Playing in the dirt.
I got fired once because I really wasn’t trying that hard.
I was caught shoplifting as a teenager.
I’ve lied to almost everyone I’ve ever met.
I used to write prayer devotionals for churches during the day and take drugs at night.
And yet, there is nothing I can do that will surprise God.
I used to think there was. I used to think that my junk, much of which is too horrible for that list above, would surprise God. That he would look at it and just recoil at how filthy the whole mess of my life was. That in his white robes and be-sandaled feet he would think I was too dirty for forgiveness. He would look at me and say, “Wow, I didn’t even know that was possible. I mean I thought maybe it was but you found new ways to mess up a life. It’s too much.”
I think that’s one of the hardest parts about failing people we care about. It hurts to shatter someone’s expectation of who we are, to surprised them. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever done something or said something and watched someone’s view of you completely and possibly irrevocably change? They look at you and say, “I didn’t think you were capable of that. I’m just so surprised you would do that. That’s not the Susan I know. I don’t really know who you are anymore.”
I used to think God was like that, but last night I read something that makes me think I might be wrong. In John 8, we see the scene where the Pharisees bring a woman who was caught having adultery to Christ and say that according to Moses, they should stone her.
It’s a climatic scene. You get the sense that the teachers of the law are just foaming at the mouth in judgmental excitement. Finally, they have backed Jesus into a corner. This was it, the trap was about to be sprung.
And the woman, the poor woman was just there exposed. The bible says she was “caught” and you can’t help but think she was dragged from a bed in a clutter of screams and yells with little clothing on. She’s standing there vulnerable, waiting to learn if she will be stoned to death in a few minutes.
And how does Christ react? Is he horrified at her sin? Does he recoil thinking about how she failed, expressing his shock that despite the threat of stoning people still commit adultery? Does he express his disappointment in the woman or feed off the energy of the crowd?
The bible says:
Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
I heart that. It’s not the point of the story. It’s a minor detail maybe in a piece that is ultimately about forgiveness and hypocrisy, but I can’t ignore Jesus’ reaction to the sickness of our sin.
He plays in the dirt. He draws in the dirt on the ground. And he does it for a while until they kept questioning him and he had to stand up. When he did, he said one sentence and then returned to a seemingly unimportant drawing in the sand.
But I think it was important. I don’t think it’s a quiet detail we’re supposed to skip over quickly. I think it yells love. I think it amplifies the forgiveness he eventually offers the woman. He knew she had sinned. More than that, he later tells her to leave her life of sin because that is how deeply scarred her entire world was. But none of that shocks Jesus. None of that phases him.
I don’t know what you’ve done. I don’t know how bad it was or how recent it was or how hurtful it was. But regardless of what it was, Christ’s reaction is going to be pretty simple.
He’s going to forgive you.