all the wrong things made right

Posted: September 11th, 2009 | Filed under: God, life | Tags: , | 25 Comments »

If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you. -Deuteronomy 22:22-24

She knew the law. She knew she was doing something wrong. Nobody violated her. Nobody forced her. Somehow, in the middle of it all, she let herself be carried away by love and the thoughts of love and the rebelliousness of it all. She was a good girl. Smiles and loyalty were what she gave to her friends. She was a girl’s girl, but got caught up in the flair of it all. The secrets of a love affair.

The morning sun poked through the curtain and her stretch arched her body closer to him. His snore made her smile and wince at the same time. He was not hers. She should not know what his snore sounds like. What his hands feel like. She pulled away from him and felt her shoulders draw in to her body as shame made it’s way across her usually sunny face.

“Dear Father,” she prayed, “please help me. I love him.”

She knew she was sinning and hated it. Every moment that they shared was robbed by the dark shadow of sin. Loving him wasn’t the plan in an affair that had no plans. She didn’t want to sin anymore, but could not make herself not love him. Every poem, song and little girl’s dream danced inside of their love, but it was encased in sin and she had to walk away.

And then her prayer was answered. In the worst way possible.

The door crashed open. There was so much yelling and rushing toward her. Her lover fell out of bed and was stuck under a boot on the floor.

She needed his eyes.

They grabbed her and pulled her to her feet. He screamed at them, but they were beyond hearing. Her heart pounded her sentence. She knew she was going to die. Just like this. Naked.

They grabbed her lovers robe and threw it over her as she was pushed through the door and out into the street. She looked back to find him and they locked knowing eyes. This was the last time they would see each other alive. Her heart broke when she caught the smell of him on his robe.

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone… -John 8:1

This is it. They drug her out in the street as the crowd gathered. She was terrified and worried about him. She looked for him. He can’t see her die like this.

“Please, Father, don’t let him see me die like this.”

A few of them went up to a man in the street. It was Jesus, the prophet. The man who touches blind eyes to make them see. The man who speaks four words and the lame walk. But, what can he do about sin? What can this man with dirty feet and messy hair do about the law? Nothing.

They formed a circle around her and told him what she had done. She lowered her head to hide her face behind her hair. She can’t even argue on her behalf. They were right about her. She did those things. She listened to them make something ugly out of what didn’t feel ugly. They spoke in venomous spit about her love. Making her hate herself. Making her see her sin for what it was.

She watched a tear fall and make a puff of dust rise at her feet. She didn’t want the earth to move because of her. She wanted to disappear. She moved her toes to cover her foot and kept her shoulders tucked in.

A body draws in to itself in order to protect it. Like an infant only a few hours old, like a child bracing himself against a hit, like a little girl when she’s sick, like a woman in labor, like an old man on the edge of death. Her body drew into itself. Only this time, her mother couldn’t run to her and her father couldn’t use his booming voice to be more frightening than what frightened her. She was alone. She deserved what she was about to get.

She has flashes of who she was and who she could have been. She wished that somebody could come inside of her and feel what she felt. That she wasn’t a bad person, that she was sorry.

When Jesus heard about her sin, something made her look up. He had kind eyes, normally, and if she saw anger in them, it would crush her. It would solidify her despair. Hopeless and weak, she looked up to catch his eye.

They looked pained. Oh, that’s so much worse. His eyebrows furrowed and he winced. His eyes watered and he shuddered from his belly to his shoulders.

Oh, God…

That’s what crushed her. The look on his face told her that she did this to him. She didn’t just do this to herself, her lover, or her own spouse, her friends. She did this to him. Her stomach cramped and her knees gave. The men holding her tightened their grip.

“Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” -John 8:5

She watched as knuckles became white around stones she hadn’t noticed before. She imagined them hitting her. She would almost welcome it. A different kind of pain. She pictured them hitting her legs and her back. But when she pictured them hitting her neck or her eye, she began to shake. She was so afraid.

Her mother made her a dress when she was a little girl. The dress was so itchy, but she wore it anyway because it made her mother happy. She used to put flowers in her hair and dance in the field while her father worked. She pretended she was a princess and would one day be carried away by a prince in an exotic land. She made her father laugh with her stories of taming lions and singing in a choir of birds.

