Drawing in the Dirt

Drawing in the Dirt

 
Found in John 8:1-12

There was a silence when we began. The quiet rise and fall of lungs filling with air, the soft whispering of a breath drawn in and a breath exhaled.

We didn’t begin with a loud bang. We didn’t begin with a “Let there be- and it was so”. We didn’t begin with words at all. We began with a breath. And mud. (Genesis 2:7)

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Spoken words created everything else in all of creation, but with us, God stood speechless and reached down into the clay. He found no words to describe us into being. Just His touch. Personal. Just His breath. Close. 

When God formed the first human beings into humanity He knelt down into the grit of things and let the cool clay clump between his fingers and cake on His palms. When He created humankind, He got grit under His fingernails and dust around His wrists. His hands got dirty. And He worked. Putting His all into us.

When God’s love led Him to spill Himself over into mud, to pour His life, His Breath into the mud of us. It got messy. His hands got dirty. 

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We alone in creation began with grace. Grace that was formed for us before we were formed. Grace came first for us. It always has. Even before our breath. 

‘He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.’ (2 Timothy 1:9)

After everything broke and humanity reached breathless for the dark, He didn’t leave. He stayed close. Walked alongside. But we forgot. We forgot our breath and wallowed in the mud, wheezing for air while strangling it out of ourselves and one another; gasping for the breath that once was us, the grace that once was ours.

And we still crave it in our secret silence like nothing else on earth. This grace. This love that loves us anyway, though we’re caked in mud. We crave it because we know, somewhere in the ancient recesses of our psyche, it is what we were formed for, what we were given. What we lost. We think. And we reach for it in a thousand broken ways, searching a thousand human faces, looking for the traces of His, the signs of His heart. His heart that loved us anyway. And we stretch ourselves inside out, reaching for love, reaching for connection, reaching for closeness and fulfilment. 

And breathless we fall. 

Prey to a world full of mud.

Just as she did. 

This day. 

Two thousand years ago…

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It had felt like love. At first. And with every word he took her breath away. There was something in his eyes she could not name, could not resist, could not refuse. 

He drew her. 

Like a moth. 

About to burn. 

‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group…’ John 8:3

There’s a point in which a group becomes a mob, feeding off each other’s certainty and pride, collecting breathless fervour with every step; a collective mind, collective aim, collective drive. 

There was something in their shared energy they could not name, could not resist, could not refuse. 

They drew her, 

through the dirt. 

They dragged her, 

through the dust. 

They had all they needed now. 

They had her. 

Like bait upon a hook, like a trap waiting to snap.

They had Him. They thought.

They dragged her into the courtyard of the Temple. The place where people came to be near God. Close.

They drew near Him. 

Closing in. 

Breathless, they shoved her and made her stand before them.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group…’ John 8:3

Angry scornful faces whirled around her. She couldn’t breathe for all the dust and fear.

It felt like hate. And every word they spoke left her cold. And there was something in their eyes she could not name, could not understand, could not place.  

She stood surrounded. 

Completely alone. 

In the centre of the mob. 

But when she finally dared to raise her eyes, she saw.

She wasn’t alone.

The mob had encircled Him too.

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The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. ” Now what do you say?” John 8:3-5

Such women. 

They didn’t say her name. They didn’t speak to her at all. Like an object she stood numb in their midst. She was a category now. She was ‘such women’. An object with one simple use.  

She’d been an object before… it had felt like love. At first. 

She had stretched herself inside out, reaching for love, reaching for connection, reaching for closeness and fulfilment. 

And now she fell. 

Prey to a world full of mud. Breathless. 

She’d been used once before by men and now these men sought to use her still. How were they any different?  

But as the mob circled and as their words flew around her, slowly she began to understand. Behind all of their words, lingered the motivation of their hearts. This wasn’t about righteousness. At all. This wasn’t about her. At all. She wasn’t standing there because she’d broken the law. She was standing there because they wanted Him to break it. 

For her. 

For ‘such women’.

‘In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. ” Now what do you say?”. They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.’ John 8:5-6

She was a category. She was an object. She was bait. She was ‘Such women’. 

Such women cannot commit adultery alone. Where was he? The one who stole her breath with every word. Where was the look in his eyes now? The look she could not name, could not resist, could not refuse. Where was he? 

It had felt like love. At first. 

Now? It felt like nothing. She felt like less than nothing. 

She felt like dirt. 

Mud beneath their feet.

All of them.

‘But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.’ John 8:6

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When God’s love led Him to spill Himself over into mud, to pour His life, His Breath into the mud of us. It got messy. 

His hands got dirty.

Dust. Dirt. It’s where we began. God getting down into the dust of us. When God formed the first human beings into humanity He knelt down into the grit of things and let the cool clay clump between his fingers and cake on His palms. When He created humankind, He got grit under His fingernails and dust around His wrists. His hands got dirty. And He worked. Putting His all into us.

