On a recent visit to a new Sunday School class, I met the "woman at the well." You know, the Samaritan woman recounted in John 4: 4-42. It was the classic case of the familiar coming in a completely new way. I encourage you to read the entire story, but the overview finds a thirsty Jesus at a well in Samaria. A quick flashback to the classic "Good Samaritan" story reminds us that the Jews and Samaritans were not close, to put it mildy. Add to this the fact that a woman was coming alone to the well in midday, talking to a man who was a complete stranger. Definite taboos. Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water, she counters wiht a question as to why he is talking to her. Jesus references the fact that if she knew who he was, she would be asking him for a drink. Approaching the situation on its face, the woman again counters with the fact that Jesus has no apparent way to draw any water from the well. Jesus describes the gift of living water, then proceeds to go further and unveil all of the secrets the woman might have assumed would be hidden from this stranger: divorce, adultery, shacking up. We think that we hide things so well once we leave the house don't we.
The scriptures end up with the women enjoying an amazing encounter with Jesus Christ. Not only does she find salvation, or rather salvation found her, but her testimony results in many of the Samaritans believings. It is an incredible outcome for a situation that begin with a simply request for water. I wonder, however, had I been this woman would I have missed this encounter, the end result? I see so many points in the story where I would have exited stage left.
- The woman went to the well at mid-day. This was not the usual time for women to go to the well. She had made her plan to go when she would most likely be able to take care of her business alone. Had it been me would I have become aggravated that my plan was not going as I had laid it out? Would I have abandoned the task in the hopes of trying again at another hour.
- The woman encountered a stranger. With a mountain of baggage, how wary was she about encountering a stranger. Would I have been so open to striking up a conversation, especially when I wanted to get in and get out?
- Jesus responded to her plain speak with puzzling questions. How simple would it have been to become annoyed with the fact that Jesus was speaking to her in something akin to riddles? Would I have felt that this stranger was trying to show me to be a fool. Would I have become insecure and abandoned the experience.
- Jesus knew about all of her past. We can easily say "oh we have all made mistakes." It is, however, a completely different animal to have a stranger begin to list out our sins and errors. Would I have become incensed, started crying or tried to retaliate to cover my heart?
I applaud the Samaritan woman for staying in the conversation. By being able to move past insecurity, aggravation, interruption, questioning and exposure, her life was changed. I wonder how many moments I have removed myself from just because they did not fit into my plan or my comfort zone. I pray today that my eyes will remain open to the value found in staying in the conversation.