Between The Rock and a hard place
I had no inkling where the group had gone. All I knew was that I had to stay put. I had to capture the thoughts ricocheting around my head. My God had just opened my eyes to an important truth, and I could not lose hold of it.
I learned I had been living my life between The Rock and a hard place.
The lesson came toward the end of a life-altering trip to Israel. I was among nearly 40 females studying in the Holy Land, and the entire trip thus far had been jaw-dropping. Journeying across the Sea of Galilee just as Jesus did. Walking on the cobbled steps of Jerusalem where Jesus most certainly trod. Standing on the Mount of Olives. Sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane. I had never felt such awe of my Savior. Until that day.
As I leaned against the wall of St. Anne’s Church, overlooking the Pool of Bethesda, I listened intently to my teacher. She shared the story from John 5 of an invalid man who had suffered for 38 years. The Scripture tells us, “Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been there a long time” (verse 6). The man was lying between The Rock—Jesus Christ—and a hard place. And Jesus said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
But the man’s hard place weighed upon him. Not only was he invalid, but he also had no one to carry him into the “healing waters” of the Pool of Bethesda, a commonly held belief. But Jesus told the man, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk” (verse 8). And at once the man was healed. Our invalid friend had lain in the House of Grace (the meaning of Bethesda) for some time, seeking imposter forms of healing. But in a brief encounter with the ultimate Healer, his life was made new.
Our teacher quickly described another encounter, this one between Jesus, The Rock, and an adulterous woman (John 8:1-11). While teaching in the temple, Jesus was presented with the woman by a group of Pharisees. The Law said the woman should be stoned, and they were testing Jesus to see if he would uphold the Law. Immediately Jesus stooped to write in the sand. Why? Because He knew the shame this woman was feeling, and our Savior’s desire is that we would never walk in shame. As long as all eyes were on her, the shame would remain. But by Jesus stooping, the Pharisees’ stares moved from shame to the Savior and ultimately to their own sin.
Having their own sinfulness exposed, the woman’s accusers dispersed. The shame-filled woman was now left between The Rock and her hard place. And what did the Judge of the universe do to this adulterous woman?
“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’” (verses 10-11).
And that’s when it hit me. I had been a Christ-follower for more than 20 years, knowing in my head that my Savior had washed me clean. But in the depths of my heart I was still treading between my Rock and a hard place—the place of my former sin. Like the invalid man and the adulterous woman, I had allowed dishonorable acts from my past to paralyze me with shame. As I came to that realization, the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17 flashed before me: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, (s)he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Since Adam and Eve’s first sin in the Garden of Eden, God’s desire has been to cover over our shame. He sacrificed animals in the garden to provide coverings to the first couple when they felt the shame of their nakedness. He sacrificed lambs in Egypt to provide a covering against the shameful death that Pharaoh brought on his country. He received sacrifices of animals in the desert to remove the shame of sin from His people. And He gave the ultimate sacrifice—the life of His very own Son Jesus, our Rock and our Redeemer—to bestow honor and grace on every person who believes in Him.
Yet how many of us, even as we follow Christ, still allow the shame to stick?
In Hebrews 12:1-2, the writer reminds us that this should not be so. He encourages us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run our race with eyes fixed on Jesus. In Christ, we no longer stand between our Rock and our hard place. We stand firmly on the new life He has given us. The painful paralysis of our past has no hold on our present or our future.
At the Pool of Bethesda, a man’s illness made him feel invalid. But Jesus turned the pool into the House of Grace and invited him to get up, walk on, and roll away his mat.
At the temple court, a woman thought her infidelity had rendered her death inevitable. But Jesus dismissed her accusers and told her to look up, move forward, and sin no more.
And in the courtyard of St. Anne’s Church, this writer realized I was allowing former disobedience to disqualify me from Christ’s promised future. But on that sunny day in Israel, The Rock encouraged me to detach from that hard place and that broken woman and to behold the new life He had given.
And He invites you to do the same. Because of Christ, we no longer have to languish between our Rock and a hard place. His death and resurrection already have bridged that great divide. No longer are we subject to shame, for His banner over us is love.