I met him at a well one day.
I had no idea he would say
anything to me, after all
a Jew was far more apt to call
a Samaritan names than pass the time
with one of such a different kind;
and on a woman, was unheard
for Jewish man to waste a word.
As for myself, I also knew
better than speak with snobbish Jew.
But, it was the strangest thing, he ask
of me a simple task:
“Draw me water for a drink.”
What, what was I to think.
His eyes were not those seeking pleasure,
but those that offered different treasure.
What was it he really wanted
’twas strange enough he’d not insulted
me, but after asking me to give
he spoke of water that would live.
His riddle soon caught my attention
and I thought ’twas his intention
to speak religion and it’s place;
but when I looked into his face
the walls of prejudice tumbled
the self-defense inside me crumbled.
I thought; “Here is a man,
who see me as I really am.”
I twisted, feeling deepest guilt
but ’twas a loving gaze I felt;
confronting me with who I was
giving new chance at life and love.
Was he a prophet, or perhaps
the long Awaited One at last?
All this I really could not tell
but he who met beside the well
that day a broken person true;
left there this person
whole and new.
That is a familiar gospel story from John 4. By all the righteous standards of his day Jesus should not have been there at Jacob’s well in Sychar of Samaria and he certainly should not have spoken to this woman, even if she weren’t of questionable repute. I am sure there are other interpretations of this story, but I don’t see Jesus being hard on her so much as inviting her through the broken stuff of her life to experience what she has really been looking for all along – herself. Jesus meets her, he sees her, he engages her and he invites her into relationship with God and with community.
I am in a position where I am privileged to hear people’s stories, but sometimes these are horrendous stories of brokenness. I work with people who struggle with mental health and chemical dependency issues. I won’t suggest that I can even begin to explain the physiological realities of the brain but I have it on medical authority that some people are born with brains that are wired differently and others brains have been rewired by trauma and abuse. These are often stories of growing up with degradation and violence. The stories I hear are stories of survival; including sometimes entering bad relationships, and self-medicating; things that though they may offer temporary relief end up compounding the problem.
I have a deep concern about the direction health care is going these days. How easy it is to feel righteous and holy –and judge. How easy it is to justify cutting funding to programs that help those with mental illness and addiction if we can simply judge it as character flaw or moral weakness.
And then there’s Jesus. I can imagine the disciples returning from town with lunch, horrified when they find Jesus relating to this woman. It is easy to judge when we don’t know the story. It was a lot easier for me to judge before Jesus called me out on my own story; until he met me at the well with grace.
-Written by Dale Dorrell