Thursday, March 19, 2015

JOHN'S CHANNEL: MEETING THE WOMAN AT THE WELL (AGAIN, FOR THE FIRST TIME)

This is the John and Carol Show, but we rarely get to hear from John.  However, today is one of those special days!  Here's an insight into some of the things that God has been teaching him lately.

Note from John: Carol has prepped you all for a post from me about my wrestlings with race as a part of the series.  What follows has very little, yet everything, to do with my battle to understand my own depravity, including, but not limited to how it relates to race.  Simply put, the root of EVERY prejudice which exists within me stems from my inability to see others as Jesus does.  No single story has rocked this part of my world more than Jesus meeting the woman at the well.  So here we go...

After a lifetime of attempting to read the entire Bible in a predetermined number of months or years, I’ve quit. No longer do I engage in the “quota approach” to Bible reading. I’ve made the decision to slow-read the Bible—starting with the Gospels. I’ve been at it for a year. I started with Matthew. I haven’t left the Gospels. You can do the math.

Pro: I’ve engaged passages which in the past I had only read. Con: my less structured approach to Scripture reading has fed my natural lack of discipline and has served as an excuse to go significant periods of time without reading.

What does taking it slow, crock pot Bible reading have to do with the woman at the well? Unfortunately, my hurried and productivity-driven approach to the Bible is indicative of my approach to life. Historically, I’ve brushed past her, pleased to check her off my "spiritual obligation" list. The few times I’ve paused to acknowledge her, I think how grateful I am for a lack of modern-day wells.  I assume this releases me from any responsibility this story may imply. Let’s call it like it is, the last time I went to a well, it was a novelty item in the lobby of a Mexican restaurant.

My most recent, more intentional, encounter with the woman at the well was different. This time, I spent days with her, not just moments. I read her story again and again. I began to wonder what her contemporary might look like. What communities might I “have” to go through, but might make for an uncomfortable passage by someone that looks like me? Where is a place I may go “fill-up” in said community? I imagined myself at an urban gas station.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)   John 4:4-8 (NIV)

So please forgive me if I squirm a little as I introduce you to her in my mind's eye.

She is an African-American woman who has come to get snacks for her children. I say to her, “Will you give me a bottle of water?” (My family is at a fast food restaurant next door buying lunch.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
John 4:9 (NIV)

She said to me, “You are a middle-class suburbanite and I live in the inner city. Why are you asking me for a drink?"

As we begin to talk, I learn the four young children following close behind are from 3 different fathers, and currently she is living with her mother and a friend. As a cultural Conservative now wandering the forest of political ambiguity, my automated response is to see this as the fruit of a welfare state—the very reason social programs don’t work and should immediately be stopped. What would happen if I injected those same ideals into this story?

If Jesus was operating on hard-nosed, socially-cold principles, when he identified the fact that she had 5 husbands and was currently cohabiting with Mr. Six, he would have thrown his hands up and said, “this is the fruit of a community that fails to stone an adulteress—the very reason we must lead with law and not grace.” Would he have been justified in his response? Yes. Her sins (along with mine) were the reason he would be tortured and then killed on the cross. But, he was willing to set aside his divine right to judge and instead showed her grace to open her heart, reveal truth to change her mind, and demonstrate love to draw her close to Him.

I now realize I see her every day.  I don’t believe God is calling me to spend 2 days with her every time we cross paths as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman--have you ever caught that? (John 4:40). I am convinced God wants me to know how much better she can and often does understand His grace. Looking through this biblical lens unfettered by self-righteousness, it seems to me that suburbanites are more likely to be crying out to those less “polished” for something to drink on the other side of eternity (Luke 16:19-31).

All too often, I have found myself shifting uncomfortably away from her to give me the space necessary to judge her in my mind. If my perfect Savior led with grace, who am I to lead with judgement?  If he leaned in, who am I to walk around?

Final thought - I’ve always wanted to believe that after the Samaritan woman met Jesus, she was instantaneously emotionally neat and clean—she would bear none of the emotional and spiritual scars of the life she had lived up to that point. I find no evidence in psychology textbooks or the Bible to support this case. She was messy when Jesus met her, and likely only somewhat less messy as he left. When we truly engage her, we commit to unconditional love. Jesus took upon himself all the sins of the world, what right do I have to deny love because the recipient of my love comes complete with baggage?

The more time I spend with her the more beautiful she becomes and the uglier I feel.

Woman At the Well, YouTube Video, http://youtu.be/5y2GlmTxpkM

1 comments:

Kristin Murdock said...

I always love when John writes for the blog! Great words, JS.