Her Tears Fell…At Last (9)

Jn 4:7-18

On the long dusty path that led out to the village well, this woman of Samaria slowly made her meandering way. The day was hot, the sun high. It was not the normal time of the day when women did the heavy work of fetching water, but she preferred it. She was alone with her thoughts, and away from the comments and accusing glances of the other village women.

She wiped her brow as she stopped to watch the heat dance off the rocks along the path. Too bad it was such a long way to the well, she thought. There was a dullness that had settled on her spirits in the previous few years, an aching dullness that made even the simplest of daily tasks a burden. The boredom became its own particularly excruciating suffering that silenced any interest in the life she had…or she had left. The life she had dreamed of for herself so long ago–it seemed–had never materialized. Love, motherhood, babies, joy, a family…. No, it’s better not to remember. Just keep going.

As she approached the well, she barely took notice of the man who was sitting there, also alone. She dropped her bucket and then moved to the other side of the well to pull it out. I’ll be out of here in just a minute, she said to herself, as if silently addressing the unusual visitor of the well. Heaving the jar up she placed it atop her head, ready to make the trek back to the village.

“Give me a drink.” The woman took a few steps and stopped. Was he speaking to me, she asked herself. “Please give me a drink.” The voice gently nudged her out of her safe cocoon of self-interest. She turned and looked at him for the first time. He was definitely a Jew. What was he doing here in Samaria she wondered.

“You’re asking me for a drink? A woman? And a Samaritan on top of it?”

There was something about his eyes. “If you knew who I was and the gift I have for you, you would have asked me for a drink. I would have given you living water.”

“How could I have asked you to provide me with a drink of water. You don’t have a bucket here. This well is deep. Unless, of course, you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well.”

The man turned to look inside the well. Slowly he told her, “This water is just like any other water you know. You drink it and you are thirsty again. I have other water I’m offering you. Those who drink it will be thirsty again. The water will become as a fountain of living water welling up within them.”

Living water, she thought. I wonder what that would be. If it means I don’t have to walk out here every day I’ll take it. “Sir, give me this water so I’ll never thirst again, and I won’t have to come here to fetch water every day.”

The man looked at her gently. He leaned forward, as if ready to give her this “magically wonderful” gift. Instead, she heard the words she most dreaded to hear: “Go call your husband and come back.” It was as though a door banged shut within her spirit. No! Who was this man? What did he know about me to ask that? Was he just another tongue-wagging bully like everyone else making fun of her? As her mind reeled she heard herself answer: “I have no husband.” Why did I answer him, she could have kicked herself.

“You are correct in saying this. In fact, you have had five husbands, and the one you are with now is not your husband.”

The words were gentle. There was no shaming, no laughing, no scandal. Just a simple statement of what was her truth. As his respect for her pierced the dull scaffolding she had built up around her shaky insecurity, she felt it collapse. In one great heaving sigh of relief it fell at her feet…and his. The sword of her truthfulness had cut through the deadly lethargy of buried lies she had been telling herself, and now she stood before this man whose name she did not even know in the naked intimacy of his seeing and knowing her. At last. As her tears fell, the waters within began to bubble up and trickle into her inner desert. How her spirit craved this water!

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Our “factory mode”—Loved Into Being (6)

The woman bent over double for 18 years had a certain image of herself. She was the woman no one cared about. The one no one knew what to do with. The person people talked over, or around, but rarely did anyone speak directly to her. She was the woman for whom there was no hope for a cure. Everything she had tried had failed. Maybe she thought she was a failure, that her life was wasted.

When Jesus called her over to him and she straightened up at his word, able to stand up and see and return to the community, she regained her identity. She learned who she was directly from Jesus. His was the first face she saw and his eyes told her that she was respected and loved. When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees who complained about his having cured on the Sabbath, he didn’t refer to her as “this cripple,” or “this woman.” He called her, “this daughter of Abraham.” He restored her to her place in salvation history, one of the children of Abraham promised to the great Patriarch when God took him out and, directing him to look at the sky, said, “As many as the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore shall your children be” (cf. Genesis 15:5). He had bent over in mercy because he loved her. He tenderly reached out to her because she was precious.

At this moment this daughter of Abraham discovered that all she had thought about herself had had no truth in reality. This concept created from patched together thoughts and memories and fears and sorrows was simply a product of the coming and going of her thoughts and emotions. Only in Jesus’ face could she see who she truly was. Only in his love for her could she have an experiential discovery of the preciousness of her life.

Similarly, the fearful prospect of Angie’s divorce, of being alone, began in her a spiral of thoughts. What will happen to the kids? How will I find a job in my condition? Why didn’t I see this coming? I’m not good enough for him. What should I have done better? What could have made a difference? Angie’s thoughts were the building blocks of the self-image she was beginning to create. We are all like children. Like children we believe what we think. If a child thinks she is ugly she believes it to be true. If a child thinks he is superman, he believes it to be so. That’s why it was important with Angie to break through her swirling thoughts with the light of Jesus’ face.

