Gateway to Grace

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By Nina Lau-Branson
Illustration by Alycea Tinoyan
Feb 26, 2018 | 3 min read
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The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 8:3-11

In the midst of my tears, the image of the patriarch sitting in the clouds peering down and handing me an F flips to another image. 

I see me being dragged by a group of men. They elbow their way through a crowd of people, puffs of dust and dirt swirling around them and me as I struggle, pushing my feet helplessly into the ground to stop the relentless march into the silent crowd. A man is speaking, teaching the scriptures. The men drop me with a thud at the feet of the teacher. It’s Jesus. I’m in the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8.

The story continues as it is written in John 8: their goal is to trap him in an impossible situation. I am simply a prop to help them get their desired outcome. The men say: “Affirm the law of Moses and have her stoned or defend her and stand against the law.” Jesus’ thunderbolt reply is: “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.” The men walk away one by one until it’s Jesus, me, and the crowd. Jesus asks, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

The woman in John 8 says, “No one, sir.” But in my story, I pick up the stones and hold them in my own hands. Feeling their heaviness and substance, I stand mute.

It’s a really disturbing end. I feel the clang of truth in my deep heart. 

Later that evening, I ask God if this is the end of the story. I see me again, silently holding the stones. Then suddenly I start juggling them, like a clown in a circus. My face is alight with joy. Transformation. How will this come to be?

The following day, I go to work. I am the chief accounting officer of a fast growing tech company. This is normal life. That day, I introduce a colleague to a number of company vendors as I transfer various responsibilities to her. Everything goes well. 

I come home and am aware I feel beat up. Not tired, but beat up. It seemed like a normal day; nothing bad or stressful happened that I could remember.

Later that evening, memories from all the introductions I made during the day flood in but with an extra audio setting. Every time I introduce Cindy to one of the vendors, they say, “We are so looking forward to working with you.” This evening I also hear unspoken words inside me, “and we are so glad to not be working with Nina anymore.” 

The condemning voice is familiar. How long have I lived with this internal condemning voice? Long, I sense. It’s like living next to the train tracks for years; I’ve learned not to hear the train. 

I wonder at the parallel, condemning disappointed patriarch God and the self-condemning me. It seems I have made God in my own self-condemning heart image. 

Jesus says, “I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.” He and the Father are one. God invites me into his non-condemnation through his son who has just drawn the fire of these men away from me to himself. Can I accept his invitation to move out of a life of condemnation (projected onto God and lived out toward myself)? This is my gateway to grace. 

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Nina Lau-Branson

Nina Lau-Branson is a spiritual director working with individuals and groups. She pioneered InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Asian American student work as their first director. She is currently working with Fuller Seminary, the Free Methodist Church, and other organizations in spiritual formation and leadership coaching. 

Alycea Tinoyan

Alycea Tinoyan is a Los Angeles-based illustrator and designer, cat mom, and adventurer. Influenced by comics and cartoons growing up, her illustrations address raw emotion through expressive lines while using nature and animals as metaphors for the duality of man. Her works tend to be narrative-based and often focus on a wistful protagonist.

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