LESSONS FROM THE WOMAN AT THE WELL
The way in which the story of the woman at the well is told in John 4: 1-42 causes me to wonder why the Samaritan woman was drawing water at the hottest part of the day.
Common sense would be that the best time of the day to draw water would be in the cool of the morning, not the heat of high noon. Something certainly the woman at the well would know. Perhaps previously, others had ostracized her or perhaps she had isolated herself out of fear and shame.
People often distance themselves when they need others the most. Think about how this often happens in the church. People go through difficult circumstances or they make unfortunate decisions that create difficult situations and they distance themselves.
They come late and leave early. They sit in the back row and avoid conversation.
Before you know it, they seem to drift off and disappear. They are afraid to be seen. They are afraid to admit the heavy weight of fear, shame, and guilt that they are carrying.
I believe the woman who came to draw water from the well that day was carrying a story she feared no one would receive or understand. She was afraid to be seen as she really was. What if people really knew her? What if people really knew her past decisions, choices, and series of unfortunate events? Could anyone ever accept her?
This fear is a fear that, if we are honest with ourselves, we all carry. What if people knew ______?– and you can fill in the blank.
What if people knew…
You are bad with money.
You are bad at relationships.
You struggle with addiction.
You struggle with depression.
You lose your temper too often.
You lose jobs too often.
You disappoint others.
You disappoint yourself.
What if people knew?
Along with her water jar, perhaps this also is what the woman carries with her when she encounters Jesus.
After asking her for a drink of water, Jesus assures her HE can offer her the living water, water that will quench a thirst she has spent a lifetime seeking. Yet, the shame she has been trying to hide rises up from the pit of her stomach and turns into the burning sensation of shame in her throat when Jesus says to her, “Go call your husband, and come back.”
She can no longer hide. Then she looks at Jesus and something beautiful, something miraculous, something transforming happens. Jesus sees her and she senses that he accepts her and will not judge her. She feels safe. Safe to be herself.
Safe to reveal her truth. “I have no husband.” As soon as she says it aloud, something changes, something shifts. The past no longer has power over her because the way in which Jesus receives her truth.
Without judgment or condemnation, Jesus acknowledges her with,
“You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”
Jesus offers her the gift we all need…we all long for…for which we thirst.
He creates a safe place for her to be honest, open and vulnerable. Then, when she reveals her truth, he offers her unconditional love, grace, and extravagant welcome.
Jesus models in that moment what he calls us to model and live out in the church.
The mission of the church of Jesus Christ is to seek to offer safe places where people can be honest, open, and vulnerable. Places where the transforming love, grace and extravagant welcome of Christ is practiced and can be received by all who walk through our doors.
May we be like the Samaritan woman. May we first have the courage to tell the truth, to be honest with ourselves and with God. Then may we accept the powerful truth that Jesus sees us completely, knows us fully, and forgives us freely. May we receive Christ’s gift of overflowing grace. Finally, may we follow her example and share the good news and the gift of Christ’s transforming love, grace, and extravagant welcome with all. Blessing, Shana