You can speak directly to Jesus about your feelings triggered by the situations you are in. You can tell God what you think about yourself as a result of what you have lived. When you have finished, it is important to watch Jesus. Our eyes do not fool us. We can think that God doesn’t hear our prayer because we can’t “hear” his voice, or he doesn’t “do” what we asked him to. But if you simply watch him, Jesus is free to do the unexpected, to surprise you with something only he could think of. So Jesus played chess with Angie. Such a remarkably intimate gesture said more to Angie about Jesus’ love for her, than imagining him saying this to her, or reading about God’s love in a book.

Jesus wants to get very personal with you. So get personal with him and give him that chance.

The Woman Bent Double (3)

Invitation

Live into the image of the woman bent double! Feel what she felt. Experience her loneliness and sadness from within her experience. See what she sees as she shuffles down the ancient dusty streets. What does she hear, touch, taste. What does she feel about herself? Does she hope for anything? Has she given up hope? Experience on every level of your being her desperation, she who couldn’t find anywhere relief or cure. What is she thinking? What is her attitude? How does she live her illness? Has she gotten used to being sick? Adjusted her sight to the horizons of her illness? Is sickness her new health? Is her sickness the measurement of a good day?

Hear the words of Jesus said over you: “You are freed of your disability.” What is it that you need to be freed from? What is it you haven’t told a single soul, but carry locked in the deepest closet, hidden even from yourself? What is it you desire?

Merge with her, for this woman is you in some area of your life.

Jesus saw in the woman bent double all of humanity in the devil’s captivity, fallen humanity, humanity separated from God and unable to unite itself to him. After the fall, the human race manifested manifold illnesses, unable to find a remedy or cure.

I—a member of the human race—I too am sick, spiritually ill, suffering from an illness that casts me into the darkness. I have made friends with something I regret in my life—resigned with being ill and expect nothing different, nothing new, nothing more. This is just the way it is. I couldn’t even begin to imagine anything different. The woman bent double and seeing only the earth is an image of me, I, who like all of fallen humanity, feels far from the warmth of the Father’s tender gaze, afraid of his love, of the cost of entrusting myself wholly to his dream for my life.

Like the woman bent double, we can find ourselves living content or resigned to our illness. The world created by our sickness becomes our only world, our hopes and dreams no longer able to break through the barriers of discouragement.

Jumping into the middle of the posts on how to forgive yourself? For an index to all the posts, click here.

Hands Out To Catch a Wounded Humanity (2)

Part I

Luke 13:10

The woman shuffled into the synagogue where the young rabbi from Nazareth was speaking. She moved around the edges, hoping not to be seen. The woman heard the conversations around her, a few comments thrown her way in pity or disgust. All she could see was the feet of those who filled the synagogue that day, or any day, in fact, for the past eighteen years. She had been year after year unable to stand upright, bent over double, and had resigned herself to her place in the pecking order of her day. She was the one who was “in the way,” uninvolved with the real happenings of importance—unseen, unheard, and, indeed, unknown. She lived in a world all her own and had learned to tune out the world around her.

Her quest for wholeness and health, her raised hopes for freedom from the slavery of anonymity and poverty, had been dashed again and again over more than a dozen-and-a-half years, probably most of her adult life.

She began to notice the feet around her backing away from her field of vision. A hush was beginning to take the place of the chatter she had heard just a moment ago. Uncertain she stood still long enough to hear the words floating above her, “Woman, come over here to me.”

A stab of fear made her almost crumble to the ground, but she caught herself and slowly followed the sound of the voice. “Woman, do come here.” The voice was kind.

Now there was silence. She felt embarrassed. She couldn’t see what was happening, only the fact that she stood now alone before a voice that spoke with tenderness.

 

“Woman, you are freed from your disability.” Hands, gentle yet firm were laid on her, and a feeling like the crashing of waves swept over her, leaving her with a freshness and youth she couldn’t remember ever before experiencing. Slowly, she began to lift herself, to straighten herself…

Did this woman, a daughter of Abraham, see Jesus’ hands first as she lifted herself straight? Hands that were open, caring, gentle? What did she see when she looked into Jesus’ face, the first face she had seen in almost 20 years? What did she see in his eyes? Joy? Excitement? Compassion? Did Jesus’ eyes convey to her that she was the beloved of his Father? The Work of his creative Love? Jesus had bent over her to bring her back to life, as the Father had once bent over his broken world, promising a Savior. Was there in Jesus’ glance a desire to restore, to hold, to protect, to run toward her, hands out to catch wounded humanity before it collapses to the ground?

Jumping into the middle of the posts on how to forgive yourself? For an index to all the posts, click here.