Monday, October 19, 2009

Living Water . . . or . . .

I can’t help it; I just like the places in Holy Scripture where Jesus interacts with women. As a child I hungered for stories about children. As a grown woman, I seek out books and other forms of inspirational media involving women. I suppose it is only natural.

One such event described only in the Gospel of St. John is the story of the Woman at the Well. Jesus and his disciples had just left Judea and returned to Galilee passing necessarily through Samaria, alien territory. In the little town of Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph was a well which still bore the patriarch’s name. John tells us that the disciples had gone into the town to buy food and Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well about noon. Along comes a woman to draw water.

What the evangelist doesn’t tell us—but most people of the time knew—was that most respectable women got their water in the cool of the morning or late in the evening. This was done as much for practical reasons as for social ones. Therefore, the Samaritan Woman was most likely an outcast. She was getting her water during the heat of the day when she was least likely to encounter her neighbors. Have you ever run errands at ‘safe’ times? To avoid people who didn’t like you? Bullies, maybe or popular groups? I find myself intrigued by this Samaritan Woman.

Jesus asks her for water and she replies, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" She may be a social leper but she’s practical and knows the score; Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.

But Jesus has something much bigger in mind than social mores. He is thinking, seeing and answering her as God does, "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

Her reply is all too human and earthy: "Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?”

Here I see myself. Here I become the Woman at the Well. I am holding the bucket. He wants to give me Living Water. I persist in asking Jesus ‘bucket’ questions:

‘Where is the water? How do I get it? Are you going to give it to me? What's the 'catch'? The cost? How is this whole thing going to work? Can we get this all arranged so I can get out of here before my unfriendly neighbors come out and I have to deal with them?’

But the real question is, can I let go of my ‘bucket’ questions? My limited perspective?

When will I stop trying to fit God into my little bucket?

I went to the well today at this particular time to avoid meeting people I was afraid would embarrass or upset me—and what did I find?

Who did I meet? God Himself!

And He is offering me something which surpasses my wildest dreams!

His Living Water is more, better, bigger, tastier and more satisfying than anything I can imagine!

Now, can I set my bucket down?

Can I drink fully from His Living Water?

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