Dear Woman of Grace

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Dear Woman of Grace,

We were so young, you remember.  We made decisions we had no business making, which in turn involved people who never deserved to get involved. My head was in a cloud of confusion and delusion and I made a series of poor, poor choices.  It was the first time in my 22 years that I recognized the domino effect that one poor decision could have on not just one life, but multiple lives.

The walls I had constructed with such recklessness came tumbling down around me and I felt overwhelmed at the rubble.  I wanted to crawl into a dark place and never come out.  You see, I had always been the example, the leader.  I had maintained my mask of perfection for many years.  Maybe no-one else bought it, but I did.  When I saw the rubble surrounding me, it wasn’t just my life that was a wreck… it was my identity.

And your loved one got hurt.  An innocent bystander was wounded by the chain of events that I initiated.  The guilt and embarrassment took my breath away.

Then there was the baby that was on the way.  In the midst of such chaos, God blessed Jimmie and me with a pregnancy that we so desperately desired.  With the news came immense joy.  Joy clouded by the guilt of a series of poor decisions that hurt and disappointed many.

It was hard to look you in the eye.  When our paths crossed, I avoided you.  I had no words  that adequately described my regret.  Then came the moment I will never forget.

We practically bumped into each other and when I looked up and saw your face, sobs emerged.  Intelligible sobs.  The words may have not been clear, but the meaning of my sobs was evident.

I’m sorry.

And you, woman of grace, you swept this young woman into your arms and forgave.  You poured out your grace on me in a way that so closely resembled the grace of God, I knew it to be a supernatural event.  My heavy sobs melted away into your loving embrace as you firmly said,

It’s okay.

I knew you meant it.  You told me to move forward and to take care of that baby growing inside me and that’s what I did.

Do you understand what you did for me 10 years ago?  Your forgiveness set me free.  That was a pivotal moment in my life.  Had you not responded to me with the love and grace of God, I could have been set upon a path marked by failure.  Instead, you forgave and set me free to advance in my ministry and calling.

My dark days were illuminated with forgiveness and hope.  Hope that you offered by the grace of God.

I have never forgotten what you did for me.  Your demonstration of forgiveness has shaped the way I respond to those around me.  It has kept me humble.  It is a constant reminder of the grace that our Savior shows to us all.  When I look at my beautiful family, I am reminded of your advice to move forward and take care of my family.

You could have told the world how our decisions impacted your family.  You could have made us your enemy.  You could have shamed us, shunned us and undermined our every step.  Instead, you have been a support and encouragement every step of our journey.  Our story will remain secret to most, but I want to broadcast to the world the impact you made on my life in a brief, 5-minute conversation.  You are a woman of grace and I honor you.

With gratitude and love,

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What I Gather About Accusations

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Last week I was reading the story in John 8 about the woman caught in the act of adultery.  Most of you know the story…. a woman is caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees.  They are ready to stone her, as the law dictated, but first want to use this as an opportunity to trap Jesus.

It is a moving account of the wisdom, love and compassion of our Savior.  He delivers an incredibly powerful line…

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  

One by one, the accusers walk away, no doubt in a state of self-reflection.

The woman is saved.  Jesus to the rescue.  When I read this story, I am always reminded the price I deserved to pay for my sin.  I am reminded of a Savior who stepped in as the unblemished sacrifice, taking on my sin and the sin of the world.  Jesus to the rescue….

Yet as I was reading this story last week, I began to think of the accusers in the story.  These Pharisees and scribes in the story always get a bad rep, and rightfully so.  They were judgmental and had every intention of stoning the woman, while also wanting to trap Jesus.

And yet….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus saved this woman’s life.

Were their motives wrong?  Yes.  Was their attitude bad?  Yes.  Were they judgmental?  Absolutely.  Did they have compassion?  No.

And yet….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus saved this woman’s life.

She was guilty, no doubt.  The Bible clearly states she was caught in the act of adultery.  Her guilt was not up for debate.  As only Jesus can do, he showed them that just as she was caught in the act of adultery, they were also caught in the act of judgement.  Their guilt was apparently not up for debate, either.  We hear no arguments from the Pharisees and scribes when Jesus delivers his line to the crowd.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Both parties guilty.  One party walks away with her life.

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The accusers in this Biblical account didn’t want this woman’s life to be spared.  They wanted her to pay and were ready to execute both judgement and punishment.  And yet….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus saved this woman’s life.

What would happen if we brought our accusations to Jesus?  First.  Before pronouncing guilt, before executing judgement or punishment, what if we brought the accusations before a compassionate Savior?

If these accusers had taken Jesus out of this equation, the woman surely would have been stoned to death.

I fear that when we take Jesus out of the equation in dealing with offenses, we risk harming the accused…. killing someone’s reputation, harming their ministry, wounding their Spirit, denying them of the unmerited favor a Savior has to offer.

Perhaps their guilt is undeniable.  Perhaps they were caught in the act of sin, slander, gossip, backbiting, adultery, lust, lying, cheating.  Perhaps they truly caused harm to you or someone you love.

Even so, our accusations should never be taken before the court of public opinion if they haven’t first been brought to Jesus.

I am so quick to bring my accusations before my peers.

Did you hear what SHE did?

Did you know he said that?

Guess what they did to me now?

Can you believe they are actually DOING that?

We all know what happens when we bring our accusations before Jesus.  Perhaps that knowledge is what keeps us from doing it.  We want a GUILTY VERDICT AND SENTENCING.  And when we choose to bring our accusations before Jesus (bad motives or not), we tend to hear the gentle words of a loving Savior.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.”

Jesus causes us to look inward, recognizing it is hypocrisy to judge someone else when our own hearts are darkened with sin.

Maybe, just maybe….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus in prayer will save a person’s reputation, our relationship with them, their ministry, their self-esteem, and their access to unmerited favor.

Perhaps we will be changed for the better as well, with our own self-reflection bringing an opportunity to show grace and walk in a perpetual state of forgiveness and love.

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Do you tend to take your accusations to Jesus first in prayer?  Do you have the tendency, as I do, to complain about offenses to a spouse or friend first?

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***Note:  I recognize that sometimes offenses must be dealt with.  Jesus gives us guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17.  I am not denying that at times, offences and sin must be addressed.  I am only advocating bringing the offenses to Jesus in prayer first and foremost.