the woman at the well (or, me)
I've spent a lot of time with the woman at the well this week.
I don't know how many hours, but 5,000 words and 10 pages later - I am broken, open, and I want to keep going.
My New Testament professor was talking the other day about how he keeps his faith alive in a personal sense, not just in an academic one. He said that he is amazed at how deep Scripture is - he compared it to the ocean, and the places that are so deep we still don't know how far down into the earth we stretch. That's the beauty of Scripture, he said, it is far deeper than we will ever be equipped to go.
I dipped my toe into the depths of John this week, the first 26 verses of Chapter 4, in order to write an "inductive Bible study" for the aforementioned professor's class. It was, at the risk of sounding super nerdy, some of the most fun I've had in school ever. But it broke me open, and I met myself at Jacob's well.
The story is well-known. A samaritan woman comes to Jacob's well in the middle of the day, because she is full of shame and hides from the other women in her town. She has had 5 husbands, and the man she is with at the time is not her husband. She meets Jesus, who offers her living water. She scoffs - living water, as she would have understood it, is from a stream or river. There are no rivers in Samaria - it's why Jacob had to dig a well. Who is this man that he can find living water, when Jacob could not? And water that would make her never thirst again? Not possible. Jesus tells her to call her husband. She tries to change the subject, and he won't relent. She calls him a prophet, and tells him that his people say they can only worship in Jerusalem (which is off-limits to her, a Samaritan). Jesus tells her that God is spirit - he is everywhere, always ... and he longs for people to worship him in spirit and truth - everywhere, always, the true God.
It's a story - a nice one. But what does it mean for me, today? What does it mean for me, a woman who is tired, who is never enough, who can't always find time for "worship"?
I think we are like the woman at the well. We need Jesus when we are thirsty, when we are going to the grocery store and folding the laundry and running at the gym. We need him in the ordinary. And he is with us - God is spirit. And we need him when we are too ashamed to be in public, to interact with people who we perceive as better than us - when we want to hide from even God himself because of our sin. And he is there, and he uses that brokenness.
I am the woman at the well. I don't believe that living water is available to me. I am not enough. I don't believe enough. I am always thirsty - to be better, to be prettier, to be smarter, to be stronger, to be more. And I box God into my life - one box for school, where I learn about him; one box for work, where I teach about him; one box for church, where I worship him; and one box for me - when I ache and cry and whisper half-prayers that I need him, but I can't quite let go of this idea that I can manage on my own. But he is in all of it, all of the time, in the same way. And every box is made for worship.
It's easy to look back when doing a deep-dive into Scripture and say, "of course the woman didn't understand. She thought the living water was really water!" With a dozen commentaries available in a quick Google search, with my trusty study Bible by my side, with the wisdom of the ages - it's easy to think because I can read the words with so much more head knowledge than the woman that first heard them that I perhaps need them less.
Nothing could be further from the truth.