Where was her daddy now? She needed to be seen for who she really is. Not the mistake that she made, but for the little girl that she used to be. She was panicking. None of these men knew her. All of the women looked at her in disgust. She wanted to walk out of her skin and show them that she agreed. She hated what she did and they were right! But she was stuck. Her skin would not open up and let her out. And so…

The sound of feet surrounded her. The heavy breath of religion and law beat down on her like the sun. The devil poised to pounce and drag his victim home.

“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him.”– John 8:6

Why won’t he answer them? We all know what the law says. She watches him through her hair, trying to keep her convulsing body from being heard.

He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone at her.” -John  8:7

They all stood up straighter. Confusion started whispering among them.

Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt. -John 8:8

Puffs of dirt began rising to the rhythm of thump as the rocks hit the ground. One by one, the men turned on their heels and walked away.

She stood in shock and confusion. She dared not move. And then, for the first time, he spoke to her.

“Where are they? Does no one condemn you?” -John 8:10

Is this a trick? He can see for himself that I am guilty. I am barely covered by a robe… But they left. They all walked away.

“No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” -John 8:11

Sometimes it’s hard to not wish for the actual punishment to fall on me. If I could pay for my sin, then maybe I could be free of it. Free from others. But the punishment for my sin fell on someone else. He paid for my sin. He set me free from it. He set me free from you. You who can only see my sin, but not the cross.

I once wore the robe of shame. No covering for my sin. And then he covered me, he forgave me and he covers me in a white wedding dress. White. He adorns me in a white wedding dress and I dance with flowers in my hair for my Father.


25 Comments on “all the wrong things made right”

  1. 1 Sisterlisa said at 7:55 pm on September 10th, 2009:

    And we all do this very same thing towards God. And yet His grace is sufficient for us. I love our Lord Jesus. Thank you for showing how wonderful He is Serena. ((hugs))

  2. 2 Traylor Lovvorn said at 5:06 am on September 11th, 2009:

    Thanks, Serena, for this fresh reminder of Jesus' love that overcomes our shame!


  3. 3 Tiffany said at 5:10 am on September 11th, 2009:

    This made me cry……for the vision of dancing with flowers in my hair, dancing for my Father…..

  4. 4 Serena Woods said at 5:29 am on September 11th, 2009:

    It made me cry when I wrote it. 🙂 writing is the best therapy… I was listening to Matt Nathanson's 'Wedding Dress' when I wrote it, too. 🙂 It's so emotional.

    It's easier for me to project my moment of despair on Eve (in my blog 'joy') or this woman than it is to talk about myself. But, if you noticed, I started saying 'I' toward the end.

    I'm glad you guys are letting me know you're here. Thank you. 🙂

  5. 5 Sarah Mae said at 5:48 am on September 11th, 2009:

    Powerful, heart-wrenching, heavenly grace

    wiping tears

  6. 6 Warren Baldwin said at 6:07 am on September 11th, 2009:

    Your are gracious to allow that the Pharisees may have permitted this woman a robe. They wanted to present her in all of her guilt and shame before Jesus.

    Their harshness can also be seen in the fact that they didn't bring the man to "trial." The law required the death for the man and woman, not for one. This poor woman was set up.

    Having just read Francine Rivers "Redeeming Love" her statement about God giving us what we need not what we deserve comes to my mind with your post. Oh, what a marvel grace is! Good post.

    Note: My wife and I are reading your book now.


  7. 7 Lori Heyd said at 7:24 am on September 11th, 2009:

    We have all worn that rode of shame, sometimes I still try to put it on…but then I remember His grace. What a heartbreakingly beautiful writing as usual.

  8. 8 Teri Lynne said at 11:32 am on September 11th, 2009:

    I needed this today … for just last night I was weighed and found wanting because of my sin … and my sin made my husband unworthy as well … I needed these words … this reminder, again, this afternoon, that I don't answer to "them" … I answer to "HIM" … they see a sin and point and accuse … He sees a sinner and offers His hand, His mercy, and His love. Thank you.

