Last week I relapsed after being under the weather already for a full week. On the night I finally started to feel like myself again, my brain went into hyperdrive and I lay awake until midnight. I finally fell asleep, only to be awakened at 4am by a thunderstorm. To be frank, when I typically awaken that early in the morning, I can't open my eyes and occasionally I think I wonder if I'm awake to pray for anyone? and then I lay there trying to go back to sleep, ignoring the wondering. Because I am tired. I am not listening. This time, I lay there for half an hour or so before deciding I was really, truly awake. I put on a pot of coffee a little before 5am and cringed turning on the lamp by the couch. I sat there dumbly for a while, wondering what to do.
In real life, I am not a "rise at 5am" woman. I forget they have a five in the morning and I sleep as long as my kid will let me. But this time something felt different, so I crept back into my room for my Bible and notebook and I curled up in the corner of the sofa breathing a prayer of receiving, of openness, of waiting. This is what I read:
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water.
Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.
She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle? Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw." He said to her, "Go, call your husband and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have correctly said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly." The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."
At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, "What do You seek?" or, "Why do You speak with her?" So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?"
I'm always moved by this story for a variety of reasons. Knowing the cultural and racial climate to be hostile to women and to Samaritans, it's an upheaval of everything a good Jew held dear for Jesus to even speak to this woman. I dearly love that Jesus is continually reversing the values of this world and I love that the gospel writers recognized the significance of this. Jesus places value on women in a culture where women were disdained, refused political and property rights, and often mistreated harshly. He speaks openly, publicly, and kindly to women. He dignifies this woman.
I'm also moved by the startling reality that He knew her already. I forget, because the historical Jesus walked around with skin on doing normal things and doing miraculous things, that His eternal perspective saw all of the people he met with. He saw and knew their whole selves. He saw and really knew this woman. He knew her past and her reputation and he still came to her well.
A friend remarked recently that though our individual struggles are different, our idols are often the same. We're all coming to the same well over and again, hoping to find life and refreshment in the water there. We look for life in our daily tasks, our careers, our intelligence, our accomplishments, our reputations - hoping that this time, it'll be different. This time, we'll get what we came for and know an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. This old story reminded me that Jesus meets me at my well, too - and he asks me, "Is this filling you up like you thought it would? Is this meeting your need for affirmation? Are you nourished here?"
And I hem and haw and offer my excuses up and balk, with my own questions rising to the surface: What are you doing at my well? How can I trust you? You probably want something from me. It's probably going to hurt.
But he offers me an alternative: living water. My own questions or confusion or pride may demand further proof, just as hers did: You have nothing to draw with - this well is deep. How can water live? Where do you get it? Will you really give it to me?
Jesus, oh, Jesus...he looks at me with such kindness...
"This well? It will never satisfy you, daughter. It will never be enough because your spirit thirsts for more than it can give - for nearness and life and freedom and I am telling you NOTHING you draw from this well is going to satisfy you. You cannot be satiated by knowledge, by performance, by being a 'good Christian', by retreating to the far country or by numbing the pain. This well is not where the life is. BUT I KNOW WHERE YOU CAN DRAW FROM. Oh, sweet one, here is MY life! I am the Living Water - you need never thirst again. You can draw from my life and dwell with me securely. And in me, only in me, you will find that aching is met with grace, that parched thirst can be quenched. I am your water. I am your well. Drink deeply."
[more later this week, on drinking deeply...]