I fear the light of a new day almost as much as I fear the setting sun. In the night they use me and despise themselves for their weakness. Their guilt? That falls on me by morning. For the money to buy food for another day, I bear the weight of their bodies and the weight of their sin. I live with my eyes cast down.
I hear them in the street. The door bangs open. Gruff men, whose hatred can be felt in their grip are pulling me, pushing me. I’m exposed. Half naked. Being bullied and hurt is familiar but there is a special lust in their eyes. It isn’t me they want to rape. They want to use me to rape another. I’m forced to be their instrument of vileness as I’m shoved through the alley, then dragged by my hair.
The sun is bright and hot, as are the stares of the wealthy and powerful in the square. There are shouts. I am almost welcoming my end. Please let it be quick I think rather than pray. I am tossed to the center, shaking. The voices rage louder as they decide my fate. Someone is talking about casting stones. The taste of death fills my mouth. Even with their shouting, I can hear my heart pound.
Shame washes over me as they step back, leaving me standing apart. I can’t move, can’t run. I try to go inside and disappear but my shaking brings me back. One of them comes close and crouches down at my feet as if He doesn’t see me. I finally shrivel into myself and the shouting fades. It seems like the entire square is receding. Like there is just Him and me. I am still shaking. It is so silent only the wind can be heard.
I can’t look away as He stands. I’ve seen Him before. He isn’t repulsed. Instead, He moves closer, too close to me. He looks around and I follow His eyes. They have all gone. It wasn’t just in my mind. Yet I have never felt such shame and sorrow as I do standing with Him so close. Intimately close but not like them, like a protective brother or father. My shaking stops. Tears fall.
Gently, He says, “Woman, where are those thine accusers?” I look around but can give no answer. Hope grows warm on my face and neck.
Our eyes lock and I stop breathing. “Hath no man condemned thee?” He asks.
I think, ‘what does it matter. you know what I am.’ But I draw a breath again to whisper, “No man, Lord.”
His eyes, His face, they soften like the way a man looks at his newly born son.
His voice offers words I hear new every morning since, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
A heavy blackness overwhelms me like the crack of a whip and then as quickly as it came there is a lightness of being embraced by His presence. I know am free, my cheeks once red with shame now flushed with the glow of a child’s innocence.
And you? Are your accusers silenced yet? I know a man who set me free . . .