Sunday, October 06, 2013

My Encounter with John 4 - The Woman at the Well

I've been working my way through Dale Bruner's commentary on the Gospel of John and earlier this summer I focused on John 4.  I've always liked the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well and although for different reasons, I very much related to her feelings of weariness and isolation and her sadness over events resulting in rejection.

As much as I liked her in the story, however, I felt like Jesus was kind of mean to her.  I'm not sure what propelled me, but I decided to rewrite the story from her perspective as if I lived the story and had this encounter with Jesus.  It has completely changed my perception of Jesus in this story and I'm grateful.  Here is my adaptation.

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Part 1 - An Unexpected Conversation
Part 2 - A Disarming Revelation
Part 3 - A Winsome Invitation

A Winsome Invitation (Part 3 - Adapted from John 4)

When I looked at him I saw something I've never seen before.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but a purity of sorts.  Not specifically sexual, but something much more.  A purity of thought, purity of expression, purity of words.  A purity of alignment.  Somehow everything seemed to line up with everything else.  No contradictions, no pretension, no hiding, no false presentation, no spinning.  His actions, his expressions, his words, his movement, his speech pattern.  Even the way he closed his eyes.  Authenticity is the word that comes to mind.

Just as he quietly spoke those stunning words, "I am He," a group of men walked up.  The moment evaporated and the purity disappeared.  Although they said nothing to me, it was obvious by their expressions that they did not associate with my people, let alone a woman with my past.

They clearly knew this man and, thankfully, taking their cues from him they held their tongues.  However, they did not hide their looks.  Were they embarrassed that their leader spoke to me?  Why on earth would he talk with me?  They probably wondered what I wanted from him.  They wouldn't know that he was the one who started the conversation not me.  That he asked me for a drink not the other way around.

On the other hand, maybe they sensed something important occurred?  I don't know, but I quickly turned without saying goodbye or saying what my heart wanted to say.  "Thank you for respecting me and affirming me.  Thank you for listening to me and hearing the words behind my words."

As I walked home the whole conversation replayed again through my mind.  This tired man sitting beside the well when I arrive.  Him asking me for a drink.  Me surprised at his acknowledgement as well as his words.  My shock and slightly edgy response.  His offer of something called Living Water.  His first clue of his true identity.  His invitation to ask for this Quenching and to ask for this Living Satisfaction.

Didn't he say something about never thirsting again?  I desire to be satisfied, to be truly satisfied; and for deep desires to be quieted so they won't rage.  The thing is lost hopes, lost dreams, disappointments, rejection, they always leave an empty place.  Abandoned now, but still known.  Still very much known.  Each new thing has promise.  Each new relationship a focus and a hope for a future.  Yet each eventually disintegrates.  Each one somehow twists into something else.  What initially piqued interest now brings anger.  Not wanting to cling too tightly somehow I still do.  I look for signs.  I look for clues of loosening commitment and for waning interest.  I clutch tighter and tighter trying to control things out of my control.

I always give my heart to each one thinking it will work this time.  I turn over the reins, my hopes, my future, my plans and then it all evaporates.  The reins get twisted and I'm left broken with mounds of unmet needs, confusion, dissatisfaction, and thirst...deep, deep thirst.

Had I inadvertently set each up to fail?  In all honesty were they ever really capable of delivering what I needed?  Is it even possible for a person, a job, a child, a goal to satisfy everything?  Maybe some part of that everything, but I see now a big gulf between their ability and my heartfelt need and desire.

Was his offer of Living Water meant to meet this deep need?  Was his offer to care for my abandoned and broken heart?

you, my beloved, 
are worthy of My love

And I AM 
worthy of your heart.

These words came to mind from out of nowhere.  They reduce me to tears wooing and disarming me. What does it mean for GOD to say he is WORTHY of MY heart.  If He truly is God it seems He bows quite low when He says them.

Something about letting those words settle over me brought a quiet.  I now understand.  He is and had always been the only one who could fully care for my heart.  Not only care for it, but truly honored to be asked.  To all others it is a burden.  Disappointment was always and would always be the end.  It couldn't be any other way.

I realized I never did get that drink he offered.  Though in truth something shifted inside.  No longer is my deep need a home for shame.  For the first time I feel honored and cherished.

Maybe that remarkable man and brilliant prophet really is who is says he is.  Maybe, just maybe, he really is the Messiah after all.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Part 1 - An Unexpected Conversation
Part 2 - A Disarming Revelation
Part 3 - A Winsome Invitation

A Disarming Revelation (Part 2 - Adapted from John 4)

I came to the well this morning much defeated and dispirited.  I didn't expect to see anyone.  I went alone on purpose at a time when no one else goes.  It is always very hot at noon, but in the end it is easiest.  Yes, I do want this water he spoke of and to never thirst again.  But especially to never have to visit this well again.