Dust. Dirt. It’s where we began. But it’s never been where we end. We’re not just mud. It was the breath that made us wake. Breath. The Breath of God.

How often we forget our breath and treat each other like dirt. How often we think that dust is all we are. We wallow in our mud and forget the Breath that brought the mud to life. And in forgetting our breath we forget the very essence of who we are. Human. 

Instead we become a mob, objectifying others and categorising human beings. Or we become an object, selling ourselves numb in exchange for what we feel will feel like love.

Breath. How do you restore it when it’s been strangled out of a soul? How do you help a breathless world catch its breath in wonder?

How do you break a mob apart, so they can begin to breathe again? How do you restore a broken soul who has  been used and trampled and left? How do you breathe into dust once more and cause it to awake?

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

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Silence. 

It can be so loud sometimes. 

It can make you catch your breath in all the weight of truth it holds. Silence can be so loud, as loud as the sound of your own beating heart reminding you that it is there.

Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.’ John 8:8

Mud. Mire. It’s where we dwell at times.  In our steely certainties and rock hard resolutions. They had been the good guys, in their minds. They had been the ones upholding the law. In their minds. 

She was nothing but a broken law. 

A means to an ends. 

An object. Nothing. 

In their minds. 

Mud. 

And He, in their minds, He was the enemy. 

Their minds were so sure. So set. So made up. 

Certain. 

Rock. Dirt. Mud.

They had hardened their faith into laws and codes and rites. And crushed their own breath in the process. Stone hearts don’t beat. They throw stones.

But Jesus’ words now. They weighed upon their hearts. Hearts un-used to feeling… hearts unused to… something. Something like oxygenating Breath. 

He drew in the dust of who they were, stirring up questions they’d thought they’d answered. 

He made it personal. 

He re-made them persons. 

Human beings. 

With Breath.

Silence can be so loud. As loud as the sound of our own beating heart reminding us that it is there.

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The weight of Jesus’ words sit heavy on their hard hearts, and cracks begin to form, one by one; beating hearts shed their concrete cocoons, broken hearts shed their certainty and pride, one by one. Crack by crack, stone hearts begin to break, beat by beat Breath-fuelled hearts begin to pulse, truth by truth the mob begins to break. Apart. Break. Open to the possibility that they also, are mud. That they also, are Breath.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first…’ John 8:9

Waiting for the first stone, she stood, braced, holding her breath. Flinching all the while. Waiting for the rock which would break her skull in two. Waiting for the words that would tear her soul apart. 

Waiting for the first man without sin to throw the first stone.

It never came. 

They left her standing there.  Completely alone.

In the centre of the space the mob had been. 

Empty space.

But when she finally dared to raise her eyes, she saw.

She wasn’t alone.

‘…until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”John 8:9-10

Where are they? He said. Knowing the answer. Where is the human being who can stand in sinless judgement on another? Is there anyone on earth who can say they have no sin?

Suddenly she saw. Something. Suddenly she perceived. Someone. Someone whose words drew her breath in wonder. Someone who seemed to say she was not nothing. Not an object. Not mud. Not dirt beneath His feet.

‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.’ John 8:10-11

Looking at him, she might have flinched. Just a little. 

Would he throw the stone? 

Wasn’t she mud? 

To Him?

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‘“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.’ John 8:11

There was a silence as she stood there. The quiet rise and fall of lungs filling with air, the soft whispering of a breath drawn in and a breath exhaled.

It felt like grace. First. 

It felt like love. At last. 

And with every word He gave her back her breath. There was something in His eyes she could not name, could not resist, could not quite grasp. 

He drew her. Like a moth.

To light. 

“Go now and leave your life of sin.”John 8:11

Leave the lies that lead you into selling yourself numb. 

Leave the life of striving for what you feel will feel like love. 

Leave behind the scars that fuel your reaching for the dark.

Don’t reach for what feels like love, reach for what is love (John 1:16) . 

Reach for Me. As I have reached for you.

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When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”John 8:12

Breath. How do you restore it when it’s been strangled out of a soul? How do you help a breathless world catch its breath in wonder?

Jesus words. They weigh upon hearts. Hearts un-used to feeling, hearts unused to… something. Something like oxygenating breath. He draws in the dust of who we are, stirring up questions we thought we’d answered. 

He makes it personal. 

He re-makes us persons. 

Human beings. 

With Breath.

We didn’t begin with a loud bang. We didn’t begin with a “Let there be- and it was so”. We didn’t begin with words at all. 

We began with a silence that can be so loud. As loud as the sound of our own beating heart, reminding us that it is there.

We alone in creation began with grace. Grace that was formed for us before we were formed. And we alone in creation begin again with grace.

Breath-giving grace. 

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Grace comes first. Then healing, hope and truth trail in it’s wake.

Before the mud, before our Breath; Grace came first for us. Because He was there. First. For us.

Right from the very beginning. 

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ John 1:17

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