Neither Do I Condemn You

Read John 8:1-11

Walking away from God is surely not without consequence. After reading about this woman caught in adultery I thought about sheep. How stupid they are to wonder away from the care of the shepherd. They do not last long on out on their own. Maybe when you read about this woman you thought the same thing, “How stupid.”

Like the sheep from Luke 15 that we read about on Tuesday, I went astray. I went out searching for something that I thought my Shepherd was withholding from me. Have you ever been stubborn like that? “If you won’t give it to me then I will just get I myself.” After Jeff and I were married we struggled to get it together spiritually. I tried so hard to reach out to Jeff but he was cold and distant. Since we weren’t going to church my “well” was beginning to run dry. Soon I had wondered so far from the Lord that I contemplated having an affair as an escape from my lonely marriage. I even read the book The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. You may have seen the movie. The whole story starts with these two adult kids going through their mother’s things after she had passed away. They stumble upon a journal and are shocked to learn that their mother had a passionate weeklong affair when they were school kids. The whole message of the book was that if you are so unhappy it’s ok to betray your husband. Keep it a secret. No one finds out. No one gets hurt. And I really fell for it. I believed that I could have this affair and it would be as a precious jewel that would I stash away in my jewelry box. Only I know it’s there and I can go and look at it whenever I wanted. The memories would be a hidden treasure that I would secretly cherish. It would be my companion on lonely days. So off I went. Even now I imagine my Shepherd watching me from afar, His wondering sheep. The reality of the affair was not at all like the fairy tale I kept trying to make happen. It was awkward. So many lies. Not satisfying. I knew I had made a huge mistake. I ended the two month long affair and I was so scared and lost and all alone. My heart bleated for The Shepherd. He found me. And I was ashamed to find that He never took His eyes off me. My repentant heart grieved over betraying my husband’s trust and I agreed with God that I was so wrong. I did not feel worthy of His help. It was my mess. But it is impossible to stand in such strong waves of grace and mercy. I felt so stupid and also very aware. It was like I could see clearly now. I thought back to the book I read and I was furious with the lie it was propagating.   There was no precious jewel of memories to treasure in my heart. Only a deep stabbing pain every time I looked in my husband’s eyes. How could Francesca live with her husband while harboring such a secret? I’m guessing she didn’t live much. There is no life apart from Christ and we will never feel free if we are held hostage by such damaging secrets. Jeff was not perfect but his love was true. We struggled to meet eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart but it was pure and right. He would look in my eyes and tell me he loved me. “Not if you knew what I did”, my heart whispered. It was time to take the power away from this secret shame. We know that the truth will set us free and I would not spend the rest of my years living a lie with my husband, though I feared he wouldn’t be my husband much longer.

How do you find the courage and confidence to confess such a scandalous betrayal?

This is where the confidence comes from. When you live as a tortured prisoner and you see a way to escape, you take it. Even if it means you lose your right arm in the process. I might lose my husband, but at least I would be free. Free ladies! That was my courage and my confidence! I refused to let the shame rule over me. Not when Jesus stands bearing scars on behalf of my freedom! And oh the tears of relief. There is nothing like it.

I did confess to Jeff and his parents. And to my family. He moved out for 5 months. Possibly friends thought I must be a wreck as I lived alone awaiting my fate. Quite the opposite. It was before I confessed that I was a wreck and lived with a dark cloud hanging over me. But now my heart was free and alive. I was no longer a prisoner. Do you know how good that freedom feels? It sustained me when Jeff left and it steadied me as he contemplated keeping me as his wife. I knew that no matter what, I would not be destroyed. I was reminded how precious my marriage is. On the verge of losing it forever I was making a commitment to cherish it always and not mistreat it.

How is our marriage now? Stronger. And carefully protected like the precious jewel it is.

This week we have spent time talking about when we have ignored God. And this is what we have learned…

From the Woman at the Well learn that only Jesus satisfies.

From the Lost Sheep we learn how compassionate He is and how dependant we are.

From Peter we learn that no matter how we have walked away from Jesus that He still has a place for us.

And finally from The Woman Caught in Adultery we learn that when our sin threatens to separate us from the love of God, Jesus does not condemn us.

Thank you friends so much for letting me invade your inbox this week! Praying for you all to respond to God when He reaches out for you. We’ll be in touch again before we meet on the 20th.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. – Galatians 5:1

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. –John 10:10

And the peace of god, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:7

Advertisements

Finder of Lost Sheep

Especially for all my Elmwood friends!

