A radical thought occurred to me this afternoon as I thought about the Samaritan woman in John 4 – how easily she could have missed God.
Think about it. If she had made better decisions and was accepted by the other women in the village, what reason would she have to avoid them? Because that is what she is doing. Avoiding the stares. Avoiding the whispers. Avoiding the garments pulled tightly away from any possible contact with her. Avoiding the avoidance.
She did not need any more judgment. She berated herself plenty for all the desperate choices she had made. She accused herself a lot for all the love-them-and-leave-them men she found herself living with. She hated herself greatly for making the same stupid mistakes over and over and over again.
And to make it worse, she could not hide or deny anything. Everyone knew her business. There was no anonymity in her village. Everyone speculated why her last man had left. Now they were probably betting when her current man would leave her.
She had no friends.
She had no acceptance.
She had no forgiveness.
So she did what she could to avoid people as often as she could. That included drawing water from the town well at the hottest part of the day, walking from her home probably on the outskirts of town, probably past one or two sets of judgmental eyes while the blaring sun beat down on her in yet another layer of unforgiveness in her life.
She most likely walked with her eyes downcast, afraid to see the obvious judgment from anyone she happened to pass. Her shoulders may have been permanently slumped from living a life of defeat and regret.
Why did she have to wake up and face another day? It was more than she could take. There was nothing good in her life. But she was still around, and the house still had to be tended. So, with a deep and soul-wrenching sigh, she drags herself to the door and reluctantly picks up her water bucket. One foot in front of the other, eyes on your feet – just get it over with so you can go home. Where only you – and your current boyfriend – can comment on your pathetic life.
She approaches the well and stops. Oh, no. A man sits at the well. Did he hear about me and come for trouble, thinking I will be an easy target? If I go over on the other side, will he just ignore me and let me go? Should I stand here in this overly hot sun and wait to see if he moves – and am I willing to wait him out? Should I turn around and go home, forgetting about the water today, knowing I can figure out some way to get along tomorrow?
And she was probably trying to figure out which option would be best when He speaks. To her. “Give Me a drink” (John 4:7).
And she quickly realizes just how different they are and how many traditional “rules” He is breaking. Men did not talk to women in public. Jews did not share drinking utensils with Samaritans. Respectable teachers did not talk to unrespectable women.
Yet He did talk to her. And she is astonished. Then He does something even more surprising – He engages her in conversation. She just wants to draw her water and go home. She doesn’t want this man to talk to her, and she doesn’t want to think about the new rumors that will spread about her because He is talking to her. But He keeps talking to her, not making any sense because He is talking in riddles. He is talking about “living water” (John 4:10) – of course water is necessary for all life, everyone knows this.
But then He offers her hope for maybe the first time in her life – “everlasting life” (John 4:14). Not the mere, sad existence she has known. Not the isolated and shame-filled life she has lived. He offers her a life forgiven of regret and shame. He offers her a life where new possibilities are available. He offers her hope that she is not stuck forever in her current lifestyle and the consequences of her choices.
But, alas, He did not really mean it. He was messing with her. Because He wants to talk to her husband (John 4:16). Well, she knew better than to get her hopes up. It always comes back to the husband. She does not have one of those. Instead, she has a guy living with her who “appreciates” her willingness to cohabitate.
So she figures the deal is off. Back to life as usual. Hope was fun for those few minutes, but it would never be more than a joke for someone like her.
But she is wrong. He still offers her a new life – even knowing who she is and how she has lived. Yes, He calls out her choices for what they are. But then He shows her that God’s love can overwrite her story with His beautiful truth.
And she is changed. Her broken heart begins to heal. Her sullen character is given a lift with hope.
Someone has looked at her.
Spoken possibility into her.
Stirred hope within her.
Given her dignity.
But what if she had missed Him at the well?
Think about how easily she could have made a different choice that day.
- What if she had decided it was too hot and too dusty to walk through the streets?
- What if she had decided she was too defeated to see one more reproachful glance or hear one more careless whisper?
- What if she had rationalized that she had enough water to get by for one more day?
- What if she had refused to get out of bed and given up on her life because she was drowning in hopelessness?
Think about how one change in her circumstances could have affected her.
- What if her first man – and those thereafter – had wanted to make her a respectable woman by marrying her?
- What if she was accepted by the village women and had gone out earlier in the day?
- What if she had not been alone and her group decided to turn back when they saw a strange figure at the well?
- What if Jesus had not obeyed God’s nudge “to go through Samaria” (John 4:4)?
There are so many ways she could have missed her life-changing moment with Jesus. Which meant her village would have missed their life-changing moment with Jesus.
One conversation turned into a revival of faith.
One hope turned into a village’s spiritual beginning.
One shunned woman turned into a preacher for anyone willing to listen.
But if anything about her circumstances or her day had been different, she might not have met Jesus at the well – and look at all that would have been missed.
And it makes me wonder … How many times have I missed God?
How many times have I missed the answer to prayer?
How many times have I missed the new He was trying to do?
How many times have I missed being changed for the better?
Because I made excuses.
Because I decided to be lazy.
Because I didn’t want to be uncomfortable.
Because I thought I had a better answer or plan.
Because I did not want to be mocked or judged.
Because I refused to listen.
Because I refused to go.
Because I refused to see.
I know there are so many good things I have missed, so many blessings I did not receive, and so many revelations I have lost – because I was more about me than God. And I don’t want that to be my story!
I want to be fully present with Him – problems and all – when He engages me.
I want to be fully available to Him when He speaks truth to heal and restore me.
I want to be fully aware of who He is and how much He loves me.
And I want to be so transformed by His grace that I run with His truth into the world, unable to keep it to myself. No excuses. No shame. No avoidance.
Thank You for reminding us that we are never unlovable and always worth saving. Help us today – and all of our tomorrows – to grab hold of Your grace and to apply it fully to our lives. Help us to be believers who never miss out on Your life-changing truth and life-giving hope. Help us to engage with You and all You are, without reservation and hesitation, without being held back by our past and held down by our present. Thank You for calling and guiding us to be fully free. In Jesus’ all-mighty name. AMEN!
Marie Fremin. 7/6/19