“I, yes I, am the One and Only, who completely erases your sins, never to be seen again. I will not remember them again. Freely I do this because of who I am!”Isaiah 43:25 TPT
I imagined that the woman peered through the stone-cut window from the shadows. Seeing the trail of women making their way to the well outside the city gates, she shrank back into the darkness. It’s still too early to go, she thought, although her water supply ran out hours ago. Her husband muttered a shallow goodbye as he headed out for the day’s work. Actually, he wasn’t her husband at all, but after five failed marriages, she just couldn’t bring herself to commit. Never again.
Parched lips urged her toward the well, and she hoisted her jug onto her head. The noonday sun stunned her eyes and pounded her shoulders as she left the safety of the shadows. Few in town noticed her. She preferred anonymity anyway.
In the haze of the sunshine, the woman made out what looked to be a man sitting on the edge of the well. Should she wait another hour? The man’s blue and white shawl suggested he was a Jew, a rare sight in Shechem. She reasoned, A Jewish rabbi would not acknowledge a Samaritan woman like me anyway. The woman approached the well, head down. Shockingly, the man did speak to her. “Please give me a drink,” he requested. Why is he talking to me? Instinct told her to run back to the darkness, but she was tired of running. Running from men. Running from shame.
Against her better judgment, she decided to respond. “Why are you asking me for a drink?” she snapped back.
The sarcasm seemed to go unnoticed as Jesus rose and replied, “If you knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” A chilling breeze brushed between them. These cryptic words called to her, but the woman wasn’t sure why. She thought, A spring of water in this arid land? Could this be true? I would never be thirsty and would never have to return to this well. Their judging glances and demeaning whispers would disappear. The woman wasn’t sure what plan was next, but she was all in.1
This woman’s conversation with Jesus was the longest recorded dialogue in the gospels. Many things about his interaction with her were unconventional at the time. Relationships between Jews and Samaritans were so strained that Jews would travel farther to avoid Samaria. But there was Jesus, alone, talking to the town outcast.
Jesus was intentional about taking the long road to find the woman. Scripture explains that “he had to go through Samaria” (John 4:4 NIV, emphasis added). With one little word, the urgency of Jesus’ mission leaps off the page. He was on a divine appointment. Waiting at the other end of his journey was a woman with more life wounds than she could count. Even the name of her town, Shechem, meant “a place of burdens.” It was a place where God invited the burdened to meet with him.
Jesus hand-delivered an invitation: a decision between two water sources. She could continue to visit the same empty wells to end the drought of her soul, or she could accept his offer of living water. Jesus, the well of life that never runs dry. Her decision was clear. The woman who spent her days avoiding other villagers dropped the water pot and raced back to town. She stood face-to-face with the ones she dreaded and compelled them to meet the man who came for her heart.
Like the woman, shame has often anchored me to the shadows. Sins and shortcomings from my past and present have silently screamed, Unworthy! Failures sometimes flash before my eyes as I attempt to draw close to God in worship. Cruel comparisons attack my mind as I stack myself against other moms, wives, and friends. Sometimes the words and deeds of others can cause me to feel lesser-than or inferior. There are mornings when my fears of failure fill my time with God and push out the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. I have felt like God was ready to hurl a lightning bolt at me for my shortcomings. (By the way, God doesn’t throw lightning bolts. That’s Zeus.) If I’m honest, I have felt inferior while writing these words to you.
Feelings of inferiority are partially correct. You and I are not enough on our own. Jesus, however, exceeds all expectations and qualifications. He is more than enough. Yet in his superiority, he chose to exchange his perfect life for ours. Jesus didn’t come only for the Sunday morning, Instagram-filtered, perfectly dressed version of us. No, he got his hands dirty with our darkest days. Scripture says, “Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly…” (Romans 5:8 TPT). The messed-up, fed-up, broken-up versions of ourselves were on his mind while on the cross. And he has shown up for us every day since. Jesus redeems what has been damaged and makes it better than brand new.
Friend, surrender to Jesus when you fall short. Guilty is a sentence that is incompatible with salvation. The same nail-scarred hand is ever-reaching toward you today. Ask him to cleanse you, and “he will be faithful to forgive…every time.” (1 John 1:9 TPT) When condemnation tries to lay claim to your soul, remind it of the totality of forgiveness. Shame doesn’t belong on the shoulders of God’s children. Regardless of where you have been or what you have done, you have a standing invitation to Living Water. Jesus crosses mountains to meet you in your place of burdens too. Ask him to be near you today. The Lord lifts the load of shame and replaces it with redeeming grace.
- Adapted from John 4:4–30 (NIV).