“I saw your story,” she’ll say.
“That’s when you ran from the Lord, right?” he’ll ask.
“You’ve come so far from when I last heard about you,” she’ll mention.
Yes, yes, I know.
It’s quite a miracle that I’m here, alive, smiling, breathing, used by the Lord. It’s a miracle for any of us, really.
I think about the woman at the well often. You know the one — the one everyone else avoided. The woman who went to the well when everyone else wouldn’t be there because she likely didn’t want to talk to anyone. She didn’t want to hear the whispers. The other women talking about who she’s with now, whose house she was at last night, what she was even doing getting water at their well. She’s getting water in the heat of the day when the rest of the women probably went at night. She’s avoiding the crowd. She’s had enough of being on the outside. She’s made a lot of mistakes, ok? And everyone knows it. She’s not going to go to the wells when all the other women do, because we know how women are.
I think about how she was alone. Finally.
And then here comes a man. A man not of her nationality, her city, her kind. A man who begs the question “Doesn’t he know what mess I am?” (Hint: he does.) A man who by all appearances shouldn’t be giving her the time of day, and yet he greets her and then asks to share a drink.
I think about how he read her mail. I wonder if with every bone in her body, if she wanted to run. “Not another one,” she could think. Not again. Not here. I’m so tired.
I’ve been this woman. I’ve been the women with a trail of bad decisions and doing my best to avoid being seen. I’ve been the hardened sinner, bitter and hiding. I told myself that finally I had become “who I was” and that this was me now — that I was no longer pretending to have it all together, no longer saying the things that made everyone in my life happy, no longer singing worship songs I wasn’t sure I believed — “this is me now” became my anthem. Life found me seeking for water in the middle of the day, avoiding anyone who might remind me how much I’ve failed. I was the Samaritan woman, for all intents and purposes, an outsider with my list of offenses, avoiding confrontation and correction, knowing I didn’t and couldn’t ever measure up again. So why bother?
Then Christ showed up. He showed up when I was tired and exhausted and my mantras had failed me. He showed up when I was bitter and removed in the desert. He spoke kindly to me there and captured my heart.
A few months ago I sat back in the Texas heat at a restaurant with a friend. She was someone who knew me in the middle of it all. Years ago, in a small group where I confessed what a mess I was, she was there. In a church where I didn’t know up from down, she was there. As a church leader and a friend, she saw the span of mess to messier to redeemed.
We talked about my story. How I wonder sometimes if it’s even worth telling anymore.
And she reminded me of the story of the woman at the well.
The woman who had a messy and messier story on her hands until Christ changed it. Then she did something that was evidence of her faith and his life changing power — “So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’….Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” (John 4:28-29, 39)
The very things that identified her as a sinner and ostracized her from the crowds are the very things she stood on top of to shout the name of Christ. There is no one who heard her speak who probably also didn’t end up hearing what he revealed about her. The more honest she was about her mess, the more amazing and incredible Christ became.
Recently, I met someone I looked up to in the Christian world of who’s who. Within 10 minutes of talking, they made a statement that alluded to the fact that they knew my story. They knew I had screwed up years ago. That I had wandered and failed.
It’s not like it’s a big secret, but it was a quick and sharp reminder that it’s always there. I will never be able to walk into a room and impress the crowd. A quick Google search will expose all my sin and they’re all penned by me. I’ve gone first, lowered the bar, let out the skeletons. There are some who have said I should stop talking about it. That I shouldn’t write about it at all.
But I want to make the name of Jesus great. In fact, at the cost of my own impressiveness and reputation, I want people to believe in Jesus when I say “He told me all I ever did.” I’m not interested in telling any story that doesn’t reveal who I am in light of Him. For the rest of my days, I might be “that woman who did that thing”… BUT CHRIST.
So maybe I won’t ever have a season of my life where I won’t be known for what I did. Maybe I will continue to sit at restaurant tables with strangers and friends and have my worst sin become fodder for dinner table talk. As long as Christ is revealed, as long as maybe someone believes, someone sees, someone hears my voice carry across the wells to say “He saw me. He told me everything I did. He is the Christ.”
Wells of water seem to be a place where things happen in scripture. Do you know what happens at wells in the Bible? Betrothals. The man travels from a foreign country and comes to a well where he meets his bride. An ancient reader would’ve been familiar with this scene. They know where it leads. It is no coincidence that Jesus has come to this world and meets a certain kind of woman at a well — he reminds us his bride may be broken and world weary, but she is his.
I will forever tell how he met me, exposed me, and then set me free. That is my soapbox. Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.