Maybe it’s because it’s the start of a new year, but lately I’ve been thinking about new things. Well, actually I’ve been thinking about how God makes old, and sometimes wrecked things, into beautiful, new things.
Yesterday afternoon I was thinking in particular of the woman in John 8.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, here’s the speed dating version.
One morning Jesus went to the temple. Swarms of people followed Him because, you know, He’s the Son of God and they were smart enough to recognize that they should listen up. (Hang on, I’m making a mental note to myself to be as smart as they were.) So Jesus sits down with the swarms and starts teaching them.
Then these religious scholars and Pharisees drag a woman into the temple. They’d caught her in the middle of sleeping with someone who wasn’t her husband and by many accounts was in fact someone else’s husband. So they stand her up in front of the crowd and tell Jesus that this woman should be stoned to death because she’d broken the law as given to Moses.
I love Jesus’ response.
He doesn’t say anything.
Not a peep to the religious scholars.
Not a word to the crowd of people.
Not a single syllable to the woman.
He bends down and with His finger starts writing in the dirt. Who knows what. Maybe He’s writing out their names and sins. Maybe He’s writing out the names of the prostitutes the religious scholars had been visiting as of late. Maybe He’s writing out all the good things He sees in this woman. There are lots of speculations, but nobody seems to know for sure what He scribbled in the dirt that day.
The Pharisees pester Jesus and He tells them, go ahead, whoever is sinless can pelt the woman with the first rock.
Then He goes back to writing in the dirt.
Now, you and I might believe different things and that’s fine with me, but one of the things I believe is that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all part of the same being.
That means the same God who made Eve, the same God who made the very first woman out of dust and bones way back in the beginning of it all, is the same God who was writing in the dirt on the day this other woman was dragged into the temple.
I wonder if while Jesus was writing in the dirt if He remembered that other time His hands were dirty. I wonder if He reminisced about sculpting Eve’s heart and the mud under His fingernails as He crafted her shoulder blades and made tiny mud pie toes.
I don’t know if Jesus was thinking of Eve while He was writing in the temple dirt. I like to think He might have been thinking of how when He created womankind in the form of Eve, He created her and she was flawless and new, bursting with possibility.
I think Jesus sees that Eve in all of us. The Eve before the apple, the Eve whose first breath came straight from the mouth of God.
Even when we lie. Or let bad words fly. Or glut frosting out of the jar for breakfast. Or cut each other to the quick. I think God still sees brand spanking new, bursting with possibility Eve in us. Even when we’re standing naked in the temple, clothed only in the absolute worst version of ourselves.
Jesus sees something different, someone flawless and new, someone He made out of dust and bones.
After Jesus tells the scholars and Pharisees that the sinless person can pitch the first stone, the Pharisees and the religious scholars walk away. I wonder if they had the rocks in their hands.
Imagine the thud, thud, thud of all those rocks dropping to the ground as they walked away. It’s the sound of a second chance.
With all the Pharisees and religious scholars gone, this woman was left in the presence of Jesus. And maybe the swarm of people He was teaching. I’m not entirely clear on that.
So there she is with Jesus. Can you even imagine being near Jesus when you were just ripped from bed with someone who is not your husband? I don’t know about you, but I’d have been simultaneously sweating bullets, peeing my pants and crying, ugly crying.
But Jesus in all of His goodness and grace simply asks the woman if she sees anyone left accusing her. She somehow summons her voice from the pit of her stomach and tells Jesus that there’s nobody left to accuse her. And Jesus tells her He’s not accusing her either. He tells her to go on her way and stop sinning.
Did she stop sinning? Nobody knows. If she’s anything like me, she probably tried her best and blew it a lot along the way.
Here’s where God’s grace leaves me undone.
Even when we are at our worst, God doesn’t want to point His finger at us, to poke His finger in all of our tender, shameful places. He doesn’t want to stone us to death with our mistakes. He wants to sit down, get His hands dirty and stay there with us until there’s nobody left with rocks aimed for our heads. Then he wants us to walk a new path, one bursting with possibility.
Sometimes I’m the woman in this story, but more often than not, I’m the one pointing my finger and picking up rocks, as if judging your flaws somehow lessen mine.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to see people all fresh and new the way God perpetually does. But this I know for sure, when I see someone wrecked and tangled in the sheets of sin, I’m going to do my best to be quiet, drop my rocks and wait it out in the dirt with them.
What a world it would be if we all just dropped our rocks.