Women of Lent- All that I ever did

This post is a part of my Lenten series called “The Women of Lent”. For an explanation of the series and to see the past posts, check out the posts in the category “Women of Lent“.

 

Photo by Jeremy Seto, via Flickr

Photo by Jeremy Seto, via Flickr

She has no name.

She has the longest one on one conversation with Jesus recorded in the Bible, and she has no name. In fact, it seems that she does not have much of anything. She has no friends with her at the well, she has no husband, she has no dignity.

Maybe it’s easier to give everything to follow Jesus when you have nothing already.

But she does have one thing, one thing that is made abundantly clear by the fact that she is at the well during the hottest part of the day, alone.

She has shame. 

She chose to do the physical labor of drawing water in the hot of noontime instead of going with the other women in the morning or at night. She is an outcast because of her public sin, and she is ashamed. She simply wants to be alone, to not be bothered by the gossips and the holier-than-thous who taunt her nightmares. So she draws her water at noon.

As she approaches the well, she sees him. Her peaceful time at the well is not going to be possible, because someone else is already there. And from the looks of him, he is Jewish, a Jew who follows the law and wears the tassels and might even be a rabbi. Even if he doesn’t know her shame, he will reject her, just like everyone else.

She walks over, quietly, head bowed, moving quickly so as to leave quickly. And then, surprisingly, he speaks. He asks for water, from her, a Samaritan woman, in broad daylight. And then, even more surprisingly, he offers her water.

She suspects he is making fun of her, but she does not understand. He does not know her shame, she should react with dignity. She should react like she knows something, like she is worth something.

“Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

There, she thinks. He will know that I know of our faith heritage. He will think that I am smart and faithful and worth something.

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

She thinks for a moment about what this could mean. Water that makes me never thirst again? I would never have to walk out to this well in the heat of the day again! I would never have to venture outside the house. I would never have to bear my shame again. I thirst daily, so I parade forth in shame daily to this well to drink. If he can give me water that will cause me to never thirst again, I can forever hide my shame.

Immediately, she accepts. “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

She can taste the freedom, the freedom of never having to confess her sin, her shame again! She can stay home where she can forget, where no one looks at her like she is worthless. This man, he has saved her!

Until.

“Go, call your husband, and come here.”

Shame. He knows. How could he know? Is he a prophet? She feels the freedom slipping away. She can never be free from this shame. She is condemned to be looked down on because of what she has done. Perhaps… perhaps she can salvage a shred of dignity. He seems to be talking to her like she does not know the scriptures. She will show him what she knows.

“I know that the Messiah is coming (he who is called the Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things,” she breathes, barely audibly. She isn’t even sure she believes it herself, but she knows it is what the scriptures say.

He looks at her tenderly, despite her shame, despite her sin.

“I who speak to you am he,” he whispers back.

Other men come and she stands, mind reeling. His words are impossible, his words are unlikely, his words are true. 

And faced with the truth, staring the Messiah in the face, the only thing that she has, the only thing she can give up to follow him is immediately flung away.

Because when you stare Jesus in the face, you are empowered to shed your shame.

She leaves her water and runs frantically into the town, where the people see her and start to turn away. One man spits in her direction and still she runs to the center where she climbs up on a step and shouts about a man who has told her all that she ever did, all that they already know and condemn her for. She says that he spoke to her. That he knew all she ever did and he spoke to her.

Not only does she face these people who have called her dirty, shameful, and broken, but she reminds them of “all that she ever did.”She is willing to openly bear her shame for the sake of them who have accused her. She will publicly confess her sins if they will come to see Jesus.

And they do. Because not even her accusers live without shame or guilt or sin. They, too, need a man who knows all that they ever did and speaks to them anyway. Like they are worth something.

 

Sometimes it feels like freedom in Jesus looks like hiding my shame deep inside, locked up and never leaving, far away from prying eyes. After all, isn’t it forgiven now? Living water means I don’t have to parade my shame out to the well every day, right?

