Deep Sex II…

I was seated in the living room of a single man who had opened his home to a diverse group of people attending the same church in urban Kansas City. The occasion was a community dinner where small groups would come together and get to know others within the congregation. The church is unique. While it is far from conservative, it isn’t quite liberal either, especially in the theology of its leadership. Instead, I would describe it as being somewhat experimental in it approach to developing ways to follow Jesus and teach scripture which are respectful to church history, yet open to newer metaphors.

The group of people I was with was an eclectic mix of young, older, single, married, straight, and gay. We had finished eating and were beginning to share about our lives in a deeper way. Just two days before, the woman to which I was married at the time and I had finished the paperwork to begin the legal process of divorce. Not only was I feeling very melancholy about this fact, I was also quite reticent to go into life as a single man. I told the story about how I had recently visited a church by myself, and aside from the traditional greeters just inside the front doors, nobody had spoken to me. I explained to the group that it felt as if people were a little intimidated by me, as if they were extending their arms, palms outward, to ward me off. After I finished my statement, a younger man in his mid-thirties, boldly spoke: “That’s what it feels like to walk into a church as a gay man…” He then began to tell his story about trying to find a church that would embrace him as he was. He spoke about knowing about his homosexuality from his earliest remembrances. I responded of knowing my own heterosexuality from my earliest remembrances. We both spoke, and we both listened. I was struck by how similar we were rather than how different.

Does it really matter with whom we have sex?

I believe it does… but probably not for the reason you might be thinking.

Image

Recently, I was given the gracious invitation by my niece to take family pictures of her family. I agreed to do it, with great joy. Her family, with husband (my sister’s son) and three kids; my sister and husband; and myself met at a local tourist location with many backdrop options. After shooting about 180 pictures or so, we came to my house for them to see my home. In the corner of the living room, I have placed the mirror and collection of frames shown above. Each of the frames has a story linked uniquely to my heritage:

The gold oval frame originally contained my grandparent’s wedding picture, although the image and bubbled glass protecting it were broken in my mother’s move just after Dad was killed in a traffic accident.

The frame just beneath the gold frame was given to my father, along with a hand-painted landscape, by an artist he met in a church in which he held revival decades ago. Although the picture is long gone, I still have the frame.

Beneath the two previous frames is one made with barn siding taken from a home site in Southwestern Kansas upon which my dad’s family lived during his childhood.

This collection of articles, although not originally intended as such, is a spiritual metaphor to me. As we were sitting around talking, and looking at the images I had just taken of the family, I haphazardly looked into the mirror behind the frames, and noticed the reflection of London, the eldest daughter of my nephew and niece, framed by the successive frames. I immediately stopped, retrieved my camera, and took two shots of London’s reflection in the mirror. We then eventually said our good nights and they went home.

 

The next morning, as I was getting ready for work, I couldn’t get the image off my mind. Slowly, it dawned on me the symbolic impact of London’s image which could be seen through the tunnel of frames resting on the mirror. I began to remember the familial significance of each frame. It was as if this girl’s story, and image, were being framed by the stories of the familial and cultural heritage of those who came before her.

The gold oval frame symbolizes the long tradition of intact families. My grandparents (my father’s parents in this case) were married for over 60 years, even though my grandfather was 11 years older than my grandmother. In the long line of marriages within at least of 100 years of direct lineage, of which I am aware; London’s direct family tree (at least on her father’s side. I don’t know about her mother’s side) contains no divorces. The result is an expectation that marriage is for life, and couples have worked out their differences and stayed together.

The middle frame symbolizes the impact of the larger community of Christian believers throughout the centuries. My father’s family expressed openness and generosity to, as well as respect for, other expressions of the Christian faith than that to which they held. My mother also was open to growth in other expressions of the faith. Other faith traditions were treated with respect, with a careful understanding and communication to their children as to why they remained Christian.

The frame closest to the mirror symbolizes survival in hard times. Both my parents’ families lived through the Great Depression. They were poor. In fact, for the most part, we remained poor economically. We learned how to make do with few resources. Such difficulties help people rely heavily upon both each other, and to the provision of God, even when it is meager.

Most importantly, the mirror itself symbolizes God, and that we each bear God’s image. Each of us is a reflection of some aspect of the infinite Creator.

