Forgiveness is freedom – it’s an adage I often say, but one that Tania Vaughan embodies as she shares, “I am that woman.” The sinner. The spit upon. The one greatly loved who is forgiven. What a moving and faith-building narrative – may we all know that same freedom.
Heading to Luke chapter 7 and the story of ‘A sinful woman forgiven’ in a series about forgiveness may seem rather obvious but this story has always touched me. I am that woman.
Because I recognise her, I am amazed at the bravery she shows in entering the home of Simon the Pharisee. She was the kind of woman who was not accepted in polite circles and would not have been invited to dinner. It’s possible some of the men knew her, maybe intimately. They certainly knew who and what kind of woman she was. Yet none of them spoke it out loud.
I’m sure it was obvious to her that they knew by the looks they gave her and each other. No-one said it but they were thinking it. In the passage it says that Simon ‘said to himself’, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39 NRSV). She was the kind of woman who should not be touching a rabbi.
I was that kind of woman. Maybe I didn’t sell myself, but I sold myself short. Long before I knew Jesus I filled an empty and broken life with drinking and men. I lived on the fringe of polite circles where everyone knew what kind of woman I was, some personally. In company no-one said a word but they sent sidelong glances to me and passed knowing looks between themselves. I was not the kind of woman you invited in.
Jesus reached out to me, a woman like that!
The woman in the story wasn’t invited in to dinner but she entered the house; maybe it was a house she knew but she wasn’t welcome. She stood beside Jesus and poured her tears out on him, washing his feet. What gave her the courage to enter someone’s home and do that? It’s the same thing that gives me the courage to stand and tell my story without shame.
It’s knowing unconditional love, acceptance and unquestioning forgiveness. Not just receiving all of that but having faith in the giver and faith to receive it. Jesus says to her ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (Luke 7:50 NRSV).
Having the faith to receive forgiveness is much harder than it sounds. Although for many years I believed that God had forgiven me, I had no faith in that forgiveness and had not forgiven myself. I could not go in peace.
Jesus not only pours out an abundance of forgiveness giving us courage to stand. He pours himself into us giving us the faith to forgive ourselves. It was only when I had accepted Jesus within me and forgiven myself that I had the courage to speak.
That woman was brave and could stand in a room where people knew who and what she was not because Jesus forgave her but because she accepted his forgiveness and took it upon herself. I am that woman.
Tania Vaughan is a speaker and writer. She loves teaching from the Bible and sharing her testimony at events and conferences to encourage women into a deeper relationship with God. Tania is currently studying Theology at Trinity College in Bristol and working as a freelance web designer to fund her studies (www.hartandesign.com).
You can find out more about Tania, read devotions, listen to audio teaching and book her to speak at your event through her website www.taniavaughan.com.