Women of the Bible: Caught in Adultery

“And your accusers? Where are they? Who is left to condemn you?” He asked me, his eyes gentle, compelling. His hands, still dusty…I could not take my eyes from them. It was something about his wrists.
“No one, my Lord,” I said, my voice hardly a whisper.

***

It was no use denying the truth, to proclaim her innocence: she had been caught.

It was folly to point out the obvious: that it’s impossible to commit adultery by oneself.

Inside her chest, her heart beat wildly. She knew that if the eyes of the law, married was married. There was no divorce and remarriage, covering it all over and beginning again.

She knew the law said, “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”

For a moment, her mind pictured her mother–how shamed she would be viewed when she went to the temple, the market. She pictured her father–how he would turn away and deny her existence. She had broken both their hearts.

But still, her lover was not present. He would not be punished, and would gladly send her in his stead. The one she loved–and thought loved her back–was nowhere to be found. All those stolen nights seemed to flow through her fingers like so many grains of sands. Though equally guilty, he would remain innocent in this crime.

How did those who came for her know where to find her? Why did they leave the man untouched, unknown?The shouting, the many hands upon her–she was lucky in her nakedness to have grabbed the sheet from the bed so she wasn’t completely nude in front of these men–in front of THIS man, whose eyes seemed to penetrate to her very soul.

“Teacher! This woman was caught in the act of adultery. What say you? You know what Moses taught.” The men crowded around them, demanding justice, their faces contorted with judgement and haughtiness.

So this meeting was less about punishment for the woman and more about a transparent trap set by religious leaders for Jesus.

It’s likely the first the woman saw of Jesus was his feet. The men had thrown her at him, and she probably lost her footing between the sheer force of their shoving and her attempt to keep covered. Some scholars believe she was fully nude in front of the men and the Savior. In that case, she’d have been trying to cover herself with her hands.

Those feet–they didn’t seem like the feet of any messiah she’d heard about. Dirty, calloused, they showed the wear of many miles of walking those dusty desert roads. These weren’t the manicured feet of a rich man.

Jesus began to write in the dirt with his finger. Many interpretations of this action are out there–that he wrote the verse about adultery in the dirt itself–to remind many of those standing here that technically many of them were guilty of the same offense. Some believe he was writing nonsense, praying to the Father for guidance. Some think he was just stalling–purposely making an awkward moment last–so these men could feel the gravity of their accusations.

I wonder if he wrote her name–reminding her that no matter what, she was loved.

She was treasured. She was his.

We know what came next–Jesus flipped the question. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Some interpretations say that the word used actually means “without THIS sin,” meaning, “Those of you haven’t done the same thing–y’all can go first.”

Soon, as always, it was just the two of them. I like the think of the story in her place, coming from her thougths.

“And your accusers? Where are they? Who is left to condemn you?” He asked me, his eyes gentle, compelling. His hands, still dusty…I could not take my eyes from them. It was something about his wrists.
“No one, my Lord,” I said, my voice hardly a whisper.

“Then I’ll not condemn you either. But go–and sin no more.”

Jesus wasn’t offering her a free pass, but what he was offering her was unconditional love and forgiveness.

Who of us is without sin? Then let’s go ahead and put those stones away and remember to love one another. We are all just one stone away from judgement.

On Fettuccini Alfredo and Forgiveness in REAL Families

On “Leave it to Beaver,” Ward comes home from a long day at work, and not only does June has a pot roast ready, but she serves it wearing a dress, heels and pearls. The worst thing that ever happens to Wally and the Beav is that Beav gets a bad grade on a test (that’s ok Beav! We’ll try again next time!) or Wally has to take his second choice gal Susie to the dance (that’s ok Wally! Janet was a !@#$ anyway). Just kidding…I don’t think Wally ever got turned down for a date.

The point is, the problems are never that bad, and the solutions come in half an hour (minus commercials).

In real life, in real families, it’s a bit more complicated. It’s a bit messier. It takes more than half an hour–sometimes months, or years–to work things out. Kids and parents both are damaged in the process. Relationships suffer and need some healing. This is what happens in REAL families.

We’re a normal family. When I say “normal” I really mean … normally messed up. We’re a real family.

We love each other, but we’re imperfect.

We hurt each other with our words and actions.

We’re careless, selfish.

We use the last of the toothpaste and don’t tell anyone.

