When it rains, it pours! Today’s post was written by yet another monthly contributor, Shaina Bolin. Shaina is an art student at the University of Tennessee, and is a single mother of two children. Welcome her as she joins our ranks as a fellow hunter and tries to find God amidst creativity, life, and dirty diapers.
I knew I had made a mistake.
I was putting on my robes, fussing with my hair, and all the while I thought, “This man is not my husband and I am not his wife.” But, oh, to escape the loneliness and pain I’d experienced since losing my own husband, even for just a little while—the appeal of escape greatly diminished the sin or consequences in my own mind and justified my choice.
I readjusted my under robe and looked at him: lying on my bed, his eyes were slightly open, his chest rising and falling in peaceful rhythm. I would get the jars and walk to the well to draw water for the evening meal I shared with my family, and when I returned, he would not be here. He would go back to his fields, to his family, to his wife.
His eyes fluttered as he looked at me and smiled. How I loved that smile. How I loved that man. We shared a brief moment of looking at each other, really seeing each other, but the blissful intimacy quickly turned.
With a loud crash, the front door of my home flew off its hinges and a mob entered my house, my bedchambers. Angry men found me, half-dressed, and grabbed my arms. They began dragging me out, like an animal. Shouts of “We caught you red-handed!” and “Stone her!” filled my ears as I looked with terror at the horrified face of my lover. Whether it was fear or shame that kept him frozen, I don’t know. But he became immobile. He didn’t get up; he didn’t move. My last image of him was his terrified face as the mob dragged me out to the street.
I tried to fight at first; to kick and flail my way out of their heavy grasps, but their strength was too great. I recognized these men from the temple: Pharisees, temple leaders, teachers of the Law of Moses. I only knew them from afar. I wasn’t allowed in the temple; I wasn’t permitted to attend the teachings. I knew these men as holy because that was what I was taught. The mob of men surrounding us already clutched stones in tightened fists. I knew these men too: men from my village, men I had known as children, men whose wives were my friends, men whose children I looked after from time to time. Their faces became a blur of anger and outrage as my own tears blinded my sight and fear overtook me.
They dragged me through the streets of my village, shouting “Adulteress! Stone her!” Past my family and people who had known me my whole life; past people who had held me as I grieved the death of my husband years ago; past the market and the vendors from whom I bought grain and fabric. Past many confused, horrified faces, mouths agape.
“She must pay!”
The Pharisees led this humiliating procession as the men who held my arms tightened their grips. I could already feel the bruising, as if their hands were plowing through my skin and holding my bones. My knees buckled as I struggled to keep up. Several times, I couldn’t move my legs and they scraped the dusty streets, leaving my legs coated in a mixture of dust and blood. My eyes caught brief fragments of my surroundings. Wails and sobs I didn’t recognize as my own pummeled my ears.
They dragged me into the temple courts, a large cacophony of men shouting and screaming in rage disrupted the quiet teachings in progress. The procession stopped in front of a man they called the Teacher. I recalled from the gossip of women that his name was Yeshua and he was a radical. I had heard the stories about him, his healings, and his claims to be the son of Yahweh, but here he was, right in front of me. The men gripped my arms even tighter, although I shrieked in pain. The crown hushed as the Pharisees began to speak.
“Teacher,” the first Pharisee sneered, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?”
The mob burst forth again with shouts and screams of “Stone her! She must pay for her sin!” But the Teacher bent down and began writing on the ground with his finger. Every muscle in my body twitched as I suddenly realized that this man, the Teacher, Yeshua, held my life in his hands. A cold sweat broke out on my face and mixed with already streaming tears, as I sobbed softly and lowered my head. The fear I felt shook my insides and my heart pounded in my ears.
“Well?” demanded another Pharisee. “Will you go against the Law of Moses?”
“What is the meaning of this?” cried a third. “Would you have us stone her as the Law commands?”
Yeshua stood. I struggled to see what he’d written in the dust. I hadn’t been taught to read and my eyes were blurred by tears. My brain screeched out fervent prayers to Yahweh for rescue, for mercy. What would this radical man say or do to me now? The men around me strained to read what Yeshua wrote, and then, Yeshua spoke.
“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Then he stooped to the ground and began writing again, his finger drawing out characters I couldn’t understand. My ragged breath began to even out as I realized that Yeshua hadn’t instructed them to kill me. I trembled as I heard the first of the stones held by the angry mob rattle to the ground and the rustle of fabric as, one by one, men turned and walked away. Until finally, it was just me, standing alone before Yeshua.
He stood up. “Woman,” he said gently, “where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Slowly, timidly, I raised my head to meet his eyes and was amazed by what I found there. After all the glares of angry eyes, horrified stares, and the judgment and condemnation I met earlier from the mob and people from my village, Yeshua’s eyes held grace. I looked into them, no longer scared, but it suddenly felt like he knew me. He knew every inch of me; knew what I was thinking, knew what I had done and why, and he had always known me. He wasn’t disgusted by me. His eyes seemed to carry an eternity’s worth of love and compassion…for me. In his eyes, I saw the depths of the sea and the heights of the heavens all at one. In his eyes, I saw limitless grace.
“No one, sir,” I said.
“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
I thought about saying thank you, but one last look in his eyes told me that he already knew—how thankful I was, how humbled I was just being in his presence. Our eyes met for one more brief instant before I turned and ran, out of the temple courts, through the streets to my house. My body ached and my muscles protested, but I ran. I knew there was a long road ahead for me: I still had to explain to my family and friends what I’d done; I still had to rebuild the trust I had broken and try to salvage my life. But I was alive. And the grace I saw in Yeshua’s eyes transformed me.
His grace moved me forward.