I am that woman.
The one caught in the act, naked and exposed.
Carried forward by strong hands that grip my flesh, I am thrown into the dirty city street, landing on my knees in the dust. I press into the earth, wishing for it to swallow me up, but there is no mercy to be found in all of nature, and I quake with terror in the face of my fate. My hair tumbles unbound around my body, as evidence of my crime.
From all around, the accusations are whispered, spoken, and shouted.
The hands hold stones, ready to fly at any moment, anxious to break my bones, crush my skull, and send me straight to hell. Who will begin the slaughter? I desperately try to cover my bare body with my hands, but it is futile. I am laid bare before their eyes.
Just moments earlier I was dragged from my home and bed, away from the arms embracing me, away from the lips that had only just been whispering words of ecstasy into my ear.
I have no idea where my lover has gone. He has fled and abandoned me to this, my fate. The faces surrounding me are suffused with such hatred, so much loathing. I am vile before them; they can hardly wait to fling the rocks at me, to watch my blood flow, to end my life. Some of them are young, and some are old, but all are equally outraged. I recognize them, these are my own people, the people of my village.
Some have shared my bed in the past.
Why don’t they just get it over with? Why do they wait?
There is a break in the yelling, and as one man they turn to a figure standing before them. He is dressed in simple clothes and looks like any other of the rough villagers surrounding me. His long hair frames his plain dark face as he gazes at the assembled throng, and then his eyes fix on me.
I cannot meet them, they pierce through me, seeing my past, my present, my imminent future.
“Master,” one man says, and I wonder at the title. “This woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.” His tone is one of utter disgust and pious horror. “Shall we stone her, as Moses commanded?”
The man stands quietly, looking at each person in turn. I keep my head down, and my arms drop to my sides, knowing it is futile to attempt to cover myself before him. He has seen everything, this strange judge, and I know his word will be final.
He crouches suddenly and begins to trace a finger through the dirt on the ground. I cannot see what he is writing, but the men crane their necks to watch, and perhaps they catch a glimpse of the words scratched in the earth. No one speaks. The air itself is still, as though nature holds its breath. Finally, he straightens, and opens his mouth. His voice, though not loud, carries far enough.
“Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.”
The men stand still, immobilized by the command, incredulous, as though unsure of what it could possibly mean. As the truth of it conquers their collective consciousness, there is a palpable disappointment that permeates the atmosphere.
One by one, the stones fall into the dust, thudding into the earth with a sound that echoes in my soul. I stand still and wait, uncertain and uncomprehending. Feet shuffle away as the crowd disperses. Some muttering is heard, but mostly, all is quiet.
“Woman,” the voice is low but commanding, and I must raise my eyes to his. They are gentle but contain storms enough to wreck the world. “Where are your accusers?”
I look. No one remains.
“Gone, my lord,” I whisper.
“Neither do I accuse you, then,” he says. “Go, and sin no more.”
I turn, obedient and stunned. I stagger in the direction of my house, following the winding streets in a haze of confusion. What has just happened? Am I safe? Am I truly forgiven? Can this be the way it ends? Perhaps the men will find me later and stone me to death after all.
I don’t care. I don’t care what man might do to me, save that One. What can I do but follow Him the rest of my days, however many they may be? At home there is a precious jar of perfume that has never been cracked open. It will be my offering, my thanks, my most earnest form of worship, for Him who absolved me of my guilt and shame in the very presence of my prosecutors.
I am that woman.
The one caught by love, clothed in grace, and robed in righteousness.
His woman, eternally.