shame on you, and me

"...Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such a woman should be stoned. But what do you say?'"

"...But Jesus stooped down and
wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.' And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."

"When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, 'Woman, where are those
accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one Lord.' And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.'"

Right in the middle of the book of John, the writer tells us this story.

Now on the surface we find all the familiar elements of a story we know well. A woman has been caught in adultery; the people of the town are prepared to stone her to death and the Scribes and Pharisees are putting the squeeze on Jesus to see if he'll screw up.

And as we know, Jesus' words, in the end, save her life by bringing to light the fact that no one is perfect. And the story paints a brilliant picture. It does.

But there must be more going on here.

You know it's interesting. Someone once told me that the best way to understand a story is to put yourself in each one of the character's shoes. And so our basic analysis begins- We're in the crowd; we're a teacher of the law and we're pointing fingers- And bam! We realize the finger must point right back at ourselves as well.

Lesson learned. So we empathize with those guys.

But what about this woman? I mean, what must she be thinking? She's just been dragged from the scene of the crime, her life is in the hands of these law keepers, and while we don't know the exact details of the story, what we don't hear is that the woman was running, fleeing for her life, or desperately trying to defend her actions. No. We don't hear any of that.

We don't find in the text any evidence that the woman was trying to explain and say, 'look I'm sorry' or 'listen, I don't deserve this. You've gotta give me a chance.'

No. There's nothing.

Maybe there's nothing because she thinks she deserves death.

Maybe she's a lot like us.

You know, as children we're taught to manage and make sense of our feelings. In response to anger we were told to "talk it out". When sad or lonely, conventional wisdom encourages us to "think a happy thought". And if ever we make a mistake, we're reminded that "we all make mistakes" and told that regret may be replaced with a simple lesson learned.

They're clever little anecdotes for complex matters. And in the moment, they seem to satisfy the need.

But I have friends, now grown up, whose feelings are not rectified or resolved so easily. The people I know still inwardly struggle to make sense of their feelings- even despite the cute rhymes and riddles offered them in their childhood. I know so many people who believe in God, but cannot accept the fact that He would love them. Their struggle takes form in the rationale:

"God could never forgive me for... that thing!" or "I've done way too much now to ever begin to undo it, or to ever be good again."

I think we all, at different times in our lives, deal with the problem, "If I can't forgive myself, certainly God himself will never forgive me."

Often times the source of such perplexities comes from the most private corners of our lives, places we've kept secret or hidden for fear that if anyone knew- well they'd definitely disown or disapprove of us. And so, in fear of being found out, we bury this stuff deep inside us.

Because we were taught to manage our feelings- But no one ever told us how to handle our shame.

hame is that ostracised emotion, so shameful that it goes almost completely unmentioned. So embarrassed are we that we even feel shame for our shame. And so the silent cycle is perpetuated further within us.

Shame arrives when anger, regret, disappointment, and loneliness mingle together- when self worth is diminished to self-contempt. Shame says that no one will understand, that there are no excuses, and we have failed on the most personal of levels. For not only have we disappointed others- but but we disappoint even ourselves. And if our own standards have not been met- well, then certainly we fall short of God's.

Shame's lies penetrate further. We isolate ourselves. Shame sends us running into ourselves and away from the rest of humanity. It's self-preservation gone wrong. Because when we're isolated and ostracised within our minds- when we internalize shame- we become consumed with our failures. The thing we've done owns us and seemingly defines us. And our worth is minimized to the measurement of our shortcomings.

And we come to believe it.

We believe all sorts of things we shouldn't- about ourselves, about God. Things that simply aren't true. So we over-emphasize our failures and de-emphasize the God who already knows us and still loves us.

We listen but can't really hear when Paul in the book of Romans explains that Christ died for us while we were still imperfect. It's like the writer is saying, 'Listen, God knows you forward and back, all you've done and all you will do. He knows you, what you're capable of- And He's made it right. He's forgiven all of that.

od never seems to be looking for perfect people, or even good people. God is looking for people who know they've got an ailment and believe the doctor can fix it. God has already taken into account our worst behavior and amens have been made. He loves us.

Can you love yourself?

You see, the beauty in sharing our shame with one another is not that we may have a look at each other's wounds, compare them, remove the scabs and become blood brothers- But that we might finally release ourselves from the self-imposed prisons we live within.

We're all carrying around stuff. And shame can be so heavy.

Maybe you need to finally forgive yourself.

Maybe you need to listen again, "Where are they? Has noone condemned you? ... Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin any more."

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