard, exposed in shame, when he saw me, my nakedness was changed. It was as though, somehow . . . he clothed me with himself.
And there, looking back at him, I saw myself. No longer the shameful adulteress, no longer a shape like honey for men’s eyes. I saw me: Daughter of God, Priceless Gift, Sacred Treasure, Laughing One, His own.
“Has no one condemned you?” He asked.
“No one, sir,” I said, unable to take my eyes off his.
“Then neither do I condemn you. Go, and don’t sin any more.”
I nodded yes.
That was many years ago. Now I am old. And it has been a long time since men looked at me as they once did. I care not. I do not see them as I once did either. They are my brothers.
And I, I am beautiful.
And I am waiting. Waiting for the One without sin to return or bring me home. Waiting for him to look at me again. He wrote in the dirt, he wrote my name on his hands. He has not forgotten. Come, my sweet Jesus. Come.
In your March 11, 2015 letter, there was a quote in the sidebar by David Brenner; “To truly know love, we must receive it in an undefended state – in the vulnerability of a ‘just as I am’ encounter.”
I was wrestling with how to relate with a new friend who is communicating their esteem for me. I struggle in knowing how to connect while still processing my shame, knowing I don’t want them to be aware of my shame.
Benner’s quote gave me freedom. I can receive their love for me “just as I am”.
That’s great, Mack. Thanks for sharing. I recommend Benner’s book — it’s called The Gift of Being Yourself.
Very well written…….thanks.
You know, I have never before thought about the life the woman caught in adultery had after she was caught, and after Jesus refused to condemn her, and sent her on her way with a gracious invitation to embrace not only a new life, but a new identity. And yes, though she might once have been very desirable to certain men when she was younger, now that she was old, she was more beautiful than ever, because Jesus not only saw her differently, he also enabled her to see herself differently. Perhaps I will have the chance to speak with this very special sister in heaven about what happened in her journey after that terrible day when she stared death and rejection in the face, before she came face to face with her Savior. Yes, I do hope that I will get to have that conversation, along with many others. Thanks be to God. — Weber