We borrow one another’s clothes and don’t return them.

We hurl out insults (supposedly in jest) that wound as bitterly as the real thing.

We promise to do things (and forget).

We promise NOT to do things (and forget).

We put ourselves first. Most the time we don’t even realize it.

But sometimes we do and keep doing it anyway.

Thank goodness for Jesus.

When I say that, I need to clarify. I don’t mean, “Thank goodness for Jesus” because I expect him to swoop in and wipe the slate clean. Jesus does forgive, but our words and actions linger long after they’ve been said or done. As seen in the news recently (yes, I’m referencing the Duggars) any kind of abuse can’t just be “forgiven” and forgotten.

When I talk about “Real families” don’t think for a minute I’m advocating any sort of abuse, ever. The girls in that family, and all others who were victims, will deal with the consequences not only of the repeated acts BUT also the secrecy surrounding them. They are victims on many levels, and I’m not even talking about the extreme patriarchy that is twisted way beyond any measure God intended. By making everything a secret, it inevitably transfers part of the blame to the victims, and they’ve been through enough. Hearts hold wounds long after the scarring occurs.

But back to the task at hand, the forgiveness of everyday hurts, not abuse but just everyday life.

I do believe in the healing power of Jesus’s forgiveness, with all my heart. But I need to be careful to not abuse His love, his sacrifice by calling Him in over and over to clean up my mess. I can’t abuse Him like a giant jar of Whiteout, doing what I like then dumping His grace all over my mistakes and giving myself an excuse to do it again and again.

When I say, “Thank goodness for Jesus” I mean, I’m so grateful that He pricks my heart and my conscience, exposing my humanity, my sin to me just in case I start thinking too much of myself. I don’t want to get in the mindset of thinking justice for others and mercy for me. I need to spend time in prayer and quiet, listening for that still small voice to let me know when I’ve done wrong. When I’ve hurt those I love in deed or action.

It’s not enough to say “I’m sorry,” though that’s a good start. Jesus taught us to repent and turn from what we are repenting from. That if we don’t wish judgement to fall upon us, we must stop whatever it is we did in the first place. We must demonstrate the forgiveness with actions of love.

This week has been a rough one-nothing too serious but plenty unpleasant. Do I love my family? YES. Do I mess up? CONSTANTLY. Do I love them enough to admit it, out loud, and apologize?

Errrrrrrrrr….

That is difficult.

I don’t WANT to be wrong. I am wrong often, but that doesn’t mean I want to admit it.

But admitting it is important to healing. If I nag my kids, if I wound my husband with my words, I need to apologize, but that’s not enough. I need to demonstrate through my actions that I’m sorry.

One way I do this: Fettuccine Alfredo. If I’m feeling especially repentant? ANGEL hair pasta. See what I did there?

I know this is a horrible transition but I really want to give you this recipe, because nothing says “I’m sorry” like Fettuccini Alfredo.

The recipe I use is from Pioneer Woman’s website, EXCEPT I add cooked chicken and extra cream, because the portions are too small for Mancub and Papa Bear. I pretty much double the whole thing, if you want to know.

Now that I’ve posted it, I’m gonna watch another episode of the Beav. There seems to be an issue regarding a torn baseball card, and the Beav is really gonna get it this time.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/fettuccini-alfredo-recipe.html

The Savior and the Heart of Women

16 CARRACCI WOMEN AT THE TOMB OF CHR

It makes sense, really, that the women took the spices and went to the tomb early, before the rest of their day began. Women often wake up early, adding responsibilities to their already full plate. But this task–it wasn’t  the ordinary chore, is it? I can’t even imagine the weight of their hearts, like so many heavy slicing daggers, cutting and slicing through the bone, through their marrow to their very souls any time they thought of what had just happened to the One they loved.

Yet, they went, because women are practical. We take care of business, even when our hearts are breaking. The weaker sex? Please. Just because tears blur our vision doesn’t mean we are weak. It’s pushing through the pain that makes us women. They didn’t wait until they felt better. They didn’t postpone this unpleasant task until the pain was bearable. They didn’t take a rest first, or wait for someone to ask them to do it. They took the responsibility as theirs. They owned it. There was no argument amongst them about whose turn it was, and they didn’t let the other go alone.

