Reading for today: Psalm 58 and John 4:1-20, 39-42
John throws in little, seemingly random, bits of information that later come back to change the whole tenor of the story. Five loaves and two fishes. Two more days. 5000 people. In this story, it’s time. He says, “It was about noon.” Jesus and his entourage are passing through Samaria. That in itself is newsworthy, most Jews would go way out of their way to NOT go through Samaria. They stop at a little town called Sychar and Jesus sits by the well while the disciples go to Arby’s to get some roast beef sandwiches. (John also leaves out some important details.)
While Jesus is there a woman comes to the well and she and Jesus strike up a conversation. John says it is about noon. (John 4:6) The conversation is about what you would expect. Jesus asks for water. She is surprised that a Jewish man would talk to a Samaritan woman. He says, “I’ll give you water and you will never thirst again.” She turns the subject to religion. “The Baptists believe once saved always saved. The Methodists don’t. Which group is right?” Actually, she says, “We worship in the hills. The Jews worship in Jerusalem. What about that?” And Jesus says, “Go get your husband and we will finish this talk.”
Now the time of day makes sense. She says, “Don’t have one.” Jesus says, “You’ve had a bunch.” And we understand that this lady comes to the well in the middle of the day to stay away from everybody else in town. She lives with the shame of who she is and what she has done. If she comes in the morning or evening, when all the other women come, they point their fingers at her, they whisper, not too quietly, and call her names like slut, home wrecker, big fat loser. Shame. Ever been there? Sitting in church while the preacher preached on some sin and you were wondering how many people were thinking about you. Afraid to go to the store because you might run in to someone who knew your story, and though they would be polite, you would see the condemnation in their eyes. Ever been overwhelmed with your shame?
Here’s the thing. Jesus doesn’t waltz around our sin. He gets right to the point. “Go call your husband.” But he does it with such a tender heart, with so much love for us that instead of condemnation, we feel acceptance. Instead of judgement, we feel compassion. Our story becomes, not something we are trying to hide, but the wonderful testimony of how God loved us when it felt like no one else did. She goes back to the village and says, “Come see a man that told me everything I’ve ever done.” (John 4:39) She came to the well in the hottest part of the day so that people would not talk about what she had done and now she’s reminding everybody about it. The next thing you know she will be writing a book, Failure and How I Achieved It, or something like that.
The story winds down. People are saved. The disciples are confused. The woman is set free and Jesus is satisfied that He is doing His Father’s work. And for over 2000 years we have been telling the story of this wonderful woman at the well.
That’s the way you get rid of shame, right there. So, what have you been hiding? What are you so afraid that someone is going to find out? What do you carry around that makes you feel less than or not good enough? The 12 Steps says, “We confessed the nature of our disease to God and to someone we trusted.” 12 Step people say, “Every time we tell our story, our shame is cut in half.” Listen, God loves you and wants to take every bit of shame and embarrassment away from you. He wants you to be free from that junk. He has a heart big enough to stuff all your stuff in. Let Him have. You have nothing to prove and nothing to hide. So, go on out to the well. It’s getting late.