Ascribe Worth

Grace sees and refuses to blink. For one woman, grace happened as she knelt in the dirt before the feet of Jesus. More from shame than humility, her collapse was less intention than reflex. Not far away, angry stares inflicted greater pain than the threat of the rocks hefted in ruthless hands; it was not so much their vocabulary that wounded in that awful moment, it was the omission of human dignity. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but inhumanity will destroy me.This was certainly not the first time. Passed from one man to the other, she had never been held as sacred, only held in the process of being used. She’d grown accustomed to the shame, but refused to be comfortable with it. That’s when she heard of this healing teacher. Not just a teacher who healed, a man who restored even as he inspired; someone who returned all that had been taken. She fought back her fears and anxious tears. Would this be simply the newest version of something too good to be true? She had heard those lines before, the promises of love behind lying eyes. Or could this man be different? Was the healing teacher actually sent from God? Was it possible that he was God himself? She cast herself before him, not so much because she had nothing to lose, but that she was willing to gamble on this one chance to win. Her life had been a succession of losses: losing choices, losing relationships, losing moments; a life lost in quicksand of regret. So she rolled the dice on one opportunity to be real, her one chance to be herself rather than the object that others had recreated in their own image and for their own pleasure.

No one knows for sure what Jesus stooped to write in the dirt on that awful awesome day. Many speculate he scrawled a litany of sins that the accusers were forced to recognize as their own. Others propose that Jesus used a finger to indent Scripture in the sand. Perhaps he did something entirely different, something more meaningful to her than anyone could have imagined — he wrote her name, and in so doing, he restored her heart. 

Grace is as much responsibility as it is a privilege. The moment I focus only on what the cross means to me, is the selfsame instant I lose sight of my role in God’s redemptive plan. Every recipient of grace is expected to extend grace to others. We may not be adept at verbalizing the gospel, but there is one thing each of us can do for the outcast. The cross and empty tomb remove all doubt that every individual is of eternal worth to God; they also demand selfless compassion. Regardless of cause and effect, the one gift we hold at the ready for every human being is to ascribe worth, to acknowledge human value through eye contact or the spoken word, to call someone by name. Before we can convince anyone else that they matter, we must first convince ourselves. When we do, we are qualified and commissioned to herald hope to all we meet. Being Jesus in an anonymous world, more often than not, is to say with our eyes “I see you,” and communicate by extending our hands, “you matter to God and to me.”

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