Each step leading to the tomb must have been harder than the last, yet they didn’t slow. Knowing that He was lying there, lifeless, pale and torn, bruised and stabbed–how it must have frightened them and rendered their already tender hearts.

But wait. The light–the angel–the message: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here! He is risen, like he told you.”

And oh, the joy that flowed, even into the dark recesses of pain. The hope–the anticipation, the special favor bestowed upon them to be the first to know what gives us courage and delight, the bliss that engulfs us even today.

These women, they felt it. The Lord himself rewarded their tender hearts with the first knowledge of his promise fulfilled.

Who better to feel the first tender roots of the hope within us then the women?

Luke 24: 1-8

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.

Don’t Be Such a Girl! Science, Gender and Social Expectations of Faking Emotion

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This guy always makes me smile.

In an interview for Wired magazine, Marianne LaFrance, an experimental psychologist at Yale University said,

“On average girls and women smile more. This appears to be a function of two things. Boys are encouraged not to smile very much. Expressivity is taken by some as sign of emotionality, of femininity, something many men wouldn’t be caught dead being associated with.”

It makes sense, really. We’re trained, as little girls, to make everyone feel better. We’re told to smile when things get stressful, to smile when we greet someone, in photos, to even smile at strangers we don’t even know. When we don’t, people get worried. “Are you ok?” they ask. “What’s wrong? Are you sick?” Socially, it’s expected. Girls are not really given the option to avoid smiling.

Men and boys, on the other hand, are not expected to smile on command (either spoken or unspoken). If a man never smiles, people call him focused, intense, serious. Alternately, if a man does happen to smile, it’s kind of like a bonus. He’s a nice guy, he’s friendly. But if he smiles too much? It’s just as isolating. He’s insecure; he’s fake.

If a woman rarely smiles, she’s labeled as moody, unhappy, stressed out. She takes herself too seriously.  She can’t handle pressure. If you don’t feel like smiling? Too bad. Fake it.

Adrian Furnham Ph.D.,  argues that Southerners smile more than other regions in the US. This also makes sense because we’re often taught (especially as Southern women) to be overly concerned with others and their comfort, and smiling indicates friendliness. To not smile is to be sullen, rude. Nobody likes rude little girls. Nobody likes rude women.

We even have rules about genuine smiles and fake smiles:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201410/the-surprising-psychology-smiling

I have a proposal.

I think we should teach our little girls to smile when they want to. Let’s try to not pressure them into fake happiness for the benefit of others. Let’s teach our little boys that’s it’s ok to smile if they feel like it. Let’s begin as early as possible, demonstrating to our kids that genuine feelings and the expression of feelings is appropriate and ok. That doesn’t mean they get a license to be brats, by any means. It just means they are allowed to be genuine. Is it too much to hope that social expectations might shift, just the slightest, to allow our sons and daughters to be able to express their true emotions without judgement? I’d like to think so.

It makes me smile just thinking about it.

So You Think You Aren’t A Feminist? Think Again.

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The word “feminist” sometimes frightens people. It really shouldn’t. Sometimes people automatically link the word with the more extreme examples coming from the Third Wave Feminists of the 1980s. The picture black and white photos of Hilary Clinton and Gloria Steinem, their faces full of rage–angry women who seemed to hate men while striving for some kind of lesbian utopia where men were relegated to lives on the sidelines serving us.

This is not true for all of us. I love men, I do! Especially the four men I’m closest to–my hubby, my kid and my nephew and, oh yes–Jesus.  So don’t lump us all in with these radicals. I’m not. I am, however, radical for Jesus.

While some of these women did come across as men-haters, I think that their abrasiveness was less militant and more frustration from the ages-long suppression of their ideas and voice. One such feminist I’ve come to admire from this period is Gloria Anzaldúa. I studied her writings, and was particularly struck by her books This Bridge Called My Back and Borderlands. 

When I began reading Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza, I initially thought it interesting reading but not so relevant to me. What do I have in common with women who live on the border, in no man’s land, with no real place to call home? What connection do I have with their struggle? It sounds like a bloody, hard-fought fight, and one that is not nearly over. Even their version of God and heaven excludes them. I have a home. I have a family. I have an education and history. My God accepts me, and even longs for me.

Still, I sometimes felt the discord between feminism and Christianity. How could I be both Christian and feminist? Was this possible?

Yes. Sarah Bessey, in her book Jesus Feminist, writes:

At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance— not greater than, but certainly not less than— to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women. 4 Several years ago, when I began to refer to myself as a feminist, a few Christians raised their eyebrows and asked, “What kind of feminist exactly?” Off the top of my head, I laughed and said, “Oh, a Jesus feminist!” It stuck, in a cheeky sort of way, and now I call myself a Jesus feminist because to me, the qualifier means I am a feminist precisely because of my lifelong commitment to Jesus and his Way.

Does Jesus, at any point, tell women to shut up? Does he shame them, discard them, tell them to find their place?

Not really.

In fact, Jesus is kind of a feminist Himself.

The Silencing of Women as a Biblical Precept

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As 21st century women, we should have more freedom than ever to express ourselves, our talents, our hopes and desires, but in some ways we are more oppressed than ever. This inherent freedom that seems to exist is sometimes a trap, because strong women who speak their minds are often labeled as unholy, unsanctified, unChristian. Strong, opinionated women are sometimes vilified and mocked, painted in caricature with words as “feminazis”–dismissed.

In the South especially, the concept of “being a lady” is still widely associated with silence. This idea is manifested tenfold regarding women in the church, as we are taught to be silent in church matters or else we are not only bucking patriarchy but God Himself. As a Christian woman, I find myself at odds with these concepts, and have always struggled and fought them inwardly and outwardly.

Recently I have felt a kind of sisterhood in my convictions by reading the writings of Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans, who remind me to focus on the words of Jesus: what he said and what he didn’t say, when questioning whether certain aspects of theology should be viewed as historical rather than hard and fast rules that are many times abused to keep women under control.

This is not to say that the Bible should be thrown out or dismissed as archaic and not relevant. I still believe that the words held within the pages hold power and are indeed breathed by God. I just want to explore the scriptures, line by line, word by word, with other Jesus Feminists like Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans. I don’t think that it was ever within the heart of God that his words be twisted as weapons, and used to force silence when we want to sing.

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On Silencing, Southern Accents and Speaking Your Story

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“Let us listen for those who have been silenced. Let us honour those who have been devalued. Let us say, Enough! with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding. Let us not rest until every person is free and equal. Let us be women who Love.” From Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women.

When the 1970s wound down to a close, feminist scholarship bloomed anew. Women who had previously felt unheard began making a lot of noise. Gloria Anzaldúa’s works Borderlands: The New Mestiza, “Speaking in Tongues” A Letter to Third World Women Writers” and This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color brought the plight of the displaced Chicana to the forefront.

Speaking to her hermanas, Anzaldúa implemented her viewpoint as both a lower-class Chicana and an academic to issue her battle cry against discrimination of those who “live on the border” (165). Anzaldúa’s works, which include academic essays and poetry, encourage women to write in any way they know how, reminding the reader that she need not be a scholar to put her words to paper and that her voice, uneducated or not, is both important and necessary.

This applies to women today as much as it did then. The voices of women and other marginalized people need to find the freedom that writing affords us. Your voice, your message, is important and deserves to be heard, regardless if I agree or not. We must teach our daughters, our nieces, our mothers how to speak their minds and refuse the silence. This is our calling and one of our our highest privileges of service.

Like Anzaldúa’s Mestiza who lives on the border between the United States and Mexico, I believe those of us who comfortably speak with a Southern accent within the university classroom find ourselves alienated and often judged. By referencing Anzaldúa’s work with the Other, Borderlands can be interpreted as a guide to the Southern working-class woman with an accent might experience when she attempts to return to college to learn academic speak and writing.

Anzaldúa’s work as a whole spoke to me on a personal basis, but specifically her goal to “break down dualities that serve to imprison women” (Anzaldúa 5). Speaking more figuratively than literarily, I felt that I was experiencing a kind of duality while I looked for my identity as both academic and reformed hillbilly. Shifting identity is a common theme within Anzaldúa’s work, and the New Mestiza never feels on solid ground, because she “migrates between knowing herself” and not knowing (7). While I love being a student and writing, a part of me feels as if I am being silenced when I must leave behind my native words, my native voice. Anzaldúa quotes Ray Gwyn Smith: “Who is to say that robbing a people of its language is less violent than war?” While academic work does not technically erase all traces of my dialect, the goal is there to do so.

So speak your voice, tell your story. We, your sisters, wait to hear your message. How will we know you if you do not share?