Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

9.03.2010

The Scarlet Letter in Blood

Condemned.

She never even saw them coming. But suddenly they were upon her, wrenching her up from behind as her shriek filled the air. “Silence, you shameful harlot!” the religious men bellowed at her. Their insults they threw at her like stones, and as she parted the veil of hair across her face, she shuddered—the deepest, most sinister hatred ever seen blackened their eyes. Her shriek caught in her throat, but her tears poured freely from her eyes as the men, arrogant in their righteous indignation, hauled her to her feet and dragged her through the streets. Sandaled feet scurried out of the way, anxious to avoid contact with such a woman. Children sucking thumbs gazed unblinking at the spectacle before them until their mothers rushed up and herded them far, far away to air untainted by such a sinner. Bearded men stood stoically along the road, nodding their heads in alliance with the woman’s accusers, and watching until she was out of sight. A public spectacle of shame—it had no meaning for a woman who was about to be a public spectacle of death, and her tears flooded her sallow cheeks unheeded. Her breath came fast and shallow, and she closed her eyes to steady the horizon that dipped and churned before her.

Suddenly, she heard the murmuring of hundreds of people, and through her tangle of hair she could see the crowd parting. Her accusers dragged her with a final ferocity, and threw her down to the floor of the temple; she caught herself with her hands. “Teacher!” she heard the men say, their voices ringing with self-assuredness. “This woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say? (John 8:4-5)” The crowd erupted in vociferous horror and indignation, and the room echoed with their exclamations, but noise dimmed in the woman’s ears, for she stole a glance upward at the One who was called upon to decide her fate. Her eyes met His, and her heart wrenched within her at what she saw in His beautiful eyes: love.

Condoned.
A beautiful, richly blessed life. A loving, committed husband. This woman, however, is strangely unsatisfied, and desperately miserable. Nothing makes her feel good anymore, nothing in her existence is worth doing, and life seems but a burden. Confusion abounds.  So she simply walks out. She leaves her husband amidst his pleadings to work on their marriage, turning a deaf ear to it all, for she must work on herself. She finds satisfaction in another man, and then another. Finally, she is living the life she wants, the life she had only dreamed of before, and she is stuffing her inner emptiness with food. And then, in a moment to remember, she meets a religious man in India, and as she stands before him and he tells her she must forgive herself, she finally feels—as empty as before.

But the audience of this latest Hollywood offering Eat, Pray, Love (which I have not seen, only researched) is told that now she is fulfilled. The audience gets up off of their popcorn littered seats cheering for this woman who had the courage to fulfill her own selfish desires in utter disregard for God and those around her. But when the theater is empty and the cameras are gone, Liz Gilbert, whose sad story was glorified for this movie, will feel just as empty as before. She will still feel “sad, brittle, and about seven thousand years old.”
The woman in John 8 faced brutal death and condemnation; Liz Gilbert faces suffocating life and commendation. The woman of Scripture was dragged before all the people, her oldest friends, and her family in deepest shame; Liz is flaunted on the red carpet. The adulterous woman was empty, broken, and helpless; Liz is empty, but very proud of her sin. The condemnation broke the woman of John 8, and the commendation will break Liz, too. Though our society does not drag people to the town square to stone them for adultery, they might as well when they glorify sin, making a public spectacle of its supposed nobleness—the result is just the same. The one brings physical death, but the other brings spiritual.  I don’t know Liz, but I do know that without Christ she is still the same woman she was before her quest for self-fulfillment, except that now she is working desperately on forgiving herself.

But what of the one we know only as the “adulterous woman”?

We left her panting for the air that would not come, wiping her tears with a hand already wet, and meeting the eyes of the One she had never known, but who had planned this moment of meeting for her from the beginning of time. She is trapped, deserving of death, and as she looks around at the upraised arms gripping  the sharp stones, she realizes that this is the end. Max Lucado writes:

“What does Jesus do? (If you already know, pretend you don’t and feel the surprise.)
Jesus writes in the sand.

He stoops down and draws in the dirt. The same finger that engraved the commandments on Sinai’s peak and seared the warning on Belshazzar’s wall now scribbles in the courtyard floor. And as he writes, he speaks: ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ (v. 7).

The young look to the old. The old look in their hearts. They are the first to drop their
stones. And as they turn to leave, the young who were cocky with borrowed convictions do the same. The only sound is the thud of rocks and the shuffle of feet.

Jesus and the woman are left alone. With the jury gone, the courtroom becomes the judge’s chambers, and the woman awaits his verdict. Surely, a sermon is brewing. No doubt, he’s going to demand that I apologize. But the judge doesn’t speak. His head is down, perhaps he’s still writing in the sand. He seems surprised when he realizes that she is still there.

‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’
She answers, ‘No one, Lord.’
Then Jesus says, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’ (vv. 10—11).

If you have ever wondered how God reacts when you fail, frame these words and hang them on the wall. Read them. Ponder them. Drink from them. Stand below them and let them wash over your soul. Or better still, take him with you to your canyon of shame. Invite Christ to journey with you back to the [adulterous moments] of your world. Let him stand beside you as you retell the events of the darkest nights of your soul.

And then listen. Listen carefully. He’s speaking.
‘I don’t judge you guilty.’
And watch. Watch carefully. He’s writing. He’s leaving a message. Not in the sand, but on a cross.
Not with his hand, but with his blood.
His message has two words: Not guilty.”


Picture Credit

7 comments:

  1. I leave every post thinking "Wow." I love the comparison you make in this post between the character in "eat, pray, love" and the adulterous woman in the Bible. I have noticed how often the sins of individuals are praised in the world. I'm disturbed by the notion that they are proud of their sin...and, as you said, it will bring the same death to them as stoning them physically would. My heart breaks. I am so thankful, however, that Jesus sees through our fronts and adulterous acts and chose to die and judge us "not guilty." What a relief...

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  2. I admire your writting here. I haven't seen Eat, Pray, Love yet, but I might just go and see it now to make the connection you have made. I noticed that many people, especially in film, are glorified for sin. For instance, those women in tight leather jeans that weild aroung guns and machetes. The audience loves these supposed heriones, but do they love themselevs? You always see the "bad-ass" (excuse my French) girls on T.V. and everyone salivates and fawns over them, but really, they are no role model for your restless heart. The only true role model, the only perfect one, was Jesus himself. It is he and no one else that can teach us how to truly live and to live well. Thank you for your post. It quite inspired me. :]

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  3. DebbieLynne--Thank you so much! The Word of God is powerful!
    Samantha--You're so sweet and encouraging that it definitely inspires me to write every week. What a relief and incredible, undeserved blessing that Jesus declares us sinners "not guilty"--I agree!
    Keeper of the Faeries--Thanks for your kind words! Indeed, we must follow Jesus as our role model, no matter how tempting the shallow models of the world are. As a side note, please know that I haven't seen Eat Pray Love, nor have I read the book--only that excerpt, which was enough for me. Just use discretion and read the reviews so you know what you're getting yourself into! (-;

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  4. Penn--Ohhh; thanks for your sweet comment!

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  5. Written with His blood...Max Lucado has such a talent for making me see things. Thanks for sharing.

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