There are times when I do not know what I think and how I feel until my writing reveals it to me. This is one of those times. Bear with me and try to peek through the pain, if you can; perhaps we will find a new way forward together.
I have scrolled and scrolled like you have (we are rubberneckers; every last one of us). Even the articles and posts and tweets I agree with turn sour later on. There is a violence just beneath the surface of most of them, a scapegoating that tastes good going down, but makes my head throb the next morning if I’ve had too much.
God is in control doesn’t help me much. While I do believe God is sovereign (One who possesses ultimate power), it seems obvious in both the Scriptures and in human experience that God discharges that power by giving human beings almost limitless agency, and we make horrible choices over and over again. God is sovereign insofar as it is God that has granted human beings capacity to love and to hate, to rescue and to shackle, to open and to close. God is not a fairy tale ending. God was not created by Disney.
Any quick and easy answers, for that matter, don’t help me much. Quick and easy is not what is needed right now. Quick and easy only leads to disappointment and disillusionment.
Am I supposed to have an answer?
Am I supposed to sing a song of hope (sing along, song of heaven come down)?
Am I supposed to point somewhere?
And yet there is a shadowy figure that seems to keep showing up these days for me, just around the corner, just behind a tree. He’s up ahead a ways, and he’s going somewhere, and I can’t seem to stop following (or am I being chased by something? I can’t quite tell).
* * *
There is a woman in bed, which she shares with her lover, sheets entwined in legs and love and lust. And then the loud voices and rough hands of accusing men drag her away, bruising her face, pulling her hair. She ends up in a circle of more men, men with violence in their eyes. She knows more than one of them.
A calm voice silences the bloodlust, and asks a question.
“Moses teaches us to stone women caught in adultery. What do you say we should do?”
The shadowy figure gazes at these men, breathing in their violence, their pain, and their accusations, which covers the room, a waxy film that sticks to everything. Except him.
He looks at the woman, who doesn’t return his gaze. If she would have, she would have seen a sunrise. He doesn’t break his gaze as he speaks.
“The sinless one among you, go ahead and throw the first stone,” he says.
A great cry escapes the lips of a man bent over with age, as he drops his stone and slowly shuffles away. Others follow silently, eyes downcast, until a pile of rocks are all that remain.
The figure steps out of the shadow and lifts the face of the woman until they are standing opposite one another, face to face.
“Where are they? Has no one condemned you,” he asks?
“Not one of them, sir,” she croaks.
“Then neither do I. Go on your way, and sin no more.”
* * *
What Jesus did makes me want to weep.
But what is even more shocking is that the religious leaders who brought the woman to Jesus did so because they knew he wouldn’t stone her. He had a reputation for mercy that allowed others to set a trap for him. This is certainly one of the traps that indicted him; he went directly against the law of Moses.
And he did it anyway.
I do not know the way forward for these angry, violent days.
But I’ll keep looking for the shadowy figure just around the next tree. I’ll keep following him, even when I am indicted for doing so. Even when I have the stone in my hands and need to drop it. Even when I am pulled from my own sin.
I do not know any other way.
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