  9. 9 Scott @ Fishingcross said at 12:36 pm on September 11th, 2009:

    This is a wonderful post. I lived it as I read it. You're talent is a gift.


  10. 10 Cassie said at 12:37 pm on September 11th, 2009:

    Thank you thank you thank you for using this as writing material.

    I think that is the only way we can fully heal from our shame (sharing Christ's overcoming of it)!


  11. 11 Mary said at 2:00 pm on September 11th, 2009:

    Beautiful. And the picture….I have been there….groping in the dirt, trying to find His feet without meeting His eyes. Shame. Contempt. Then He stoops down, lifts my chin with His hand and looks deep into my soul. Love. Liquid Love. Jesus.

    Thank you, Serena. Your spirit is beautiful.

  12. 12 Serena Woods said at 3:25 pm on September 11th, 2009:

    Thank you, everyone. I love reading your thoughts.

    Warren, I can't wait to see what you two think of the book. 🙂

    Teri Lynne…. hang in there, friend.

  13. 13 Muthering Heights said at 4:43 pm on September 11th, 2009:

    This is so beautiful, Serena. Truly, truly beautiful.

  14. 14 Ashley said at 4:56 pm on September 11th, 2009:

    I love when a story like this is taken and told with the true grit of what was going on in the heads of the people involved. When you can smell the dirt at their feet and hear the rocks as they tumble to the ground. Thank you, Serena, for painting this picture for me and reminding me again who our God is.

  15. 15 April D. said at 7:54 am on September 12th, 2009:

    W O W. I am nearing the end of your book, Serena. I love the last page that says three words, "read it again"… I plan on it!

    I am just learning so much. How to get real before God. In the last year, I have been suicidal more times than a "good christian" should be, I should've been full of joy. I have had what they call an "emotional affair" with another born again christian". I have had anxiety take over my body and mind so extreme that I would be shaking in sunday school and want to bolt for the nearest exit as I couldn't even find a breath. I would run into the bathroom, close the stall door and pray, "dear God, make the shaking stop, I don't want anyone here to know that I am not okay". I sat on the front row with my bible, the message version. I have NIV, and several others, but brought this one to sunday school this day. I answered a question asked by the teacher of the class., by saying that my bible said it in a different way. He replied with, "You have the wrong translation!" and went on for 10-15 minutes about why we should have the correct translation. Then he looked back at me and thanked me for sending him off on a tangent. I froze in my seat. God wrapped me up, covered me the whole time. My heavenly father knew what kind of turmoil my mind was in. He protected me. I went home, called my daddy and told asked as a little girl might ask her daddy a question, "Do I have the wrong translation?" and I told daddy that my feelings were heart and I felt embarrassed in front of my friends in class by the teacher's statement. Daddy told me to "Give him grace, honey… give him grace." I then prayed a prayer with a real honest question to God. I would not ask this question in sunday school or in the bible studies on Wed. night.. I asked my heavenly father to show me what grace was, because I had sadly forgotten. Please show me, teach me in a way only you can, Father. Thank you. Two days later, I was in a hurry to pick up my son from preschool. I hadn't made time to eat lunch and so I grabbed a prewrapped pb & j sandwich from the fridge (you know, the Smuckers individually wrapped ones..), a banana, and a new bottle of water. This was out of character for me, typically I would save those for the kids lunches. I threw all of it in a bag, and got in the car. I took a different exit this time in order to go the the ATM. The preschool tuition was due for my son. As I got of the exit, I sat at the red light and waited for it to turn green. I looked over and saw a man holding one of those signs, "Hungry, please help." His face was worn and dirty. He was holding a cane. I did not even think. I just opened my window and handed him the bag that I had filled for my lunch. He said, "Wow. Bless you." I nodded. I drove on. Then heard my heavenly father speak loudly to my heart saying, "THAT IS WHAT GRACE MEANS". Then I cried. This is what it means to be real. It is not about having the right translation, it is about having falling on your face before Holy God and admitting you know nothing.

  16. 16 Serena Woods said at 8:11 am on September 12th, 2009:

    April, it's so good to hear about your experience on the 'Grace Is For Sinners' journey. Thank you for connecting with me!

