Where Do You Draw the Line?

“Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”

-John 8:2-11

Very recently, I went through what I can call the worst experience of my life, so far. Someone broke my heart, and through it all, I kept thinking about the story about the adulterous woman in the Bible (John 8:2-11).  

Growing up, I often heard this story in reference to not judging others for their mistakes.  I was told we should put ourselves in place of the Pharisees so that we could realize Jesus tells us we should not judge anyone for the sins they commit because we are all sinners.

As I got older, I started seeing the story from a different perspective. If I was a sinner, didn’t I also need to be looked upon with kindness, didn’t I also need to be forgiven? My relationship with Jesus was strengthened with this story because it reminded me Jesus was on my side. He always wants the best for me and is willing to be there for me when no one else is.

The message seemed simple enough to understand: we are all sinners who will, at one time or another, need to be forgiven; so we should not look down on anyone because Jesus loves us all equally. However, through this very recent experience, I came to realize that when we only put ourselves in place of the Pharisees or of the woman, we miss a very important part of the story.

A few nights ago, I kept thinking about the choices I would have to make because of what had occurred. Would it be best for me if I kept things as they were or if I changed things? Could I forgive and reconcile, or should I just forgive and leave? When do you say you’ve had enough? Where do you draw the line?

At that moment, this story popped into my mind again. I kept thinking about Jesus, and his role in everything. Was it really just that easy to tell the woman that she was forgiven and that everything would be okay? I kept wondering how he did it.

The story says that Jesus was writing in the sand. We are not told what exactly he was writing, but, in my mind, I kept imagining Jesus writing words and then drawing a line in the sand.

I kept seeing Jesus calmly writing in the sand, and when he finished, I saw him draw a line, almost as if he were saying, “This is where you draw the line.”

My heart was broken this weekend, and instead of forgiving and turning my back on everything, I decided to forgive and stay. I wondered what others would think of my choices and of me. I was scared and I felt overwhelmed; but then, I thought of what Jesus told the woman, and I knew I did exactly what Jesus wanted of me.

I had always thought that drawing the line meant that you had to draw it between you and someone else. It meant breaking ties and bonds so that you would no longer be able to be hurt by them. Jesus taught me otherwise.

He saw the woman and knew her sin, and still chose to remain by her side. He chose to draw the line, not between himself and the woman, but between the woman and the world. He stayed by her side and fought for her so that she would know forgiveness. He showed her what it meant to be loved.  

I know the road ahead will not be easy, but now that I know where to draw the line. I know that at least I’ll end up where God wants me.

 

Originally written and posted February 28, 2012

Advertisements

A Child Forgiven

“I was in the shadows

for so long.

Waiting.

to be found,

to be invited

into the light.

Being patient,

obedient.

I was in the shadows

for so long

that I lost myself

and forgot to wait.

forgot to listen.”


Yesterday, when I went to confession, Father told me that I was loved…that God loves me. I didn’t know how much I needed to hear those words until I heard them. Somewhere along the way, I had lost that truth, and I spent so long searching for something that could make me feel God’s love again. Those words were a much needed reminder of my worth.


Sometimes, it’s easy to get so caught up in the world that you lose yourself and forget to be loved. You get mixed up in the chaos of life and stop listening to God’s messages.


This week, I was able to block out the world and just listen.


I met a little 6-year-old boy who told me that I was pretty. In all honesty, his comment took me by surprise because men my age are all too often passive and insincere. However, his comment was made with the most innocent of intentions. He was only admiring the beauty he saw in his world.


At first sight, this little boy seems like a normal, happy child; but his life is far from normal. He’s been abandoned by a mother he’s never met and by a father who is too busy to take care of him. He has so many questions that may never be answered, and he’s angry. In truth, he has a right to be angry; but instead of letting his anger rule his life, he sees someone like me and smiles. He looks at the world and sees the good in his life. It’s no wonder Jesus told us to be like children.


Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 18:1-4


Many of us can probably relate to this little boy’s pain. We have had many unanswered questions about life. We have felt abandoned by our Father, and we have felt angry because there’s nothing we can control or change in this life.


If only we could just as easily relate to a child’s view of love and beauty.


Children can look past the lies, hatred, and anger in this world and see truth. They can live in this world and not let the chaos blind them to the beauty that surrounds them. They can receive love and just as easily give love.


As an adult, I have found that it is sometimes difficult to hear God’s voice amidst the chaos of our everyday lives. So often we feel that God is not speaking to us and we gradually create more chaos as a way of drowning out His whisper in our heart. We start to believe lies that lead us astray from His plan for us. We trap ourselves in sinfulness, and we start to ignore the love and grace we were created to live with.


It becomes so easy to live with the lies: “I am worthless.” “God does not love me.” “Just this one time” “What I’m doing isn’t that bad.”, but deep in our heart, God’s whisper can be heard. We know it’s all lies, but believing them starts to give us false hope. We feel in control of our lives, when, in reality, the only thing we are doing is creating more chaos and damaging our spirit.


Eventually, we hold on to the lies because fear takes over. We hold on to the lies because our other alternative is forgiveness, and being forgiven means that we can no longer ignore God’s love and grace. Letting go of the lies and being forgiven means that we owe it to ourselves to listen to God’s whisper…to love others…to have a childlike faith…and to love ourselves



“Mercy bend and breathe me back to life, but not before you show me how to die…” 

                                                                                              -Show Me by Audrey Assad

Originally Written and Posted: October 31, 2010 at 9:34pm

Breaking the Silence

“Sometimes we’re up and sometimes we’re down, Sometimes the world goes round and round and we don’t stop to think that we got a lot in common…Just look inside your soul ‘cause we got a lot in common” -A Lot in Common by Group 1 Crew


At the beginning of this summer, my world felt right. There was so much good in life, so much good in everything I did. The people I called friends made me feel like we could overcome any obstacles, as long as we overcame them together. God was so present amongst our group, and it felt like we all had a strong foundation for our faith. I honestly believed we were helping each other grow in our faith; but what we were really doing was pulling each other in all of these different directions, and none of them towards God.


I didn’t realize how far we had all fallen until I was hurt by every single person I had called friend. I felt left out, forgotten, unimportant, unloved, and used. I had tried to love these people to the best of my ability, and they didn’t care enough to try for me.


After that day, I was prepared to tell those people exactly how I felt, but as time progressed, I convinced myself otherwise. I pretended nothing was wrong, and I told myself I was being forgiving by pushing the hurt away and not saying anything.


Unfortunately, the hurt stayed with me, and every time I was hurt by someone again, the pain would pile up. I would just push the pain away and tell myself I was being forgiving, but the whole time the pain was just piling up.


After a while, the pain turned into anger. I know I hurt people along the way; but I felt like they didn’t care, so I stopped caring, too. The sad part is that everyone pretended everything was good, great even. We were just one big, happy family…but we weren’t.


Deep down, we were all unhappy with something. Each of us with our own wounds and secrets…  Each one of us feeling left out and unimportant at some point…


I know I am as much to blame as everyone else for everything that went wrong with our friendship. The whole time I kept telling myself I was forgiving my friends for hurting me; but I wasn’t loving them, and there can be no forgiveness without love.


“He who forgives an offense seeks love…” –Proverbs 17:9


I rarely write down my feelings for people to read, but I felt like I needed to write these feelings down today because they aren’t just my feelings…


I know all of the people I have been talking about have felt or still feel just like I did. It’s sad how we all just keep living as if nothing bothers us, as if we’re strong enough to handle things on our own. We keep putting ourselves in bad situations because we think our life needs to be validated by people who are just going to lead us away from God. We keep fighting to bury secrets that are just destroying the foundation of our faith. We’re living lives that don’t bring any glory to God. We’re tearing apart the beauty of life and friendship through our silence and inaction… 


“…perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent…” –Psalm 50:2-3


If I can’t tell the people who I call friends how I really feel, then what kind of friendship is that? Where is God in a relationship like that? I’m tired of being silent and pushing my feelings aside; and if I continue allowing myself to do that, I’ll just feel further away from God than I felt before. So, I’m through pushing things aside and remaining silent and pretending that everything’s fine when it isn’t. I’m not going to just tell myself I’m being forgiving, instead I’m going to work on loving and trusting God more because then forgiveness and everything else will eventually fall into place.

