There’s this story in the Bible – in John 4 – about a woman who lives with so much shame that she only goes to gather water when no one else is there. It’s the hottest part of the day. And one day, Jesus meets her there. He asks for a drink – which is weird, right? Because she’s a Samarian woman and all that… but he shows her that he knows her. That he gets her. That she’s had 5 husbands…and the man she’s currently with isn’t married to her. He KNOWS her. Her shame, her fears, her desperate desire to hide… and he SEES her. He really sees her, and all of that stuff doesn’t matter to him. Because he’s perfect and he’s all we need to make it through – and he knows this and is going to give this gift to her.
Jesus told the woman, after asking for a drink of water, that if she knew of God and who was asking her for water, she would stop, ask for water from him instead, and his living water would keep her from being thirsty. Without hesitation, she asks for the living water.
So she will never have to return to the well.
To the place where the women gossip. Where her fear and shame and indiscretions come to light. She wants it not to be filled with joy, not to receive salvation. She’s so far in that she can’t even begin to process what that could mean, yet. She’s in deep, guys, and she can’t see a way out. She just wants to be able to hide away where no fear can overcome her again.
But Jesus does so much more. He takes that shame and pain and blame and reveals himself to her as Christ. And he sends her with the Good News of his presence – he gives her new purpose. He takes on her darkest, deepest fears and gives her new life in him.
I’d be lying to you if I told you my life was butterflies and roses right now. I often find myself swallowed by fears. Fear of what happens next if my back and hips don’t respond to chiropractic care. Fear of if I’m living up to the expectations others have of me. Fear of if I’m doing it all right, if I’m successful enough, of…so many things.
I went swimming tonight. I haven’t gone swimming (really swimming…not just hanging with youth at a pool or something) in probably a year. I slipped into the water and I swam. I only spent maybe forty-five minutes total? Not a long workout, and I didn’t even try that hard…
But tonight, while I was swimming, my back didn’t ache unceasingly like it has for the last eight months. My mind focused solely on breathing and counting strokes. The water enveloped me, like only the promise of living water can do. I was calm. Focused only on the safety of the pool I was in and the water washing over me. Of the breath entering and leaving my body. Of how good it felt to just be alive and kicking. I was reminded that I am a child of God, loved and named and claimed by Christ through the living waters of Baptism.
For forty-five minutes, my shame and pain, my fear and doubt, they weren’t mine at all. I gave them up in favor of living. And they didn’t just sit on the edge of the pool, waiting for me to pick them up again – like a water jar, reminding me of all the people who are whispering and the heavy load these thoughts cause me to bear. They were being carried by Jesus, who loves us so much that he’ll give us all of the sips of living water we need.
Sips of strength.
Sips of dignity.
Sips of hope.
Sips of promise.
“The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you – I am he.”
– John 4:25-26