But freedom under lock and key is no freedom at all. Jesus came with exposed scars to expose ours, to show that what is dark and dead in us has NO POWER over light and life in Him. Jesus frees us to live the exposed life, not the hermit life.

Let’s learn from the nameless woman at the well and give up shame this Lent, even knowing giving up shame means exposing it. Because we have the same testimony as the Samaritan woman:

“He knows all I did and He spoke to me anyway.

Do you think this could be the Messiah?”

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I’m linking up with Velvet Ashes over at the Grove with their word prompt for the week: Shame. Check out the other beautiful and honest entries here.

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18 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh. Yes. This. I have read this story a hundred times but I have never seen it this way. Thank you for sharing this beautiful insight. I am so so grateful for it and for you.

    1. I hadn’t either and then I saw that line in verse 15: “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” She didn’t ask for living water just because she was thirsty, but because she didn’t want to come to the well anymore. It was so clear to me that her life must have been defined by shame in the society and time that she lived, and with the reputation she lived with. I am so thankful for her story today and for new insights into it! And I am so thankful for you as well- thank you for your encouragement! You’re welcome to stop by my blog anytime and leave comments like that :)

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Rachel! I have never thought through that statement in the story, but I definitely agree! And it goes exactly with what I’ve been learning in the past couple of weeks – that God has freed us to live under grace, not under the law. That His death freed me from all of my sin past and present and I don’t have to bear that shame. Very powerful words.

  3. Rachel, this post blessed my heart so much! I love the narrative and the beautiful way you portrayed the shedding of her shame. Thank you for sharing this!

  4. Wow! Love your recap and illustration of the story so much! Thank you so much for sharing this – your writing is beautiful. I also love the idea of “giving” up shame for Lent.

    1. Thanks Sarah! I think so often Lent gets lumped in with New Year’s resolutions, and something like giving up shame helps us to refocus on what Lent is really about, not about bettering ourselves by working hard, but by relying on God.

      1. I do think Lent can oftentimes be seen as another “resolution” and just something to do and check off the list. Which is not the purpose at all. I agree, it’s a time to ultimately focus on God and relying on Him.

  5. Beautiful, Rachel. One of my favorite moments in Jesus’ ministry. Thanks for bringing it to life so beautifully!

  6. THIS IS SO GOOD! I struggle with shame. This spoke to me so much! Thank you for retelling her story in such an intimate way.

    1. Thanks Lauren! I think everyone struggles with shame on some level, and I think it’s time for the church to let the Light in and shed our shame.

  7. This is beautiful, such a truth-filled, gracious meditation on the purpose of our Jesus. You re-tell the story in such a relatable way. I will hold on to the exhortation that freedom in Christ is freedom to be exposed – and wholly loved.

  8. Love this! Certainly never looked at this story from the perspective of her not wanting to live in shame anymore by coming back to the well. It is so true that when you stare into the face of Jesus, our sin and shame just comes undone. I enjoy hearing different perspectives from timeless stories of the Bible. Just goes to show that the Word of God is alive still today.

    1. Amen! What a radical testimony to the divinity of scripture- that we are still learning new truths from it today.

  9. I love how you turned it in to a narrative, it really brings it to life and make you realize how big of a deal it was that Jesus offered her living water, even talked to her! Really enjoyed this read.

    1. Thank you! It often helps me to understand some of the Bible stories I’ve heard so often to picture it is a narrative and really try to see and feel the story.

  10. […] With all of the spring break fun happening here, I haven’t been around much this week or last, so my most popular post this week was actually a very old one, All that I Ever Did. […]

  11. “Because when you stare Jesus in the face, you are empowered to shed your shame.”
    Yes, this! The power and truth of this. You weave beautiful words here, Rachel.

    1. Danielle we are on mind meld :). That’s what I was going to say!

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