“Picked all my weeds but kept the flowers” -Sober by Kelly Clarkson

 

Originally Written and Posted: August 31, 2010 at 9:16pm

I Am Pro-Life. I Am Pro-Forgiveness.

It’s that time of year again…election season.

I can honestly say voting is one of the most conflicting things I do in life.  It feels like we are constantly reminded of how important it is to vote so that our voice gets heard. Looking at the ballot for this year, and for previous years I’ve been able to vote…my voice feels anything but heard. I look over the issues each year hoping someone will really be my voice; but in the end, I sift through my mind and think, “Which issues do I want to compromise on this year?”

What bothers me the most out of all of this isn’t the frustration I feel towards voting, but the comments I hear from other people in regard to voting (i.e. other Catholics).  “As Catholics, it’s our duty to vote! We’re pro-life, so we have to vote for the pro-life candidates!”  At face value, I agree with these statements. Voting is important, so we need to vote; and we are Catholic, so we are pro-life. Where I have problems, though, is when we really get down to what people mean by saying they are pro-life.

Most Catholics I know often equate the statement “being pro-life” with “being against abortion,” but the pro-life movement is about so much more than just abortion. The pro-life movement is about respecting life from conception all the way to natural death. A lot of people get stuck on just the beginning of that phrase. They seem to forget about natural death and about life between conception to natural death.

Yes, we are a Church that believes life begins at conception, but we are also a Church that believes in the beauty of family and in the beauty of helping the less fortunate. We are a Church that focuses on being charitable to others and focuses on loving everyone regardless of where they are in life. We desire hope and peace, and the pro-life movement strives for all of these things.

Abortion, poverty, bullying, education, suicide, addiction, unfair wages, health care, immigration, war, capital punishment…the list of pro-life issues is endless. If I had to sum up the pro-life movement in one word, though, I would use the word forgiveness because if we don’t have forgiveness for others, we don’t have respect for life.

My heart breaks every time someone contradicts him/herself by condemning the act of abortion but just as easily refusing to provide help for the homeless. Maybe the deeper issue lies in the fact that we are condemning people for their wrong actions, in the first place. We have to give people a chance at redemption. We have to let people make up for their mistakes before writing them off.

My heart further breaks every time someone contradicts him/herself by standing up against bullying but just as quickly pushing for the cruel punishment or death of a criminal. I am fully aware we can’t allow criminals to run free and do as they please and that there are criminals who don’t want salvation or change in their life. As a counselor, though, I’ve seen more times than I’d like the pattern of the abused becoming the abusers, generation upon generation of people who have never known anything but abuse in their lives. Punishing criminals in cruel ways only lets them know it’s okay to treat others in a cruel way.  It doesn’t show them a better way to behave, it doesn’t teach them that people in their right mind don’t kill or abuse, and in the end, it just makes us the abusers…it makes us the cruel ones.

Forgiveness…sometimes, we have to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made or for not living up to our goals. Other times, we have to forgive others for their heartless actions and for all of the pain they’ve caused…and still, other times, we have to forgive God for letting us down, for not letting us take the easy way out, and for having a plan different from the one we’d like.

So, this year, when November comes around, I will, once again, vote for the lesser of two evils. My voice may be just a whisper in the election results, but as long as I remember to keep forgiving, then the pro-life movement in all stages and journeys of life will be heard in my tiny corner of the world. My voice may fail at times, because I’m only human after all, but maybe if other voices join in with mine, I’ll finally be able to stop wondering which issues I’ll have to compromise.

Originally Written and Posted: October 21st, 2014