She has finished her chores for the morning and yet one still remains. The water needs to be fetched. She waits until a time that the other women will not be near. They do not want her around. She does not want to be with them either. They are not her friends; she knows what they think of her. She is past caring, one husband, two husbands… more than anyone cares to count. What is she to do? She is a woman - without a man, what does life have to offer her?
She does what she must to survive. It is hot and the road to the well is dusty. Her skin glistens with tiny beads of perspiration as she balances the water jug on her head. She has become indifferent to life. What is left to enjoy? Time has marched on and she has lost sight of her childhood dreams. Too many dashed, too many failed.
As she approaches the well she is surprised to see a man, alone. He is not from around here, in fact, he is one of them. A Jew. She stops… what should she do? Maybe it is more curiosity than need that causes her to draw near. Why is this man here when his kinsmen avoid hers so vehemently? Why has he come? Why? She knows men well. She does not fear them. She knows men well.
As she approaches the well he speaks to her…“Will you give me a drink of water?” There is kindness in His voice; his eyes are fixed upon hers, his gaze is steady, but not in the way that most men’s gazes usually linger over her shape. She is intrigued. Surprised. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” He is breaking every law, every rule that exists between them. He is a man, she a woman, He is a stranger, she is unknown and alone. He is a Jew, she a Samaritan. Drinking from her cup makes him unclean.
The moment will be forever etched in her mind. An encounter that will change her life has begun. He speaks to her of a gift of God. He talks of living water. She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t understand… but she knows she wants more. The air is ripe with peace, his eyes are pure love, and his voice carries life. Life that quenches the deepest thirst and water that washes away the past. His promises brim with hope. She wants what he is offering. It is not just his words that impact her; it is his presence and very being. There is a truth here that she has not encountered before and one that she can’t deny.
“Give me this water,” she pleads hoarsely, “so I won’t get thirsty.” Her soul desires to be quenched. It NEEDS to be quenched. A flame flickers in the darkness of her mind. And then her past appears before her. The man looks at her with deep eyes and quietly says ‘Go call your husband,’ She pauses. What should she say? Shame
fills her being and every cell feels the weight. She looks to the ground and murmurs, “I have no husband.” The man speaks to her once more, as if reading her life from a scroll. He knows her. How can he know that she has had five husbands? How can he know that the man she shares a bed with will not call her wife?
The man lays her life bare and yet there is no judgment in his tone. He reveals her shame so gently and carefully, just between them. Not ridiculing her in public as others have done. How does he know her? Did he come seeking her? Was this not a random meeting? “I can see you are a prophet.” She feels uncomfortable and tries to deflect with theology. Not understanding the divinity of the meeting.
As she takes this step back, he takes a step forward. Grace begins to move. He continues to woo her, breaking through her thinking, challenging her with new paradigms. She begins to awaken spiritually, just as the first rays of the morning sun transform the night sky into day. She tries again “I know Messiah is coming.”
He is ready for her to finally know. She is ready to finally be known. His words pour over her, breaking down her wall of law and hurt with waves of love and acceptance. “I am he.” She is undone. She is transformed. She has encountered the Messiah, YHWH in flesh.
He does not punish her for her sins, he accepts her despite them. He does not make her earn His love, he seeks her and woos her in her fallen state. Love is not about perfection, it is about acceptance. The water begins to flow… welling up and overflowing as he promised. She must go and tell everyone, anyone. She runs to town in such haste she leaves her water jar behind. She goes to the market place and calls out “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
Her joy overflows as Grace’s power enables. She has been looking for love all her life and now here is love. She has been set free and she cannot wait to share it. They listen, “Can she be right?” Yes, her words, so powerful they cannot deny it. The Spirit opens their ears. They come, they believe. Many more… because of her words and His love.
She is unnamed but she was always known
A paraphrased retelling of The Woman at the Well. John 4