This woman received nothing but judgment and scorn from the people in her town. Alone for three years in a new frontiers town with no word from her husband, she feared he was dead. Finding friendship in a gentle man, they fell into temptation and into an affair. Found out to be with child, the town erupted against her.
Are you familiar with this story? Set in New England in the 1700s, Nathaniel Hawthorn, author of The Scarlet Letter, paints a sad stern picture of Puritan values. Different from the humbly beautiful Puritan works that I have seen, Hawthorn must have seen only strict legalism and a fear of revealing personal shortcomings. His Puritan leaders hide their own sin, shame others, and seem to know nothing of redemption and forgiveness.
Hester Prynne, the single mother, and her daughter lived on the outskirts of town. Hester was forever forced to wear a large embroidered A for adultery, and her daughter grew up chased and shunned by neighbor children, morphing into a fearfully broken and bitter child.
This American Literature book that my son and I are reading aloud together for school is so sad. We break from reading and burst out into discussions of what should be happening instead of what is happening in the story.
"John," I finally said this week. "Write Hester Prynne a letter. That's your assignment for today. Tell her all the things God would be telling her... about how people are treating her here, about how God sees us, and about the hope she can have."
Grumbling a little bit about his homschooling mom's odd assignments, he nevertheless grabbed a notebook and headed downstairs to the quiet of his room. Later he emerged with this letter (and gave me permission to use it).
I'm sorry for how people treat you. I feel bad when I read about when people make fun of you and ridicule you for what you did. It makes me annoyed when they keep talking about your sin and act themselves as if they are holy. It's so stupid. Everyone has sin and falls short of the glory of God.
When that happens in life and when people ridicule you, always remember that they're not perfect either. When you see other people, don't think on what they have done to you or can do to you, but think on how much God loves them, just like he loves you. Think of them as other sinners that God loves and that they're not any better than you.
Also remember that God can bring glory and goodness out of sin. What you did was sin! But God can overcome that sin and make it into a rainbow with every color showing off God's awesomeness and forgiveness. And also remember that God is the perfect father for your daughter and yourself.
Wow! What fun to see my son understanding glimpses into God's huge redemptive character. He's right too that we all wrestle with sin.
Sometimes we Christians still fall into a trap of thinking that we need to look as if our acts are all together and that we have no sin. The truth is we all have sin and junk in our lives that God is working on in us. Our scarlet letters may vary per day. Today my letters were C for critical spirit, U for ungrateful, I for impatient, and Q for quarrelsome.
Thankfully when I bring these letters to God and ask my Abba Daddy for forgiveness, he gives it lavishly. Then, he strips off my letters and throws them away.
Extravagant love. Lavish grace. Wild second and third and fourth chances... Dear Hester Prynne...
What about you? I'm so glad you are here right now. What are you thinking about today? What letters did God strip off you today?