I think he must have seen my expression change and caught a glimpse of my sadness.  It felt like his face softened.  Once again his words were completely unexpected.  He asked me to go get my husband.

Jeesh!  The thing is I've been married five times and I'm done with it.  I'm with a guy now but making no plans for a sixth husband.  I don't even want to get into this.  Lots of pain, lots of complication, miles of hard road.  Cycles of destruction and rejection.  I would just rather not talk about this.

I grabbed my water jug so I could leave, not to "go get my husband" but to evade the engulfing shame I've been hoping to escape.  Up to this point I'd held nothing back so my answer was short just that I didn't have a husband.

It wasn't a lie, but not the full story either.

Get this!!  It's like he read my thoughts.  He brought up that I'd had five husbands and now with someone who's not my husband.  How did he know that?

And then you won't believe what he did next.  He affirmed me!  He affirmed that I spoke truthfully.  I cannot explain what his affirmation did...deep, deep down in a long ago devastated place.  The disappointments deep, but somehow I have...not even sure the words...somehow I just keep going but it's not without a cost.

I told him he must be a prophet and then something came to mind that I'd always wondered about.  More truthfully, though, I really just needed to change the subject or I knew I'd fall apart right there, right then, right in front of him.

I asked about worshiping and why his people are so adamant about worshipping in Jerusalem.  They say it is the absolute place we must go.  It's always bothered me because the thing is my people are certainly not welcome's a catch twenty-two really.

Again his answer took the conversation to a whole other plane.  He talked of a time when worship would be in neither place, not there and not here either, and he mentioned bowing before "The Father".  He said my people didn't really understand what we worshipped.  In actuality I understood these words because my people have a long history of putting our trust in many different things.  Pledging our allegiance only to be disappointed by their silence.

He said a time was coming and actually spoke of it as present...a NOW moment when true worshipers would be worshiping this Father by Spirit and Truth.  He said that the Father is actually seeking people that want to know him, who are drawn toward him, and want to surrender to him.  He mentioned this Spirit and Truth again, that they were needed to worship the Father...honestly all very confusing to me.

This man, this prophet; he is like no other.  Like no one I've ever met before. What he said is amazing.  So full of mystery and totally beyond my thoughts and imagination. He spoke of things that hopefully one day the Messiah will explain.   He is coming one day at least that is what I'm supposed to believe.

I wonder what it might be like if or when the Messiah comes.  I wonder what he will look like and how he'll act.  Certainly he will be strong, smart, a warrior, coming as a long awaited king.  I'm certain though he won't visit our town.  Speaking more to myself I said aloud, "You know the Messiah will come one day and will explain everything to us."  I gathered my jar and began drawing his water.

Then he quietly said with this amazing inner strength, "I am He, I, the man talking with you."

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Part 1 - An Unexpected Conversation
Part 2 - A Disarming Revelation
Part 3 - A Winsome Invitation

An Unexpected Conversation (Part 1 - Adapted from John 4)

Today this man asked me for a drink of water.  He was sitting alone resting apparently weary from his walk.  Taken aback by his request and because I was lonely and a bit angry I snidely said,

"Why would you ask me for a drink when most people like you want nothing to do with people like me?"

I expected him to ignore me or give me a dirty look, or worse yell at me.  But he did none of that and maybe even flashed a tiny smile.  Instead of pulling away he seemed to invite me to more conversation.  While looking down and with a slight lilt in his voice he said, "If you knew the free gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for Living Water and he would have given it to you."

How strange of him to talk in third person.  That was certainly not the answer I expected.  Him now offering me water.  He turned the tables a bit.  That's kinda funny.  Such a nice man and so respectful.  It'd been a long time since someone treated me like that.

Strange thing though, he didn't even have a bucket to draw water and where would he get this water.  Living Water is what he called it.  What on earth is Living Water anyway?  Made me wonder if he thought he was better than my ancestor who gave us this well.  He and all his children and all their flocks drank from here.

So I told him exactly what I was thinking.  I thought he might get angry, but he didn't.  He actually said something pretty bizarre and actually a little bit weird.

Pointing to my well he said, "The people who drink from this well will thirst again.  Your ancestor was thirsty and you will certainly thirst again...BUT," and then he pointed to himself, "anyone including you who drinks, who once drinks the water I give, they will never thirst again.  In fact and THIS is the awesome part," at that point he was smiling so brightly and so excited,  "the water I give, and I will give it, in that person it will become a Fountain of Water.

"This water, this Living Water, will gush up...come gushing up into deep," and I swear he looked deep into my soul, "deep lasting...Life."

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Part 1 - An Unexpected Conversation
Part 2 - A Disarming Revelation
Part 3 - A Winsome Invitation