    Do you have an exit plan for the emotional connection you feel with the other man (woman?)? If not, you can send me an email and I can share a few tips with you that may help you find a foothold on the exit route.

  17. 17 Serena Woods said at 8:12 am on September 12th, 2009:

    How about I give you the address? ha!

    hello at graceisforsinners dot com

  18. 18 Michelle F said at 10:34 am on September 12th, 2009:

    Absolutely Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story – I'm in the middle of your book….and have already recommended it to several friends. God Bless.

  19. 19 reborn said at 2:02 pm on September 12th, 2009:

    Serena. This is devastating and marvelous.

    …makes me anxious to get my hands your book (I'm waiting for it to arrive in the mail).

    I've been thinking a lot about this story in John lately as I try to understand the balance between law and redemption and what the role of the law should play in our lives today. It's very confusing to me still.

    Jesus had the luxury of knowing the hearts and motivations of humans. Church leaders do not have that ability. So how can they teach biblical living without elevating law higher than grace?

    Hopeful I will grow in understanding and maybe blog about it along the way! 🙂

  20. 20 Serena Woods said at 2:25 pm on September 12th, 2009:

    I don't know how to explain this without writing a new book, so I'm working on it. When you read 'Grace Is For Sinners', you will get an idea of where the law fits into everything and some people have a really hard time with it…..

    The Law is finished! We are not under it anymore. Anyone who tries hold it over you does not know that the Law is finished. Here is one verse and then you'll have to think I'm crazy or wait for my next book or both. 🙂

    'The purpose of the law was to keep a sinful people in the way of salvation until Christ (the descendant) came, inheriting the promises and distributing them to us.' -Galatians 3:19

    If you believe that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah/'Seed'/'Descendant', then scripture has been fulfilled through Him. 'It is finished.' We receive salvation through Jesus, not through the law. The law is 'finished.'

  21. 21 Renee said at 5:18 pm on September 13th, 2009:

    I love reading your blogs and connected to this story. The good girl who was tempted, and yet I did not have an affair as my husband did. I am understanding how he may have gotten to that decision, how it can happen to anyone. Trying hard to extend grace to the sinner and not hold on to bitterness as he walks away for his new perfect life. If I hear that God has great things planned for me one more time, I think I may puke.

    You have helped remind me that we all sin and that God forgives us ALL. One sin is not worse than another, it is all just sin.

    Any chance you could provide encouragement to the person left behind.

  22. 22 Reborn said at 8:32 pm on September 13th, 2009:


    Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂 I have found Galatians to be a treasure cove while studying this topic.

    But I'm still unclear (and maybe I will continue to be for a while… lol!)… I know that following the Mosaic law does not justify us, but sin is still sin, right?

    Maybe a more clear example would be a parent-child relationship. How does a parent train a child and educate him/her about right and wrong? Wouldn't discipline and punishment cause a child to become focused on behavior and following rules?

    And if there are no laws at all, what is the purpose/role of a pastor or a parent?

    Sorry if I'm being dull… I'm probably just so thoroughly programmed to think in terms of law and punishment, it's hard for me to wrap my mind around this!

  23. 23 Serena Woods said at 4:26 am on September 14th, 2009:

    Renee: I'm going to write a completely separate blog in answer to you. And I promise, I won't use the phrase, 'God has great things planned for you.' 🙂

    Reborn: Do you have 'Grace Is For Sinners' yet? I wrote my thoughts on this in a chapter called 'Crime and Punishment', especially starting on page 202.

    I've just typed out so many thoughts to answer your questions, that I'll just make my answer a new blog post for you, too….

    I'll let you two know what to look for in the next couple of days.

  24. 24 Reborn said at 9:04 am on September 14th, 2009:

    Serena, I still haven't received the book yet, but I will definitely start with that chapter when I do. Thanks for taking the time to address my question. I appreciate it! 🙂


  25. 25 Serena Woods said at 9:14 am on September 14th, 2009:

    Absolutely! You should check out today's post/comments that can shed some light on some of this, too.

Leave a Reply