This morning my husband and I were talking and he pointed out something I have never thought about. Something that as a women who feels called to use her voice to share the good news of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice, left me in tears in the gym parking lot. In the Bible, John chapter four is often referred to as the story of “The Woman at the Well”. It’s a story of a time when Jesus sent off His friends and sat at a water well in the middle of the day and waited for a women who was a social outcast.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, there was some serious racism the Hebrew people felt towards the Samaritan people. It was so bad that often the Hebrew people would go the long way around Samaria just to avoid the those they hated. But not Jesus. He loves all of His created ones with an equal passion, and the Bible tells us He "had to" pass through Samaria. He had to... Growing up I often heard this story presented in a way that shamed the woman. Not only was she a Samaritan, but she had been married five times and was living with a man she wasn’t married to. In her culture she was the lowest of the low. She was marginalized and look down on simply because of her existence. Two thousand something years later in America it is still too often common for people in power to shame women for their sexuality. Since being married I have been wrestling with Jesus because even though I had actively been doing the work to undo the damage and shame brought on by the purity culture in much of American Christianity in the 1990’s, there are still remnants of it that weren’t discovered until my wedding night. But that is a topic for another day and possibly an another book. While today in our culture morality is still often weaponized through words and shame tactics, in Jesus’s day it could cost a women her life. So this woman who He sat and waited for was literally the least likely person anyone in that time would have thought He would use to share His story. Over the years I have so often heard people talk of her five marriages and living with a man she wasn’t married to as a moral failure. But in her culture, she had very little to no say in who she married. And often just to survive women found themselves in the bed of someone so they would also have physical protection from the elements and food for their stomachs. I have often wondered the pain of loosing five husbands. Did they divorce her? Did they take her family's dowry then serve her with papers saying she was no longer wanted. Did her husbands die? Was she forever to carry abound the label of black widow? Did she love the man she was living with or was it simply a place to rest her head? Had she given up on a childhood dream of a happy and thriving marriage? Whatever reason for her to find herself where she did, I believe her journey was wrought with a deep heartache. I am about to celebrate eight months of marriage and I cannot imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning without Chris by my side. To no longer start my mornings with hearing about his conversations with God or telling him mine. To no longer have someone to go to the gym with or eat dinner next to. When in the moments the weight of living in a fallen world comes crashing down on me I feel I can’t breathe, to no longer have his arms to go to… A year ago I didn’t have him and I didn’t know what I was missing. I had no clue what the security of knowing I had a partner felt like, but now… it is a deep joy I can’t put into words. And to loose it… to loose it multiple times...
Yes I believe the woman Jesus met that day had faced heartache that would have caused may of us to throw in the towel. The kind of pain we would numb with busyness, religious fervor, social media, blaming, food, tv, pills or whatever our coping mechanisms were. But we meet this woman as she is going about her daily work. Alone. In the heat of the day when the other woman would have been there in the cool of the morning. Shame does that to you. It makes you think you must avoid the other people. It makes you feel there is something innately wrong with you. It leaves you feeling that you do not deserve what others have. As a follower of Christ it can leave you feeling that you are the exception to the love of God. That He loves you because He has to but He would never choose you. The false idea that you got in simply because you’re part of a package deal. I wonder if that is how this woman felt. I have often identified with this woman because time and time again I fall short of what seems so effortless for other. But then Jesus enters her world, like He daily does mine, and changes everything. This morning my husband pointed out that in all the recorded stories of Jesus, this was the only time that He waited for someone. Chris started our morning pondering about how special this one woman must have been that the The Savior Of The Universe went to where He knew she would be and waited for her. In her culture she was the lowest of low yet after meeting Jesus she was empowered to go to the people of her town, to the men of her town, and say “follow me.” That was unheard of. But Jesus knew the potential of her, knew of how deep her devotion to Him would run and so he went to where she would be and He waited. He waited alone. He sent His friends away to be alone with her and I have a feeling it is because if they were there, the prejudice and privilege of where they came from would have clouded their ability to truly see the woman for who she is: a created one of God who would be used to bring her entire town into the fullness of the knowledge of the goodness of Jesus. Chris also pointed out that Jesus passed up a meal when his friends came back and possibly was fasting for this woman; possibly fasting for the work she was doing in sharing His good news with those who had deemed her inferior. And this morning, as a woman who has said and done things out of pain she wished she hadn’t, I take such comfort in knowing that just like this unnamed woman, Jesus goes to where He knows I will be and waits for me. He waits for me because He knows the potential I have inside of me to boldly declare “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out.” He is the Messiah. The One we have all been waiting for has been waiting for us. Like many people the last eight months have been full of more pain than I knew I could bear. From often having no clue what my job situation will be day to day and trusting that God will guide me every step, to learning that the last twenty years of trying to remove my cultural lens still left me deeply unaware of the racism that is so normative in this country. From having to daily fight the despair that I may never hug my mother again to having physical challenges I assumed God would have worked out by now because He can… And in these last eight months I have sinned deeply in my pain. I have literally cussed God out and turned my back on Him in moments I didn’t feel like I had the faith to even look at Him. Growing up I heard seasons and moments like this described as rebellion or “back sliding”, but now I think those terms are widely misused. My sin came from a brokenness and pain, not from rebellion. All of us have moments when are best simply isn’t very good at all. And like the woman at the well I continue to have moments where faith in my ability to hear from Him feels smaller than a mustard seed. And in those moments He goes to where He knows I will be, and He waits for me. He waits out my temper tantrums, my silent treatment, my moments of gluttony and mind numbing television. He waits for me to choose to stop hiding in busyness or get my head out of the sand in my avoidance. He waits as long as I need and then He gently speaks to the things that others want to shame me for. He speaks to the things that I want to shame me for. He speaks to the self righteousness, the arrogance and the pride that leave me wanting to point my finger at the “other”. He speaks to the self doubt and self loathing trying to take up the place they once held in my heart disguised at humility. He takes the scared, scrappy little girl terrified that she doesn’t deserve the man who has vowed to be her life partner and holds my heart in ways that words can’t begin to describe. He speaks His approval and love over me as He illuminates every lie the world and even well meaning people try to speak over me. He meets me where I am so I can use my voice to continue to declare His goodness to the world around me. When my motives and actions are misunderstood He is my safe place and He will fight for me. When my body actually craves the loss of appetite that comes with despair because I lived there so long, He beckons me to eat and enjoy the taste buds He’s given me. When I push my husband away and try to prove that I am more messed up than he thought and my fear of being “too much” and “not enough” is true, Jesus waits for me. He holds up His Word as a mirror and speaks all I have and all I am doing in a way that leads me not only back to His arms, but also to the arms of the man who He brought into my life to love me like He does. I don’t know where you find yourself today. I don’t know what fears or anxiety or sin you are not wanting to confront, but my prayer is you know Jesus is waiting in those places for you. He is not waiting in judgement nor disappointment. I know a lot of voices have told you that He is mad at you and that you don’t measure up. That you never will. But that lie is a twisting of the freedom of knowing you won’t ever fully measure and there is no pressure to try. All we are called to do is put one foot in front of the other on the personal journey The One Who Put The Stars Into Place has called us to. He knows the deepest part of you and loves you with the passion of a thousand waterfalls. And He waits for you.