This week is a little different than my usual blog posts. It’s a narrative I wrote a while ago. It’s derived from the story in the bible that I feel ends way too quickly about a woman who is under persecution for adultery and about to be stoned. I wrote it from her perspective, but as I led a bible study on the story a few months after writing it I realized that we have all been every person in this story. Of course we have all been the one under persecution. We love to victimize ourselves at times to claim her role in life. But we have also been the person, who maybe not physically, but emotionally, drug someone through town to parade the severity of what they did, acting as if that sin makes them who they are. We have also been the curious people along the street dying to know what we can participate in judging someone for. But ultimately, our goal is to live the role of Jesus in this story, and show forgiveness in however this story may be written in our own lives.
It’s incredible how much desire can cause you to ignore the ache in your chest that reminds you of the sin you are in the process of committing. Even as fear haunts you the entire time, you keep pursuing, forcing through the act. That’s how powerful desire can be, and that is how consumed I was in its grip at the time.
The word for my particular sin was “adultery,” but while I was committing it, I felt the only word that was efficient to describe it was “passion.” I felt his body against mine, and I forgot the world. I felt his lips cover every inch of my landscape, and I forgot who I was entirely. In that moment I no longer belonged to my identity. Instead I took a new image of myself, even if only temporary. I felt like I personified passion, and he personified desire, and together, though I didn’t want to acknowledge it, we personified adultery.
I became my flawed, and entirely human, self again the minute they entered. I heard the door slam open, and I couldn’t bear to turn and meet my biggest fear confirmed.
Instead, I chose to look at the face of my desire who soon confirmed my fears anyways just by the expressions he wore. First an expression of terrified shock as he looked behind me. Then his expression turned to me, cold and horrid, so contrasting to the warm desire he showed me just seconds before, and I knew what he was about to do. I saw the betrayal in his eyes.
His hands, once so tender, forcefully pushed me off of him. I stumbled backwards. I was sure I was about to meet the cold floor, just as cruel hands wrapped harshly around my arms. I turned then and finally met eyes with the man who personified my fear as he dragged me out of the room so forcefully that I just barely had time to grab my clothes.
They drug me like a resistant animal down the street, and I felt dehumanized as all eyes fell upon me, curious of what act they would soon participate in condemning me for. Familiar faces looked upon me with disgust, even prior to knowing what I had done.
I had been that group before. I had seen people dragged like animals, and I had joined in the curious, and disgusted, anticipation. But as a protagonist of this humiliation, I, for the first time, began to question what it was in humanity that enjoys the punishment of others when the act committed has absolutely no effect on our own life.
The long, mortifying, journey finally came to an end inside of the temple. When we entered all eyes fell upon me. I chose to look down at my feet, until finally we were in front of the entire body.
“Teacher,” my capturers said to the man up front, “this woman was caught in the very act of adultery.” There it was said. I felt the eyes of disgust intensify. I felt condemnation fill every crevice of the room at the mention of my new identity, adultery.
I dared to look up at the rabbi until he began to turn his head in my direction. I instantly looked back down at my feet, horrified to see the expression he would choose to despise me with.
“The law of Moses says to stone her,” they went on, “What do you say?”
I looked back up at the mention of my new possible fate in the words “stone her,” but his expression gave no insight to his thoughts.
His jaw adjusted as he looked upon them with no real emotion strung on his face. His eyes, then flickered to me without warning, and before I could look away, I was drawn into him. I felt an instant compassion in the man as his eyes peered warmly into my own, expressing a million things that could have never been conveyed in words. It was a way I had never been looked at before.
He then bent down before me, and ran his fingers across the dirt. I felt tears burn my eyes as I stared at every curve and line traced by his finger.
“Should we stone her?” my capturers persisted, now joined by a few extras from the crowd. “The law of Moses.” Some added, until the questions began to all jumble together, growing into a small uproar.
He stood up, and I lowered my gaze closer to his writing in the dirt.
“Alright, stone her.” I heard the man finally answer. Every inch of life inside of me left, as I continued to stare at the words, now comprehending nothing. I could hear my heartbeat, and I could see the man’s feet, as well as the feet of those who insisted on the answer that he has now given. I felt broken, and shameful, and empty, most of all empty, as I heard the sound of my own breath, shake and wheeze quietly out of my body. It hurt to recognize that soon, all of these breaths struggling to leave my lungs would release at once in the relief of my, now near, death.
“Stone her.” “Stone her.” The words replayed mercilessly in my head. That is where my life would end. I would find myself shamefully at the mercy of people, full of hate and condemnation, raising arms equipped with the rocks of my murder. Then it would begin, one after another hitting, and bruising, and puncturing, and denting, and destroying my flesh. Rocks of my sin, rocks of my conviction, one after another would plunge at me unsystematically, until I am pleading for death over life. Oh, to passionately fear a now inevitable fate, how does one prepare to die such a horrid death?
“But,” the man adds, “let those who have never sinned, throw the first stone.”
He then stooped back down at my feet and meticulously drug his finger through the dirt again.
It then registered to me the significance of his command. As I waited for my end to begin, I realized that not one amongst the condemning circle around me met the criteria to lead in my demise. I realized that all of those who surrounded me personified some defected and sinful quality that caused them to be equally human as I.
I never looked up, but I could see the shadows thin as each person left one by one, with them taking the burden of their human identity corrupted with their own sinful personifications.
The man stood back up, and met my eyes, “Woman,” he said, “Where are they?” He looked around and, with the slightest smile upon his face, gazed warmly back into my eyes, “Has no one condemned you?”
My breath still shook, but I tried to steady my voice as I looked back into his welcoming eyes and replied, “No one, sir.”
His discreet smile inched a little further upon his gentle face, “Then neither do I condemn you.” His gaze intensified as he mercifully added, “Go now, and leave your life of sin.”
I looked back down at the dirt laced with his writing. I now personified forgiveness.
Photograph by: Alexandra Burt