Ultimately, it is to this image that the search for Deep Sex is intended to take us. The journey to this image can be difficult, and takes a lifetime to clarify. In some families, the framework obstructs our capability to see the image. For all of us, the culture within which we live can also provide obstructions, or even worse, alternate images of ourselves that we are encouraged to emulate. Many times we can be our own worst enemies in acknowledging, embracing, and then living into the image of God in us. However, even in our brokenness, we reflect a God who can innervate us with God’s presence so that our entire experience is redeemed to benefit the community around us. Deep Sex is the expression of our deepest selves in love to God and others.

For instance, although I am the first person on my father’s side of my family to be divorced; God has redeemed the experience. I am learning more about myself, and life in general. I don’t recommend divorce… Divorce sucks… yet, as Jesus mentioned, Moses permitted the practice due to “the hardness of your hearts.” From my perspective, this isn’t just necessary because our hearts are hard in the midst of a bad marriage; so hard in fact, that forgiveness may be considered to be completely unreasonable by one or both partners; but divorce can be valuable because the pain and disappointment are so sharp as to pierce the callouses of our heart and allow us to be teachable once again. That is if we choose growth instead of bitterness. It is certainly possible to allow the pain to deepen the callouses of our heart, but this time the callouses cover a layer of pus which develops when we allow bitterness to guide our experience. We then are entrenched in our personal, relational dysfunction in ways that make personal vulnerability unlikely. Sadly, vulnerability is a necessary quality of love.

In warfare, I have heard it said that we are always preparing to fight the last war. Relationships can be like that, I think. It is easy to learn the lessons from the prior relationship, yet be unable to adapt to a new story. That is why I have come to find that the best way for me to be open to the possibility of a new love, is to learn all I can about how to live in healthier ways myself. Honestly, that isn’t an easy task. In so doing, however, I open myself to God  to allow God to bring my own “Shadow” to light. It is difficult to know what “healthy” even looks like for me, if I don’t realize my dysfunction. I hate to see it… but I need to see it. Acknowledging my Shadow opens me to the grace of God. In this process, celibacy is invaluable. It is really easy for me to become obsessed with the fantasy which is at the beginning of a new relationship, and doing so can short-circuit the process of deep growth. But the fantasy feels so good! It is  easy to overlook aspects of the relationship which really don’t work for us, because being close to someone feels comforting. Besides…

We wanna get laid…

But, what happens after the physical release? Are we really stronger and wiser? Or are we chasing a ghost of the dream when we fell in love for the first time?

Celibacy…

Celibacy sucks…

While that probably isn’t a surprise for someone in a relationship in which the sex is good, or at least not terrible, and the amount of sex at least approaches the frequency they want; for someone single and not sexually active, the phrase probably doesn’t need to be said. It is their reality. I realize some people have chosen celibacy as a holy calling, however for others, celibacy has been… thrust…. (sorry)…. upon them by a divorce, or a relationship dying. I guess there are many reasons why a person would choose not to be sexually active, but my time of celibacy has led me to look at sexuality in a larger sense. I have come to realize that my sexuality, and the manner in which I express it, is a much larger issue than whether I get to enjoy the intimacy of a sensual encounter with a woman. I have begun to understand how the masculine and feminine are inextricably intertwined in my own personality. I confess that I probably have more questions now about what it means to be male or female than ever before. Now, obviously, I’m not in need of an anatomy lesson. That isn’t my point; and my body tells me about the physical desire for a woman whenever one walks by in a bikini… just being honest. This is especially so after spending most of my life in the Midwest. I’m not used to seeing so much skin! I often feel self-conscious, as if I just inadvertently stepped into a women’s dressing room by mistake.

“Oops…. Sorry… I thought this was unisex, but that lingerie shows off your curves REALLY well!”

However, my brush with the power of sexuality in a physical sense leaves me questioning how we as a culture have treated it. Not just in a physical sense, but in a deeper, emotional and spiritual sense. What are the social/cultural cues regarding what roles men or women are supposed to fill? There seem to be mixed messages.

On the one hand, our culture seems to value a woman for how she looks. A woman should be beautiful. There are also parameters the culture mandates, as to what beautiful even means, as it regards to women. The media portrays how beauty is defined, especially as to size and shape. I suppose women feel objectified by this definition of beauty, and they should, for that is exactly what the image portrays. And yet… what is especially devious about this message is that few women are genetically predisposed to this size and shape. Whole arrays of businesses have risen to help women become this “goddess” of large-breasts-small-waist-cellulite-free-thighs-wrikle-free-skin-perfect-hair-white-straight-teeth-and-shapely-strong-butt-set-on-tan-legs. Living by the beach, I see women in constant movement in search of this self-perception. Women running, and riding bikes, and lifting weights, and laying out to get a tan, and whatever else will turn them into what they THINK men want. Or… at least I think that is why they do it. As if their identity is based on how their appearance approaches the media-induced portrait of what a woman SHOULD look like. I suppose if one were to ask them why they are going to such lengths… how they push their body to become this image… they might say they are pursuing health. I hope so. It just seems so easy for such a pursuit to plunge over the line into obsession.

