He sleeps quietly, but my eyes are open. My head rests softly on his shoulder and I feel his chest rise and fall. I cannot say “my husband;” I say “my baal.” I sigh, thinking perhaps today I will be loved.
The others were not righteous. They divorced me publicly, with accusation, taunt, and ridicule. Each time the same: months passed, no child came. First came the sarcasm, the ridicule, the hatred. Next came the beatings. The fat lip; the black eye; the bruises; visible signs of the only love I deserved. Just before the humiliation of divorce, the beatings stopped.
I get up and busy myself. Maybe today will be different.
The Sixth Hour
It is time to get water. I leave late to avoid the others. I will be alone today as always.
In the distance, I see a man at the well, the well given to my people by our father, Jacob. Who is this man? I approach the well and notice that he is a Jew. I look around– there are no others. He will not speak to me – Jews do not speak to Samaritans. I am safe.
“Will you give me a drink?” Did he really speak to me? The voice – never before have I heard a voice like that. My heart is beating faster; my cheeks, warming; my mouth, slightly smiling. This is crazy. He’s a Jew; I am Samaritan; he is a man; I am a woman. I must leave now, but I cannot go back without water.
The Samaritan Woman – John 4: 6-26)
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Done. It’s over. I bend down to fill my jar.
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” That voice. Who is this man? He’s right. I don’t know him, except that he’s a Jew. But it seems like he knows me . . . but if he knew me he wouldn’t talk to me. How can I make him just go away!?
“Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob[?]” Only God is greater than our father, Jacob. And, yet, when I look at his face and listen to his voice, there is something there, something that I don’t have words for. It’s as if he knows me – knows everything about me – and somehow still cares.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This is nonsense. “Living water.” From a well? I should leave. But I can’t. His face, his voice, his presence. Who is this man? Why me, barren and shunned as I am?
“Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” It is for my baal, as is my life. What will this man say?
“Go, call your husband and come back.” Oh, no. He knows. But that’s impossible. What will he think? Why do I care what he thinks? What does he see in me? What now? Do I lie? No. It is impossible to lie to this man.
“I have no husband.” My words hang in the air. What will he think? Will he send me away like the others? Please, oh, please do not send me away!
“You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” How does he know? He can’t know. He’s a stranger. He’s a Jew. He knows. And yet he isn’t sending me away.
Now he is speaking, telling me everything about my life. He tells me how I hoped for a child and the pain when one did not come. What’s more, something in the way he tells it says that he was there all along, sharing it, accompanying me through it. He tells me about my deepest longings, the hopes my baals beat out of me. These longings are real, they are alive, and they are good.
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” If I keep asking questions, perhaps he will never leave me.
“Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. . . . Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” This is strange – exciting, frightening, – will he tell me how to worship in spirit and truth? I want to worship the Father as he tells me; he is greater than our father, Jacob.
“I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Didn’t this man just do that? Could he…?
“I who speak to you am He.” I cannot speak; the awe, excitement, and yes, love, overwhelm me. I hear people coming? Please let me be alone with him … please … the quizzical looks, the murmuring, destroy our moment … Now, I have to run to tell people the good news, that I, the shamed one, had met “Messiah, called Christ.”
Ten Years Later
I am sick. First came headaches, chills and soon, I could not get up. My husband and my children cared tenderly for me. I never forgot Him. I can call to mind every detail of His face and hear His voice. I remember hearing the stories about Him teaching in Jerusalem and how He was killed. I remember hearing that He rose from the dead. Most scoffed; I knew, somehow, that it was true and rejoiced. I had turned toward Him never to look back. Now, I long to be with Him again – to hear His voice, to be in His presence, to worship Him in spirit and in truth. That has been, and always will be, my one desire.
I look out the window. I glimpse the mountain and I hear His voice repeating that life-sustaining promise: “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” I whisper, “Yes, Lord, that is all I want, only that.” I close my eyes for the last time. He is there, greeting me with joy, “Well, done, My beloved daughter, ‘come, . . . , inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”