I do not take it lightly that you have taken me into your fold! Hope to spend many more evenings being real with you. Did you ladies go home feeling as full as I did last night? Not from Alicia’s delicious Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting but full in your heart? Did you walk in your house feeling like you had something to give your family? I did and it was awesome. Just knowing that you guys are reading the same scriptures as me pushes me closer to Him. You encourage me! I need this kind of accountability.

So…today was the Lost Sheep of Luke 15:1-7. Did you love reading Jesus’ words?

Do you have some thoughts you want to share?

Right now I want to zero in on verse 7. I’ll write it here in the, uh hem, New Living Translation… (if you checked your email you’ll know why that’s funny.)

Luke 15:7 NLT – In the same way there is more joy in heaven over on lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Jesus always preferred the company of “sinners”; people who weren’t trying to impress Him.   I think that is still true for us today. I always feel a more intimate connection with Jesus when I recognize that I don’t have to impress Him. I think He can tell when I’m “church’n’ things up”.   You know, showing off my good side and not acknowledging the dirty parts of my life that He wants to tend to.  It’s hard to be vulnerable and real. But if there was ever a safe place to be vulnerable and honest, it is at the feet of Jesus. Remember how I wanted to pull away from Jesus…recoil from Him. I think we do that because we aren’t sure if we can trust Him.   We don’t think He will like what He sees and that maybe He’s just gonna shame us. Re-read Luke 15:5-7 and tell me if you think that Jesus would shame you.

For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. –John 3:17

It is because of Jesus, our Savior that we can stand before God, The Judge. We need cling to Him!

I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten your commands. Psalm 119:176 NLT

Here are some fun facts about sheep to ponder… remember now, we are the sheep! Have fun, bless you all! Email or share your thoughts in the comment section.

Sheep are actually quite relationally intelligent. In studies, sheep can visually recognize up to fifty individual sheep by photo. They also have strong emotions and frail hearts: sheep feel pain over the pain of other sheep in their flock.  In fact, when one of its sheep-friends is in distress, a sheep can literally kill itself with worry because it can’t do anything to help.  All it can do is to cry out for its Shepherd to come rescue its friend.

Sheep are Defenseless, Directionless, and in all ways Dependent.

No other animal is so dependent on someone else to take care of it.  Its wool, for instance, has to be sheared regularly, or it becomes matted and overgrown, and debris accumulates in it.  As a result, the sheep can become overheated and top-heavy; and when a sheep gets top-heavy, it easily lose its balance and falls over—a position from which it is unable to escape on its own.  Once a sheep is on its back, it is stuck there until someone finds and rights it, until it starves to death, or until a predator puts it out of its misery.

All sorts of things can cause suffering for a sheep. Flies will gather on its face and can drive the sheep insane.  In an effort to relieve itself of the constant annoyance, a sheep will hit its head against tree stumps or fence posts, sometimes causing its own death.  To prevent this, the shepherd will smooth oil around the sheep’s eyes, nose, mouth and ears to repel the tiny Death Files.

Parasites will burrow into the folds of skin beneath the sheep’s wool, lay eggs and cause infection.  The shepherd must investigate every inch of his sheep’s’ bodies, and will pay that same tender, meticulous attention to each one.

Sheep are also prone to overeating, over-drinking, and slothfulness.  The shepherd carefully weeds dangerous plants from the pastures to which he leads them, and often wakes them early in the morning when dew is on the grass so that they can hydrate and eat all at once.  He takes individual walks with those he notices have been inactive.

In their dependence, sheep are also directionless. [1 Peter 2:25] They seek a leader to follow, even if it’s just another directionless sheep.  (In Turkey in 2005, 1,500 sheep followed one wayward sheep off the edge of a cliff while their shepherds were having a lunch break!) Sheep also get overwhelmed and paralyzed when given too many options to choose from while traveling to new pastures, or when the path seems scary.  The shepherd knows to show them clearly which opening to go through and which steps to take.

Sheep are dependent on a shepherd for defense as well [John 10:12].  They have neither defensive nor offensive weapons; they don’t even have front teeth. Sheep are prone to heart attacks if terrified, and can become too scared even to bleat.  Should the sound of a predator be heard, the eyes of all the sheep will flash to their shepherd. [Exodus 14:13-14]  They know they are helpless without him.

Quoted from This Is Church. Gospel Stories & Ideas. College Style. Retrieved November 5, 2012, from http://www.thisischurch.net/bible-reflection/sheepology-101/