There are also women, who seem to mock this “goddess” form. They wear clothing that exposes their apparent opposition to the form. They seem to be comfortable with their bodies, and their choice to bare it all is a big middle finger directed at public opinion to the contrary.

Then, there is another cultural voice that says women should pursue intelligence and achievement either instead of, or alongside physical beauty. Movies and television portray women that can not only out think a man, but also out work him. The message here seems to be one of independence, and even opposition to masculinity, or at least to the stereotype of a man created by our culture. It is as if men will be threatened by a smart, creative, gifted woman; and thereby become defensive, so a woman must always be on the offense against any perceived slight from a man. Obviously, a man WILL try to put down such a woman, right?

Then, there is the continuing battle between women who want to be a full-time mother/wife, and women who want to have a career, or women who want both.

Women can be especially harsh critics of not only each other, but of themselves as well.

The culture isn’t any kinder to men, in my view. Men are valued for the amount of money they either have or manage. Although I have noticed a slight shift towards valuing men also by their bodies, the message is pretty plain: Money equals attraction. Honestly, the journey to prosperity is getting harder for men, too. There are fewer jobs in this country for which it is advantageous to be physically male, and especially so for well-paying jobs. Jobs which utilize traditional male roles, are less available. The public, cultural perception still is that men have fewer obstacles in their career path than do women, and with the exception of child-bearing, I have come to believe this assumption is false. It seems there is a cultural war on masculinity. It feels like women and children are afraid of you sometimes. I heard Helen Fisher, (author of Why Him, Why Her) speaking about relationships on TED talks the other day. She said that she was asked if men were more inclined to adulterous affairs, and she responded that they were not. The questioner then asked if men weren’t more genetically inclined, and she responded sarcastically, “Who do you think they are having affairs with?”

In a marriage, the message to men is that they are to provide financially, yet also be more involved with the care of children, and daily tasks in the home. Actually, I agree with the former and with the latter if the wife works outside the home. However, doing those things will most likely mean that his earning potential will lessen because making more income usually means more time in some form or another. This is a lose/lose position for a man to be in. If he invests more time at work, in one or two, or three jobs; he isn’t a good husband/father. If he spends more time at home with the kids and wife, he isn’t a good provider.

There are social scientists/biologists who will say that these two ways of valuing the sexes are steeped in evolution.  A woman’s body was very important to be able to bear multiple children, so the species had a better opportunity to flourish, they will tell you. A man that could provide more of what the family needed also gave the species a better survival quotient. While that makes pretty good sense in a primal setting, it seems simplistic to me. I don’t think this view looks at our sexuality deeply enough. We are each more than animals competing for a limited amount of food, and the best partners to pass on our unique genetic code. There is a quality to physical intimacy that shares in spiritual transcendence. Making love has a divine quality attached to it. We celebrate the joy of loving another person with the totality of who we are. Removing our clothing and being naked with another person is a practice of shared vulnerability that is powerful. It can be affirming. Just taking your clothes off in front of someone else is a risk of humiliation. That is especially true as we age.

And yet…

The longer I am celibate. The more I feel the power of my sexual drive. It can be scary, too. It isn’t that I’m afraid that I will tackle some woman in a bikini and physically molest her on the beach. It is that I might fall to the physical/emotional pull to sex in some non-relational form. I honestly have no strong desire to get into porn. Although I understand why it is tempting, I also see the down side: the emotional isolation after the physical release. What I like and want in sex, is the connection between two people… Love. And that is where I would especially like to begin talking about Deep Sex.

A disclaimer to start… There is no way I can honestly say that if I were to have the opportunity for a sexual encounter with a woman to whom I was attracted physically and mentally, that I would be able to decline. Maybe this is why I haven’t had the opportunity… Maybe God is protecting me, and the other person from the complications of uncommitted sex. I have had opportunities in the past, yet with each one, I found a compelling reason not to pursue it. (I still get this little shiver remembering the Glen Close character in the movie Fatal Attraction…)  Ultimately, I decided to treat myself, and the other person I might add, with greater respect than falling into bed with someone I didn’t really know.

