Free from Shame {#31 Days}

It’s the pounding of the heart, the rush of adrenaline,the flushing of the face. Exposed. Revealed. It’s the you only known in secret now uncovered and seen by everyone.

Imagine for a second your worst secret sin being unveiled on a public stage. Do you feel it?  Has the heat of the shame covered your face and darkened your heart?

When it has, see her–the woman “caught in the very act of committing adultery” (John 8). See her eyes as the noble men of the city drag her through the streets into the Temple square and “made her stand before all of them.

Made her stand there in front of all those men. Staring at her. Imagining her sin. Violating her over and over again with their thoughts.

For the Pharisees, she’s not even a real person. Just a pawn for catching Jesus in some violation of the Law. What do they care if she’s half clothed, her soul bared for all to view like some forbidden movie?

It’s a horrifying scene. What’s worse, really? Being the object of another’s private pleasures or the object of the public’s scorn?

I want to find a way into the text and reorder the letters. I want to rewrite the scene. I want it to say that someone draped over her a blanket to warm her from the shock. I want to read that someone shielded her from the looks of judgment, recognizing her shame is all the judge and jury she needs. I want some brave soul to shout, “Leave her alone. She is more than what you caught her doing! She is so much more than anything that she has done or has been done to her!” {And don’t you really want someone to speak up and ask the obvious question: “Where is the man with whom she was with? Why have you made her stand alone and shoulder alone the sin of two?” What? Did this man just return back home like nothing happened?}

The Law calls for her to be stoned. She probably wishes they would hurry up with it. She is the condemned, the ruined. She can’t imagine what is taking Jesus so long to make his ruling. While she stands there shaking in her shame, he just sits. Calmly doodling with his finger in the dirt. Her heart is crying words her mouth can’t speak, “Please, Jesus, hurry up and say something so I can be free of this shame!”

Shame–the terrorizing feelings of not living up to our best version of ourselves. I’m guessing that at some point in this woman’s life she had different dreams than are being realized for her in the moment. Maybe fairy-tale like notions of being a beautiful wife, a devoted mommy, and revered woman of respect. Now she’s trapped inside shame’s compromised reputation of unrelenting guilt and pervasive humiliation. How quickly dreams becomes nightmares.

As Jesus contemplates, the Pharisees agitate. Now what do you say?” 

And for the first time in the text, Jesus stands, “he straightened up.” Do you see this? A verdict of ‘guilty’ is needed–it’s the only way to honestly assess the situation. In the face of condemnation, Jesus rises up. All eyes leave the sinner and fall unto the Savior–the One who indeed will be raised up for the sins of all men and women. 

“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn. 8:8). One by one, from oldest to youngest, all the accusers walk away, humbled by their own sin. And Jesus sits back down, not in judgment, but in rest. Someday, soon, he knows that he will sit at the right hand of the Father, resting after having been raised up from sin’s judgment for resurrected life. Jesus knows this is just a picture of the things to come: The shamed and condemned finding freedom for a second chance, a new and better life. Someday shame will meet its match on the  cross and its torments will at last be put to rest.

Then there’s just the woman and Jesus. Jesus “straightened up” again, this time just to her. The first time he shouldered her shame from others, now he rises with the same power and authority to tell her, Neither do I condemn. Go your way. Leave shame here. Go your way. Don’t stay here. Don’t take it with you. Leave it. Be free to go your way. Free to have your future look different than your past. Chin up. Forgiven. Restored to God’s best version of you.

Jesus stands in the place of your shame. He takes the guilt for you. You can leave the shame with him and be free. Free indeed!

This month I’m participating with The Nester in her 31 Day challenge to write every day on a topic of choice. I’m writing this month on how Jesus make us free. Because without him, we’re just a hot mess of a captive.

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