This I know to be true: the course of a life can change in minutes. I learned the truth of this an hour ago.
* * * *
The mob’s excited murmurings captured my attention just as the men barged into the bedroom, pulling me from my lover’s embrace. Dazed, I tumbled from the bed.
One of the men, having the eyes of a zealot, threw a blanket at me. “Cover your nakedness, harlot.”
I scrambled for the blanket, wrapping myself in it as they dragged me out into the streets.
The voices of the women were loud and ugly and I gagged as warm spittle ran down my face. “Slut,” they shrieked, “wicked woman! Have you no shame? The stones for you! The stones for you!”
A clump of dirt hit me in the eye, blurring my vision. Frightened, I stumbled along, pushed and prodded by the good men of Jerusalem. “Where are you taking me?” I pleaded.
“The temple court – where your sins will be exposed!”
Finally, they stopped moving. Abruptly, one of them pushed me to the ground. His sandaled foot shoved the side of my face into the dirt, holding me hostage.
“Teacher,” said one of the good men, “this woman was caught in adultery. The law says she must be stoned. What say you?”
There was no answer.
“What say you, teacher?” repeated the voice.
An uneasy silence reigned for several moments.
The heavy foot lifted from my cheek. I looked up through the dust and saw a man kneeling in the dirt. He paid me no mind. His eyes were on the stick in his hands, and the words he began to write in the dust.
Liar. Cheat. Envious. Jealous. Greedy. Prideful.
With each word, the good men of Jerusalem took a step back.
Finally, without glancing up, the teacher replied, “If any of you is without sin, then be the first to cast a stone at her.”
The silence continued as one by one the good men slowly departed.
Tossing aside his stick, the teacher raised his head and looked at me. “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir.”
He nodded, brushing the dirt from his hands. “Then neither do I.” He stood up, reached out his hand, and helped me rise.
He looked at me intently. I sensed he saw everything… my loneliness, my fear, the sad nights spent in the arms of strangers, desperate for solace…
I felt the shame of it, the despair, and looked away. With his finger, he lifted my chin, forcing me to meet his gaze. When I did, I saw kindness there. “Go now,” he said, “and leave behind your life of sin.”
* * * *
I watched him join the small group of men and women waiting for him. He whispered something into the ear of one of his companions. The man nodded and hurried over to me.
Removing his outer cloak, he smiled. “Here, sister – take this.” He threw the garment over my shoulders. “Have you a home to return to?”
Did I? Had I ever? I didn’t know how to answer.
It didn’t matter.
“Come with us. You have a home now.”
I clutched his sleeve. “That man… the teacher… who is he?”
“He’s the one you’ve waited for. The one we’ve all waited for.”
* * * *
An hour ago, good men sought to stone me for the law’s sake. Another sought to redeem me. This I know to be true: he gave me back my life. I will never be the same.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
~ John Newton
Author’s Note: While this story is too long for ThainInVain’s 500 word flash fiction challenge, I want to thank her for the idea behind the story. Her challenge was to write 500 words based on the phrase ‘about an hour ago.’ So, many thanks, TiV, for giving me an idea for my contribution to the Christmas season.