This does NOT mean it is easy… Far from it! It is very lonely, honestly.

In my seminary classes, we have studied how the church has handled sexuality in the past. More specifically, we have read of the tendency to view sex as dangerous to spiritual growth. Many of the spiritual mothers and fathers even went so far as to go into the desert in order to seek God. It is especially hard for me not to understand this approach as unbiblical. To me, it is a denial of the “goodness” of God’s design of community, and is an escape from the difficulty of living out one’s faith in the midst of dissonance. Eventually, other people followed the original seekers of solitude. So, community FOLLOWED them into the desert. Community forces us outside ourselves. Why is there a need to forgive, unless there is one who acts in a manner which conflicts with our intentions? We learn to both give and receive forgiveness by interacting with other people. I realize there are scriptural examples of holy hermits. Jesus’ human cousin, John, lived in the desert in a Spartan existence. The prophets of scripture also spent time outside the community, for long periods of time, in order to hear God’s message more clearly. Even Jesus went into the wilderness for a period of time for those reasons, as well as to do spiritual battle with the Adversary. However, John, Jesus, and the prophets returned to the community in order to live out the message they received in the wilderness.

I have found that it can be easier to live alone, even though it is lonely, than to risk the pain and messiness that is part of living in community with others. However, I am learning to see loneliness as an invitation to step outside myself. I am invited to release my fear of being rejected and misunderstood. Love is assertive. It is active. It does not wait, unless waiting is an act of patience rather than fear. Love is also willing to be misunderstood, then stays around to talk through the issue. Celibacy can be an act of love, but it also can be one of fear… unwilling to get dirty in the messiness that is brought by love. It can be a way to hide from risking the discomfort of intimacy.

So, how does one know the difference between celibacy as an act of love, and celibacy as an act of fear?

Can one person’s journey into celibacy help inform others around them about the nature and depth of their own intimate relationships?

Can one living without physical sex with another person accept and be accepted by the community of faith?

Can we be sexual beings outside of intimate, physical, genital contact with another person?

How can the church teach sexual ethics, within a culture so sensually driven in a manner that works in our everyday lives?

I want to believe that my journey into celibacy is an invitation from God into a deeper love affair with God. I want to believe it is an invitation into a fuller life within which I will find a fuller expression of my sexuality in ways that are generative in different forms, and that I will find varied ways to be co-creative with God. I want to believe that I am still a value to the greater community in which I live and can find a freedom to give of myself in a fuller spectrum than I previously believed possible. I want to believe these things, and intellectually, I do. Yet I also find myself struggling with my sexual body.

Rob Bell, in his book Sex God, says that humanity seems to err in regard to sexuality in one of two directions. We either see ourselves as angels, which are sexless beings solely created for service to God; or as animals which are destined to live by the power of their innate drives; sex being one of them. Bell points out, however, that we instead are created in the image of God. We are neither angels nor animals, but more profound beings: Children of God. We are created to manage Eden… the garden within which we have been placed, both in time and space. A part of that management responsibility is the management of our Self. That is the rub. I find it so easy to become obsessed with a self-created end to my own celibacy. In so doing, I lose focus on allowing the tension of living alone yet in community to bring out new depths of who God has created me to be. I want to be a sexy man, even though I am not getting laid!

I believe the phrase: sexy man, could be used to describe Jesus, especially because he treated women with deep respect. They responded to him with love, that was at times sensual, yet not physically, genitally intimate. Jesus’ love was redemptive. Even women who used their bodies to service the desires of men, found in Jesus a man who looked through the veil of their bodies into the depths of their soul; and they were changed radically due to the encounter. Jesus loved them without the expectations of a physical quid pro quo.

That is Deep Sex…

Stones…

A beautiful young woman walked the cobblestone street which traversed a steep incline through stately homes within view of both Herrod’s palace and the Temple. Beside her strode a stately Roman Centurion, both young and handsome, with a commanding saunter which showed confidence derived from youth and station. As the couple approached a narrow alleyway, she quickly surveyed the surrounding area, grabbed the man’s hand, and they furtively slid from direct view from anyone travelling the wider avenue. Moving quickly, the two approached a gate and stepped through. Closing the gate behind them rapidly, they emerged into a lush courtyard. Stepping underneath a vine-covered archway to conceal their actions from the view of wealthy gossips, the woman turned quickly to face the Roman and gave a deep, guttural laugh. The soldier looked down and flashed a slow smile, grabbing the woman around the waist. The woman slid her hand down to his leg and began searching for an entrance to his thigh through the armor covering his tunic.

