“She was caught in the very act.”
Sounds similar to the New Testament account of the woman caught in adultery, doesn’t it? She was caught in the very act, and in that moment of shame and disgrace, drug out and thrown at the feet of Jesus in disgust. The story that follows is one so overflowing with mercy and grace, and one that I don’t think I ever tire of hearing. One that ends with, “Go, and sin no more.”
But this wasn’t that story. This was Bella’s story, and Bella’s mom was recounting her story to me. Bella was caught having sex. Bella is your average, everday American teenager- active in her youth group, from a loving, strong Godly family. Bella’s story is still being written and the ending could be completely different.
My heart broke for her. When I heard her story it was like my own was playing over again, just a few years behind. In that moment, I grasped for anything. Some tangeable way to show her that I got it. I wanted Bella to know that I had been there, that she didn’t have to hide behind guilt and shame, that she didn’t have to be dishonest, that she was safe sitting across from me.
I think back to Jesus’ reaction to that woman caught in adultery. In the very act. I think on the calm, on the compassion, on the grace, and it makes a difference. He didn’t walk away; He stayed by her. He defended her.
He didn’t discount what she had done, but He didn’t feed her to the wolves. He just showed grace.
I’ve found that honesty is the balance of grace and truth. He was just honest. “Listen. Who ever is without sin, go ahead, cast the first stone. You’re right. She deserves it but every last one of you does as well.” (my paraphrase)
In that moment, I thought, “Oh man! I need my book…” The book I am still writing… the book I had thought of giving up on… that book. If Bella were the only one in the world who needed it, I would write it for her. I would handwrite it for her, and I may do just that.
Not because I have all the answers, but because I’ve asked the exact same questions. Because more than anything I want her to understand the hope she has in Christ. I want her to see in living black and white the grace that exists for her. I want to be able to pour out all of this compassion, joy and love in a way that she will remember, in a way that will touch her heart.
I named this young woman “Mia Bella Farfalla.” It is Italian for “My Beautiful Butterfly.” It was my tangeable way of showing her hope. God promises that those who are in Him are new creations– much like an ugly, squirmy, good-for-nothing-but-eating-my-garden, caterpillar can turn in to a magnificent butterfly.
That’s the story of God’s grace in all of our lives.
“Go and sin no more” wasn’t some pass given to one random winner and odds are 1 in 12 billion of you getting one.
“Go and sin no more” is the crux of grace. That is grace. Mercy is saying “I won’t stone you” and leaves you there cowering on the ground. Grace is what says, “Get up and fly.”
I would like to think, that, if God spoke Italian, He would look down from Heaven on us as we screw up time and time again, as we flounder and try and make our way through life, and just smile and say, with all-knowing foresight, sovereignty and grace, “See her? Yep that one right there. She is mia bella farfalla.