Early during the retreat, our Deacon (recently ordained and gosh, we ARE proud of him!), reflected upon a very familiar living scripture. It was the woman caught in adultery. Many of us are quite familiar with the story of the poor woman who was dragged into the center of the crowd as a means of testing Jesus. It is heart wrenching to think what that woman must have endured in those moments, all eyes on her. Who knows what proof, if any, these men even had. Yet, she was there, moments away from losing her life in accordance with how they understood the law. The so-called "leaders" were poised to catch Jesus in contradiction and thereby, undermining his teachings and leadership role they felt had been stolen from them.
But...what does Jesus do? How does he respond to what has occurred? He ignores it. Instead, he bends down to write in the ground with his finger. Many have disputed what that may have been, but all we know is that Jesus was not going to respond in the manner they expected. He knew their evil and manipulative plans. He was most likely tired of this game they insisted on playing.
Can you imagine the power of those words? The air must have been thick with anticipation. People probably began to shuffle their fit in discomfort (as was discussed in our retreat) and looked to see who might be the first to do so. Nothing. Instead, they left. One-by-one, the crowd dispersed until only the frightened and lone woman remained."Whoever among you is without sin may cast the first stone."
I, myself, imagine her body trembling all over. I imagine her face in the dirt, holding her breath, waiting for the pang of pain to strike her at any moment. As the crowd disperses, she probably doesn't notice it because she is crouched in fear. Her body is damp with perspiration, her lungs heavy with the dirt she is inhaling while breathing the dust of the ground...her lips dry and pressed tightly together. She waits. The sound of her pulse is nearly deafening inside her ears, now. The feet begin to shuffle around her and she thinks the end is near. Enthralled in agony of anticipation, she allows tears to escape and begins to weep, but her fear is so intense no sound leaves her mouth. When the impact doesn't come, when she feels the wind in her hair because the wall of people previously preventing it has gone, she finally lifts up her head to see what has happened. She is speechless. In utter confusion, she looks at Jesus and His gentle expression begins to lift her from the agony of fear.
We all have felt like this woman at one time or another. We have all experienced the complete condemnation of those around us. We have all suffered the total loss of our dignity. Placing ourselves into that story, we can all feel the woman's racing heartbeat and nearly hear her thoughts. When we have made a mistake that is bigger than us...when we've gone too far...when we've realized that we have been found out, and every time we think to ourselves, everyone must know what a wretch I am...we are that woman!
This is what abortion feels like. This is the moment right after the procedure, when we awake from our slumber to the full weight of our actions. Knowing we cannot turn back. Realizing the finality of the deed and all-at-once feeling the despair of that act in every fiber of our being. Once the panic sets in, we wait and wait for that final judgment to come. It is out there...taunting us...we sense it...ready to strike us down into the ground at any moment.
How many of us know this term all too well? How many of us have felt each letter of that word stomped into our brains as a permanent seal of our fate? How often have we wielded it as a weapon against others in the hope of deflecting its weight for even just one moment? Too often, I fear.
Recently, while on my Facebook group page (Healing After Abortion), a comment was made by one of the members that stated,
Extremely strong words to be used on a page dedicated to finding loving means by which to end abortion. A page that focuses on helping others heal from abortion. Not something I expected in that particular group, but it probably confirmed many who fear such people are out there...ready to judge...ready to write them off. I'd say this falls heavily under condemnation, don't you agree?"Abortion is cold blooded murder, the sinner should face prison for life."
Isn't this the condemnation we, as post-abortive persons, have awaited?
No. It is not.
Is anyone out there without sin?
No. No one.
Jesus showed us all the way. Not only in this story, but in several others. He was trying to tell us, even all those years ago, that focusing on the sin wasn't right. That everything cannot be about justice without mercy. That if we are going to assign such permanent sentences to those who sin, then who will be left to carry out those sentences when all is said and done?
He was trying to show us that compassion towards those who sin is what was necessary for true and complete healing. He was reaching out to someone that everyone else had given up on. He was a single voice of reason amongst indignation and hate.
Do not misunderstand. He did not state that sin was ok. No, his words were quite the contrary,
"Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you. Go and do not sin any more."Jesus basically tells her to stop the crap! LOL
I like to imagine that He helped her up from her frightened position, dusted her off and then, set her on her way. There's no proof of that, of course, but it's a nice visual in my head, any way. He didn't tell her to feel badly about it and chastise herself over it. Nope. He said to "Go and do not sin any more." In other words, He was letting her know that He was aware of her sin, but equally aware of her repentance and the suffering she had already endured. He was also equally aware of the fact that no one in that crowd was without the stain of sin.
Now, He was asking her to go forth into the world a new woman, a just woman, a faithful woman. He didn't brow beat her, tell her she owed Him one, or even tell her she was somehow less of a woman now. No, He simply told her to go..to stop sinning. She was asked to stop doing that which was causing her to be known as this terrible sinner...to stop doing what was keeping her from God. Wow.
Do we realize the power of those words? Do we fully grasp the implication of His act?
Huh. So, according to His standards ... pick ourselves back up, stop feeling like crap about something that has been done already, and for which we have suffered enough (humiliation, judgment, fear, anguish, repentance), and go out into the world to sin no more. No mention of beating ourselves up, feeling like poop every day, believing we are without value, or thinking we are less worthy than the next person of finding happiness, love, and/or good things in this life.
It almost sounds as if He now expects us to go out and do good in His name, even. Hmmmm...
Now that sounds good to me! Way better than the life-long guilt trip I had previously planned for myself. What do you think???
Ladies and Gentlemen...Praise God always. Remember to pray daily. And, when you find you've had a hard day or feel you've failed Him somehow, then pray for forgiveness. Do not wallow in your misery. That brings no glory to God.
Get rested. Try again. Keep trying until you get it right. Never give up. Always turn to Him in all things.
It's helpful if you remember...on the day you meet God, of all the things He's going to ask you, what He won't be asking you is how many times you succeeded...He'll be much too interested in talking about whether or not you tried.