I have been drawn to reconsider the story of Jesus encountering the crowd who brought the woman caught in adultery for judgement (John 8:1-11). The central feature of the story is when Jesus stooped to write something in the sand. Scripture does not tell us what Jesus wrote. I have always assumed that shame had a pivotal role in this story, because whatever Jesus wrote caused the accusers to leave one by one.
But recently I have been drawn to consider another possibility to the story. As I imagined myself in the crowd, I envisioned how I could have felt as I watched the finger of Jesus scribe the words in the dirt:
The gentleness with which his finger traced the words in the sand; it felt like he was tracing the words across my tear streaked face. I was out done. He never looked up; not wanting to expose anyone. But the honesty of the choice words made me feel like he was staring directly into my heart. More than that; shining a light into the space of my heart I barely am able to recognize.
It took everything in me not to gasp out my astonishment. But that would identify me; associate me with the words unfolding in front of everyone.
I didn't feel shame. I wanted to. But the tenderness with which his finger touched the earth wouldn't allow shame.
It wasn't a stern Jesus. This was not an act of protective defiance; as though he was saying; "Go ahead throw the first stone, I dare you!"
No, he was granting us the freeing gift of truth. He was letting us know that in his sight, our sin was as public as the woman's. He wasn't accusing us. He was acknowledging us. He was revealing to us that we were known; known and loved.
It wasn't guilt that made us pull away. It was grace. It was a profoundly numbing grace.
I walked away. But I have never seen myself the same again. I was truly known. Because of that I now knew I was truly loved.
The miracle that day was not that I didn't throw a stone on the woman. The miracle that day was that I finally stopped throwing stones at myself.
It was as though I was invited to allow the tenderness of God's love to gently trace the words that will expose me across my cheek. Then in that space of that vulnerable truth I could hear the voice of my Saviour - and finally - be set free.
It is a sad faith that tries to hide what is already known. It is a suppressed faith that permits guilt from acknowledging the sin that God has already forgiven.
Not until we recognize that we are truly known do we realize that we are truly loved.