She stood next to the well, barefoot, and uncertain of her future. As she contemplated her next move, she played with the torn hem of her garment. It served merely as a distraction from the fact that she was alone, abandoned because she had made – naturally – mistake after mistake.
The men had entered her life like a revolving door. One after another, they came and went faster than she could even recognize. Eventually, each scenario had become a blur of bronzed and pastel faces. How could she forgive herself for the shame she had brought to herself, her family, and her community? How was she supposed to pick up and carry on when all that was left of her had been sacrificed to the second husband? (Or was it the first?)
Lost in her thoughts, she recognizes that she has accomplished her goal: avoiding the townspeople. More than anything, though, she wishes that she did not have to arbitrarily sneak like a vulture under night’s cloak. It’s almost like she can hear their thoughts, read their minds.
She wishes she could walk freely among the people of her home, but instead, here she was, wandering the backroads and wallowing in her misfortune. She was an outcast among the rest.
Suddenly, her melancholy trance is broken as she looks up to see the face of an unfamiliar man, who seems to be a Jew. As a Samaritan, it is not customary for them to speak. Yet, he speaks to her.
The simple act of being spoken to almost takes her breath away. It had been so long since she had been spoken to casually that she had nearly forgotten how to speak. But, little did she know that this was no casual conversation. She was, in fact, speaking with the Messiah, Jesus himself.
The “woman at the well” is regarded as a prodigal figure in scripture, one of the few that Jesus briefly encounters that has a prolific impact on a commoner’s perspective of God. And while she was not bestowed with a name, she has forever impacted the way that we look at theology.
Her story teaches us so much more than simply believing in God’s grace and compassion. Perhaps the most important lesson is that our sins do not faze God, as demonstrated by Jesus’ behavior towards the Samaritan woman. He stood with an outcast, defying the social norm and expectations. In turn, she acted upon her curiosity for his behavior, leading to the life-changing moment when she realized she was speaking with the Messiah. She, an “outcast,” engaging with the one true son of God. . He stood with an outcast, defying the social norm and expectations. In turn, she acted upon her curiosity for his behavior, leading to the life-changing moment when she realized she was speaking with the Messiah. She, an “outcast,” engaging with the one, true son of God.
Because of this, she, too, defied the odds. But, this causes for a time of reflection. Before meeting Jesus as she stood at the well, was she wallowing in her misfortune by loitering there? Or, was she simply reacting the way many of us do to feelings of being an outcast, being rejected by our peers, and processing our traumatic pasts?
2,000 years later and we still find ourselves standing at the well, playing with the torn hem of our dresses as we attempt to forget the mistakes that have branded our history. Yet, when push comes to shove, we have to realize that our sins do not define who we are. The mistakes we’ve made, the regrets we hold, and the feeble thoughts that hold us back are only temporary. While it is our job to repent for our sins and seek forgiveness, we should seek comfort knowing that we have already been forgiven. No one is too out of reach for God; no one is abandoned; no one is forgotten. He will not throw us aside as an outcast because of what we have done so long as we believe in Him.
The story of the woman at the well has perpetuated into the membrane of almost every tumultuous situation I have encountered throughout my life. As I have experienced grief, pain, regret, remorse, and shame for more reasons than one, she pops into the forefront of my brain as a reminder that I have nothing to be ashamed of. Because I have faith and trust in God, I know that no matter how low I feel or how misshapen my plan becomes, there is purpose in what I am doing.
Six months ago, I would have been terrified to write this, let alone publish it for the world to read. However, I promised myself that 2022 would be an intentional year – one filled with actions that have thought behind them, not just passion projects that stem from a long history of attempting to fill a void that can never be filled.
Therefore, this year I am choosing to be unapologetically fulfilled by God’s plan and purpose for my life. I am letting the story of the Samaritan woman remind me to live a life full of redemption, love, and most of all – acceptance.