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September 26, 2016

Has No One Condemned You?

Woman, where are they?” he asked.

She propped herself on to her elbow as she strained her eyes. Slowly, carefully, she moved out of her contortion so not to undo the covering she had finally pieced together.

Has no one condemned you?” 

His gaze melted on to her skin. Even as he spoke of them, he never looked away from her. Leaning closer now, she could feel his warm breath on her neck as he waited for her swollen eyelids to force themselves open.

Condemned, she thought.

For years she had worked to name this feeling that tormented the deepest parts of her soul. For nights on end she would wake from drunken stupor, laid bare next to him, and ask herself again, “Why?” “Why do I feel powerless to be anyone but who others say that I am?” Condemned was the word she had been searching for.

Her reply gushed past her lips before her brain had a chance to comprehend it, “No one Lord,” she said.

Lord?!?’ she thought to herself. ‘What was that? What did I just say?’

Beyond reason, beyond understanding, she knew that she was right. Drowning out the crowd, rising above her own nauseating shame, the truth she never knew existed pierced into the darkest night of her soul as he continued…

“Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.”

It felt inconceivable that only minutes before she had determined to end her life.

She could care less about the sex now. It was no longer thrilling or satisfying. The feelings attached to all of it were cold and brittle at best. The rush of pleasure once stolen behind passionate kisses and secret glances across the room now felt lifeless and dirty.

She had become tolerant of emotional drugs–no longer a high coursing through her veins, but instead, a hangover of loneliness and isolation. She didn’t love him, but, the moments of artificial intimacy would numb her enough to not care that she didn’t.

That day, she told herself it was over. ‘One last time,’ she thought, as she waded through the judgmental, neighborhood glances on the way to his house.

When they burst through his door, he expected her to run, but she didn’t. Instead, she moved slowly, methodically reaching for her dress and drawing it to her chest. Quietly, she brushed the hair away from her brow and twisted it around her right shoulder to fall to one side.

As a storm of obscenities raged around her, an unfamiliar weightlessness caused her to begin to fidget. Exposed and vulnerable, an indescribable air began to fill her lungs. It was as if she were glad they had been caught. In the strangest way possible, she felt honest for the first time in her life.

Just then, a calloused hand clenched her bicep so tightly that she screamed out in pain! He jerked her to the ground and then another joined in dragging her out the door.

Suddenly, the reality of her impending death washed through her in panic and despair. Death on her own terms was acceptable, but not this.  As her bare feet drug the gravel road toward the temple, her mind raced with vibrant images of her childhood. She could still smell the sweat, cheap liquor, and vomit. She could still feel him on top of her, feel her tiny muscles straining to push him away–powerless to stop him, pleading and screaming for someone else to.

She gasped as if coming up for air under collapsing lungs. As her tongue ran itself over the gravel stuck to her lips, she was sobered in to real time.

When his fingertips gently touched her chin, she jerked away. Everything in her wanted to do the one thing she knew better than her own self–run. But his touch paralyzed her with an overwhelming sense of the home she had longed for all her life.

As she slowly raised her chin, her eyes met his. His skin was tan and weathered. His sandals were worn and his robe was frayed around the edges. His hair, badly tangled and in need of a trim. His face was dirty and seemingly aged beyond his physique. His brow was soft and his lips chapped. It seemed as if he were smiling at her, but the possibility irrelevant with one look in to his eyes. When he looked at her, it was as if her heart broke in two while simultaneously mending itself back together as new and whole.

When he stood up, her entire body leaned toward him and began to tremble as if a warm blanket had been taken away. Every pore on her skin pleaded with him to return. Without a word, slowly bending close to her face, tenderly touching her cheek, his eyes spoke straight to her soul–“I will not leave you, my love. I promise.”

But as he drew away from her, a wave of shame capsized her mind.  She released a horrified gasp and curled into a ball as she frantically attempted to cover her bare chest with the scraps of fabric left on the ground. She didn’t have the courage to look up, but she could hear the laughter, the mocking, and the repulsed rebukes. She wondered if the stones would hurt as much as the vile words ripping through her flesh right now.

Seconds felt like hours as the sound of her own breathing began to rise above the now faint murmur of the crowd. When she could no longer take one more inhale of dust from her huddled posture, she timidly peered through her fingertips to find him there–circling his finger in the sand.

Beads of sweat now laced his forehead. As he reached to wipe them with one hand, his opposite hand moved like a delicate dance. Only steps away from her, she could feel the heat of a love she had long ago given up on. Broken, naked, and at the end of herself with no where to run and no one to blame, she felt more free than ever before; captivated by this man who now anchored himself to the same ground that only moments before demanded her blood.

No one Lord.

No one. No one had ever loved her like this–known her like this. No one had ever thrilled her like this. No one had ever satisfied her deepest longing in a glance. Never before this moment had she believed that holiness was hers for the taking, and that faithfulness a desire to belong to.

Every ounce of shame inside her dissipated like the particles of dust into the air that erupted from each stroke of his finger. “No one,” she repeated under her breath. As she did, his face turned to her once again. “Oh yes,” she thought, “it was a smile.”

As the sun began to set, he wrapped her shoulders inside his robe and settled her for the journey home. Pausing only steps away from him, she looked back to find him erasing his masterpiece with the top of his foot. She smiled, feeling a peace that would steady her in the difficult days of grief and judgment that were still to come.

Never again would shame and fear crater her in to the desire for death. Although criticism and harsh words lingered, never again would she be powerless to them.

On hard days, when the assumptive stares of others grieved her to the point of isolation, she would sit in her floor and move her fingertip in the sand until she remembered Him more vividly than her fear. With each new day across her threshold and into the market, her trembling subsided. With every honest conversation, her heart slowly warmed to hope. And in every friend who stayed despite her weakness, a new strength matured inside her that would beckon her to risk love once again.

On her darkest days, she would weep, “No one Lord.” And on her best days, she would shout, “No one Lord!”

(based on John 8)


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