 Laughing, the soldier teased, “That armor is meant to ward off a warrior’s blade. Your nails will never find their mark.”

 “Then I suppose we will have to remove it…” the woman taunted.

 Raising her face towards his helmeted head, she brushed her lips slightly against his and then broke away from his embrace, running towards the back entrance of the palatial home.

 “She is certainly brazen,” thought the soldier, “especially for a married woman.” Feeling just a bit leery, he asked, “Aren’t you afraid the servants will see us? I’m sure your husband would treat a slave kindly who protected him from a whoring wife.”

 Stopping at the door she answered, “They are afraid. They know Romans know how to protect their conquests. Besides, my husband is probably right now in the arms of two women in Caesar’s household. It would certainly take two women to get their arms around him. They can have the spatter of his sweat and the flap of his belly as he pounds away on them. I would rather know the firmness of Caesar’s warrior… Come to me, Corin.”

 Corin hesitated again for just a moment. Getting caught in an affair with this woman could destroy his bright career. Yosef, this woman’s husband, was a rich Jewish merchant who was the primary outfitter for the Roman legions occupying Palestine. Yosef even had ties to Egyptian traders, which allowed him to manage all supplies coming into the southeastern Mediterranean coast. By so doing, Rome could be spared using sailors and troops from the inane process of hauling their own bread. The Legions could be used for more strategic action both local and empire-wide. Using a local merchant also poured Roman gold into the local economy, helping to pacify leading citizens who might otherwise be intent on revolution and nobody made any money during revolution. So Caesar protected Yosef’s interests and kept a close tie with him, bringing him to Rome frequently and making any business trips he might need to make as comfortable and secure as possible. If Caesar found out that one of his officers disrupted the happy home of his prized merchant, that officer would become a eunuch carrying the armor of the most forward unit commander in the Legion. While Corin wasn’t afraid of battle, he was a veteran of many, he wouldn’t survive the humiliation. So if he deemed this woman worth the risk….

 Ah, but that was part of the attraction. That adrenaline rush a man got when everything was on the line.

 For her part, Shayna, Yosef’s wife, knew she wanted this man. She knew what she wanted was wrong. The Pharisees taught that she could be stoned for just this type of relationship. Her father would probably be the first to pick up a stone if she were caught. He had been the one to get her into this marriage anyway. Well…. Her father had accepted Yosef’s generous bridal offer. Yosef noticed her at the market while she ran errands for her mother and determined the beautiful girl would be his. Shayna’s father believed accepting the offer made sense for both Shayna and the rest of his family. Shayna would be taken care of in the house of such a wealthy man and his other children would have other options because of Yosef’s generosity. The fact that Yosef was 30 years older than Shayna didn’t matter. In fact, it was very common.

 However, to Shayna, her marriage and life had no meaning. She felt nothing but contempt for her husband and her life was a bore. She was angry, and hated it that she was really nothing more than her body. In her culture, women were only useful for their bodies: working in the home, bearing the children, meeting the sexual desires of the husbands… So when Shayna saw this strong, tall Roman standing at her doorway as Yosef’s dinner guest one night, she decided she wanted him. Without knowing it, she was expressing her anger for the lack of choices allowed her, by choosing an action that symbolically spat in the face of Yosef, her father, the Pharisees… even God! How could God care and allow her to be treated like a cow, or donkey, or dove… sold from one owner to another. She wasn’t a slave, and she was going to enjoy her body by giving it to someone of her choice. It was most certainly an act of angry rebellion.

As Corin stood motionless beneath the heavy stone archway, Shayna slid the covering off her head and slowly removed her tunica until her body could be seen through the thin garment underneath. Slowly, Corin walked towards the doorway, removed his helmet with one hand and slid his other around her waist, lowering his mouth to her upraised lips and kissed her deeply. Things progressed quickly now. Shayna led Corin towards her bedroom all the while helping him shrug out of his armor, scattering the pieces in a line from the back door to the bedroom.

 While deeply engrossed in their passion, neither Shayna nor Corin heard the scraping of boots against the rock wall just outside the window of the bedroom. Nor did they see the eyes peering through watching their writhing bodies. Dropping to the ground, the man turned to a large group of religious leaders, “They are in the act. Let’s go.”

 A group of about 20 men strode resolutely to the stately front door of the home, lifted a wooden battering ram and smashed the door open. Dropping the ram just inside the door, the men ran towards the bedroom, scrambled through the cloth covering the entrance and were just in time to see Corin sprint to his dagger lying across the room. Shayna reached for a covering although there were none on the bed or in plain view.

