Monday, September 8, 2008

Lanterns, Spiders, and Wells

Have you ever read the story of the 'woman at the well'? You will find it in John 4. Jesus stops to rest at a town well. A Samaritan woman is coming to the well at noon to collect some water. Jesus just happens to run into her and strike up a conversation that will change her life forever.

Think about it. Here was this woman heading to the well in the heat of the day for water. Why was she there in the middle of the day? During the time when the sun was at it's highest and hottest? Because she was living in disgrace. She was a sinner. She had been married to five men already and was shacking up with another man she wasn't even married too. Gasp! Living in a small village, I suppose all of her faults and mistakes were known to everyone. Some folks probably even let her know that they knew of her mistakes. Can't you just hear them listing the inventory of all her wrongs? Just in case she forgot. Can't you hear the snickers and see the looks? Have you ever seen or heard them before?

So...was she likely to head to the well at the same time as all the other ladies? Probably not. She probably chose a time of day when the rest of the village was not likely to be outdoors, and less likely to be at the well collecting water. She wasn't looking for a friend. She wasn't looking for a man. And she certainly wasn't looking for a savior....or a Lord for that matter. She wasn't looking for anything but water.

So, along comes Jesus. He is tired and looking for a place to rest. Where to rest? Where to rest? The shady spot under that huge olive tree? Nope. How about right there at the well. So there Jesus sits resting at the 'randomly' chosen well, and 'coincidentally' (because we know Jesus was a part of bunches of coincidences) along comes this huge sinner of a Samaritan woman. Sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it? And we thought they originated in the age of television. The Bible is just full of juicy stories!

Jesus asks her for some water, and she is shocked. He is speaking to her! This Jew is speaking to her - a Samaritan. And she probably notices that he is neither winking or smirking at her - treatment she has become accustomed to in her village. Jesus goes on to tell her about the 'living water' he offers and how she will never thirst again. He tells her things about her sins that she thought he, a stranger, could not know. He then tells her that he is the Messiah. Do you think she believed him? Oh yeah!

Then his disciples return and freak out when they see who Jesus is talking to. The woman, immediately recognizing the expressions and the tone of their voices, leaves, running to the village. But she is a changed woman. She is no longer hanging her head in shame, fearing judgement from her neighbors. She has seen Jesus! He spoke to her! He knew her, and all the terrible things she had done. Yet he spoke to her. And as she returned to her village, she sought out her neighbors - the same people that minutes before she was willing to suffer discomfort to avoid - and told them all about the messiah, Jesus. She told them all about this man she had just happened to run into...and took them back to meet him.

I love that story! Ever notice that we never learn the woman's name? It's not important. Or maybe she has more than one name. I believe that all of us, or at least many of us are the woman at the well. She could be me. Could she be you? There was a time when I would hang my head in shame when out of sight of others, perfectly aware of my mistakes. But unwilling to admit my mistakes, I would boldly and arrogantly march before my judgemental neighbors, not willing to let them see the shame that I felt, flaunting my sins at them, daring them to cast a glance or a word in my direction. And I wasn't seeking Jesus. I was perfectly content to live with a mess all around me. I was content going to the well during noon when I wouldn't have to see their stares. Who needed them anyways.

But there was that one day that Jesus happened to be sitting there, ready to blind side me with the truth. Our 'coincidental' meeting. And life would never be the same.

There is this crazy thing about truth. You can live in the darkness, and you can be happy not seeing what is in the dim corners. But once you shine a light in the darkness, you can't remove what you saw from your mind. If you shine a lantern , and there is a web full of spiders illuminated in the corner, you don't walk quite as boldly into that corner again. And then your mind starts doing some wacky things. You start wondering what is in the other dark corners. Then you start wondering if there is possibly a brighter and safer place to be spending your time.

That's what happened in my life. Jesus, who I wasn't looking for in the first place, showed up and shone a lantern into the corners of my life. Surprise! For the first time, I saw the dangers all around me. And for the first time I saw him. And I realized that as long as I walked with him, he would light up all those dark corners for me, and help me to steer clear of the dangers all around. Here is the kicker. The dangers are still all around. He didn't cause them to disappear. But Jesus illuminates them for me, and walks with me every step of the way. He never leaves my side, and he never, ever, turns out the light.

See, I told you it was a cool story!

1 comment: