As the minimalist craze sweeps across our nation, I find myself getting caught in the hype. I am actively decluttering and throwing out things that no longer bring me joy. One of the items I unearthed during this phase was an old prayer journal. As I sat and poured over its contents, I was transported back in time to 2014. Though this was merely 5 years ago, it seemed an eternity had passed since I experienced the heartache and uncertainty that occurred through most of that year. Though it was a tough, tumultuous, and emotional time, I learned multiple lessons about grace, gratitude, and freedom.
In 2014, our family was still settling into new surroundings, after moving from Denver, Colorado to Las Vegas, Nevada the previous year. We decided I would stay home with our daughter for her final year before kindergarten, and together we began honing our vision for our family. This meant my husband, Gabe, would become the sole earner for our household, though I was not prepared for the type of environment he would be working in. He got a job at a casino as a Floor Supervisor. Although he worked in the casino industry for 8 years prior to this, it would be the first time working for a casino that featured female dealers who wore skimpy outfits and danced on platforms between their shifts of dealing Blackjack.
Every time Gabe left for work I felt sick to my stomach, my imagination running wild with thoughts of him being in the presence of these women. I wondered what types of conversations he had with them, and let’s be honest, I wondered if he was attracted to them. It didn’t help that I gained a fair amount of weight over the past two years and struggled with low self-esteem. I doubted myself as a wife, mom, and woman, hopelessly afraid that he would seek solace in these women. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, anxious and nervous, awaiting his return from work. Perhaps it was all in my head, but I truly felt Gabe slipping away from our marriage.
One night, Gabe told me he would be going to a get together after work for a co-worker who was leaving the company. I asked who would be there and he assured me that it would only be his male co-workers. The next morning, I asked him how the get together was. He said it was good, but that he had something to tell me. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach, and a million different scenarios ran through my head as he began telling me what happened. He said that some of the women from work showed up, and that he took some pictures with them. While this may not seem like a big deal, it broke my heart, and more importantly, my trust. I was embarrassed and worried that the photos would surface on social media, with me bearing the burden of possibly explaining to family and friends this humiliating situation. When Gabe returned to work the following night, I retreated to my prayer journal and Bible. After reading and praying, eventually I found it silly to think that this crisis was only about me. This was a perfect time for me to lean into God. One of the first places I turned was to John 8.
This chapter opens with Jesus going to the Mount of Olives. He was teaching in the temple when “the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery” (John 8:3 NIV). They expected Jesus to persecute this woman, to stone her—instead he extended grace. He did not react to their statements of accusation. Instead, He bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. What was he writing? Perhaps the sins of the others in His presence to demonstrate that they all have been in the wrong at some point in their lives. Or maybe He was writing a message to the woman to say she was forgiven. Whatever the message, we know that as the teachers and the Pharisees kept pressing Him to discipline the woman, Jesus responds by saying, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7 NIV). When the accusers heard this, they all began to leave. Why? Because they all realize they too have sinned, and should not have condemned this woman. When everyone is gone, and only Jesus and the woman remain, He says to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 NIV). She responds by telling him none of them did. What He says next speaks directly to my heart— “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11 NIV). Ah, the power of grace, and the lesson I needed in that moment!
After what seemed like an eternity, I told Gabe, “Jesus has shown me grace, and in return, I owe you the same. I forgive you and would like to move on from what happened. Please don’t do this again.” Honestly, I was shocked at what I was saying, but the words rolled off my tongue effortlessly, and when I really thought about the situation, I felt gratitude towards Gabe for being honest with me.
At a time when my whole world felt like it was falling apart, God walked beside me and showed me how extending grace could lead to a feeling of gratitude, and ultimately freedom, through truth and forgiveness.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32 NIV
Stephanie Patterson is originally from Denver, Colorado, and has called Las Vegas home since 2013. She has been married to her incredibly supportive and patient husband, Gabriel, since 2008. Her blended family includes 3 children – 2 adult children living productively on their own (hallelujah!), and a spunky, creative pre-teen who keeps her on her toes. Stephanie became a mother at a young age, and in her late 30s, is finally figuring out who she is. What she has discovered about herself, thus far, is she loves to read, write, cook/bake, and nap. What she has always known is that her heart belongs to God, and she feels called to connect with people who need help seeing that God loves and accepts them as they are. Stephanie is looking forward to sharing her life experiences and hopes to connect with others through the grace and glory of God.