 The eldest man of the 20, and the one obviously in charge, shouted, “There’s no need for violence, Centurion. We aren’t here for you…” To another of his group, the eldest commanded, “Stay here with him and explain to him our offer, Joshua…”

 Shayna rushed towards a corner of the room hoping to roll her body into it so as not to reveal her intimacies to the mob, but before she could reach it, four rough hands grabbed her. Lifting her up slightly off the floor, they half-carried, half-dragged her across the stone floor of the bedroom. Shayna screamed and tried to look towards Corin, pleading for help, but he was in an intense conversation with another leader of the mob. Continuing to rush out of the house, the group stopped outside the smashed front door of the house for a moment. The two men holding a naked Shayna thrust her onto the ground in the middle of the mob. She was surrounded by a sea of angry, leering faces staring down at her and obviously enjoying her naked terror. Their leader reached into a pile of rocks next to a piece of the splintered door and picked up a stone about the size of Shayna’s head.

 “We are taking you to the carpenter, adulteress. We will kill three birds with many stones… We are going to expose the Nazarene’s lies once and for all, give you what your adultery deserves, and take from that traitor, Yosef, his prized possession. Let’s go. The carpenter is in the Temple courtyard spreading his insanity.”

The rough hands once again snatched Shayna from the ground and shoved her ahead of the mob with such force that she fell at the bottom of the steps headed up towards the Temple mount. The group moved quickly, usually carrying Shayna with hands pinching and prodding her as she struggled to protect herself. As they progressed up the hill, their number grew as people followed to watch the hideous show.

 Shayna could hardly think while the mob pressed forward. She was in shock. All she could really make out were the stones in the hands of her captives.

Stones… 

She had always loved stones as a child…

Stones flying from the sling of David and crashing into the giant.

Stones taken from the dry river bed and then piled on the shore of the promised land after Jehovah had made the way for Joshua and Israel’s children after 40 years wandering in the desert.

 Stones stained with blood from a ram found in a thicket after Jehovah stayed the hand of Abraham from taking the life of his son, Isaac.

 Stones…

she had always liked stones….

 The noise and edge of the mob reached the Temple courtyard before Shayna did. The carpenter was seated among a crowd of people teaching them about “His Father.” Hearing the commotion, The Teacher slowly stood and watched the faces of the mob as they approached. Once the leaders of the mob stepped into the courtyard, they held Shayna by the arms and shoved her along in front of them, causing her to skin her feet and trip and fall, scraping the side of her leg and elbow upon which she landed. Grabbing her hair with one hand and the scraped elbow with the other, the leader stood her up and forced her to stand fully erect with her hands to her sides within a few yards of the Teacher.

 “Teacher,” the leader loudly addressed the crowd, more so than the 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?”

As the leader spoke, the Teacher looked into the faces of the mob, but never looked at Shayna as she stood with tears streaming down her face, chin quivering, and eyes staring straight ahead. Finally, the Teacher knelt down and began to write in the sand. The act drew the attention directly to the Teacher. People began to press in, stones in hand, trying to see what was being written in the sand. With each separate drawing, a set of eyes would widen in surprise, as if a deep personal secret were being revealed. The eyes would then begin to glaze over, as if once again trying to hide from the truth of their own actions. All-the-while, holding stubbornly to the stones at their sides.

The leader finally broke the trance the mob seemed to be in and began to fire religious questions at the Teacher. Finally, the Teacher slowly rose and once again looked into the eyes of each member of the mob, and said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again, he stooped down and continued to write in the dust.

 The crowd quieted…

 One by one, stones began to fall…

 Feet scuffed through the dust as people left…

 Finally…

 Stones on the ground…

Silence…

 The Teacher reaches out and takes up a stone…

 Looks at the stone and stands…

 Then looks straight into Shayna’s eyes…

 “Woman, where are they?” He smiles with his eyes… “Has no one condemned you?”

 “No one, sir,” Shayna softly says.

The Teacher reaches out one hand, takes Shayna’s hand, places the stone into her palm, and closes her fingers around it with his other hand.

 “Then neither do I condemn you,” he slightly smiles and then says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

 Shayna turns and his hands drop her hand as she begins to walk away. Feeling the weight in her hand, she raises it to view the stone, her stone. And she remembers,

“I always liked stones…”

(An expanded version of John 8:1-11)