Her heart sank to the ground as the men grabbed her from the bed and drug her to the door before she even had time to pick up her dress. Wearing nothing but her undergarments, they whipped her out of the house, popping her shoulder as they did so. She yelped in pain, but no one noticed. They were too busy boiling with anger and screaming, “sinner!” at her as they yanked her to the Temple. Tears streamed from her eyes, for she knew the punishment that came with being caught with another man. “Stone her!” a member of the crowd shouted. She began gasping for breath while begging the Pharisees to let her live. They paid her no mind, and threw her on the ground. Dust swirled around her while the voices mocked. One grew louder than the others as he said, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” She flinched as she waited for the slew of violence that was to come. Seconds passed, and she heard him bend down in front of her and scratch the earth around her. He was writing something in the dust. She opened her eyes and saw his sandals: dirty, worn, and broken. His feet were calloused and looked as if they carried the weight of the world. She slowly raised her eyes and stopped on his sturdy hands. There was something so beautiful about them, so gentle, and yet so powerful. She glanced at his face and was quite confused by what she saw. She expected anger like the rest, resentment, bitterness, and hatred, but yet, she was met with a strange mix of sadness and love. He gave her a soft smile before rising to his feet and saying, ““Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Upon saying this, he knelt back down and continued to write in front of her. She stared at him perplexed. Her eyes slowly glanced around the circle, waiting to see what would happen. One by one she watched the men drop their stones and walk away. She could feel the weight of the stones hitting the ground, and her heartbeat finally slowed as she watched them fall. One by one they left, and one by one she breathed deeper. Overwhelmed, she glanced back at the strange Teacher before her. He continued to write in the sand, unphased by what was going on around them. She collapsed in relief. Then, his eyes met hers.
There is incredible beauty in the power of compassion, and the more I soak in this story, the more overwhelmed I am at the love of our Jesus. He bent down in the dust with the woman before even addressing the crowd. That is the God we serve. He is willing to get in the dirt with us before He picks us up. He is willing to see you all messy before He cleans you up. He says, “come to Me all who are weary, and I will give you rest.” He does not say, “go take a shower and clean yourself up. Then I’ll help ya out.” It makes me laugh just typing that, and yet it is a reality many believe. People refuse to come to Christ because they believe that they must be perfect. You do not need to be perfect to come to Jesus, you just need to be willing to allow Him to transform you. We must come to Him empty, ready to be filled, humble, and teachable. And, to the Church, as the hands and feet of Christ, we must be willing to sit in the awkwardness with people, to lean down and pull them from the dust, not through pointing out their flaws, but through pointing out the love of Jesus and their great need for it.
She stared into the deep wells of compassion, tears streaming down her face in relief. He smiled and asked, “where are they? Who is left to condemn you?” She breathed, “no one, Lord.” He smiled and said, “neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” He turned and walked away, leaving her to sit in the dust as it settled around her. She breathed, relieved, in awe, and overwhelmed. She knew that this man had just saved her life, but now it was her turn to continue walking out in the freedom he had given her. So, she stood, dusted herself off, and took a step into her new life.
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8: 31a-32
Recently, I have noticed an overwhelming amount of Christians who are looking at broken people sitting in the dust and saying, “but just trust God. Just pray harder. Just believe, and your depression, anxiety, mental illness, eating disorders, sins, and temptations will go away because He is greater than all that.” While this is true, and God is greater, to people stuck in the muck of life, overwhelmed by the waves lapping at their throats, and tired from their unseen struggles, this feels like another blow to the chest, an easy answer, a write off, and a defeating cop-out to the character of God. I remember walking through some tough times with Vanessa, our daughter, where her mental illness seemed to rule our household, and no matter how loud I prayed, how many times I said the name of Jesus, how much I spoke in tongues or sang worship over her, it seemed to win every single time. I came to a place of doubting the power of God. When I would share this with Christians around me, many would come back with the answer of, “keep praying. Keep pressing in. He is faithful and will breakthrough.” Deep down I knew He was faithful, and yet my soul was struggling to believe it. I began not sharing my hurt with people because the answers made me feel like a “bad Christian,” and depression and loneliness began to overtake me. We get uncomfortable in the unknown; we feel awkward in the questions, and yet, that is the place we need to go to sit with people in their brokenness. Because yes, God has set them free, but it takes time to learn to walk out that freedom, it takes community to sit beside them until they can get up to their feet, and it takes a helping hand to disciple them into walking in freedom. It took time, but through counselling and changing my mindsets, I began to realize that all that stuff being said to me was true, and God had set me free, but I needed to learn to walk in freedom. For you see, God has set you free for the sake of freedom, and His truth has given you freedom, yet, sometimes your soul does not choose this, and you need to learn to walk in the truth. Abide in it. Soak in it. Spend time with Him, and it will set you free. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth,” 3 John 1:4. There is a great difference in KNOWING truth and WALKING in truth. In that dark season of my soul, I knew truth, so it did not help me when my community would simply share truth with me. What I needed in that time was a group of people to surround me and sit with me while showing me how to walk out the truth I had been given. The Lord gave me these people, and with their help, I was able to walk in freedom, I am able to walk in freedom, and I am able to walk with others towards freedom. No matter what you are struggling with today, Jesus is in that dirt with you. He does not condemn you, so go and walk in the freedom you have been given. If you are not sure where to start with that, email us, and we would love to walk alongside you as you learn to walk in truth. (firstname.lastname@example.org)