I’m venturing onto tender soil here, possibly for you and most definitely for me. I wish I could say that it was just one of the hims that told me that if I got divorced, I’d be out: out of ministry, out of a voice, and well, just out. I wish I could say I instantly rejected this death sentence and that was that, but it just didn’t work like that for me.
I bought it. Maybe not fully, but enough.
And enough is too much.
In my attempt to dislodge this un-truth, I’ve come to adore a certain woman. She’s an unlikely sort for my affection. In her earlier days and mine, we would have been close friends, for like attracts like, but based on that same principal, we would have drifted as I fought to battle my relational unhealth and she inadvertently chose to perpetuate it and even succumb to the cycle. She’s also unlikely because I know so little about her and it’s a definite that our paths will never cross. But the fact that she’s an unlikely candidate makes her story just that much more compelling. Let me explain.
The first thing you need to know about this person is she was a she. Pretty profound, right? I state the obvious only because in her era women ranked pretty low. Hmm, maybe that’s part of why I say we would have been friends early on as I, too, let myself believe I had little value.
The next thing you need to know is she was a Samaritan. Translation: she was from the country that Jews went to great lengths to avoid–and if they avoided the country, you can be sure they just as much avoided its people, especially females.
The rest of the story is so incredible that I’m going to step back and let you savor it for yourself:
Now he (Jesus) 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.)
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.)
Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’
Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’
Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’
The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’
He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’
‘I have no husband,’ she replied.
Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’
‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’
‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’
The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” John 4:4-26
There’s so very much we could look at in these passages, but for now we’re just going to focus on her relational history. You caught it, right? Five marriages and a sixth acting in that role who doesn’t have the legal papers to back that form of relationship. Talking to the Messiah.
A new saying developed in my house a few days ago. I have no idea how it came about, other than the fact that I have a 10 year-old boy (as if that needs further clarification). He simply said, “PMP” with a great giggle and explained his own acronym: Peed My Pants (which fortunately he had not done!).
It’d definitely be a PMP moment for me if the Messiah highlighted all of my shortcomings! But watch what happens next (I say watch because I love this scene so much that I can visualize it. See if you can, too):
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” John 4:28-30, emphasis mine
How many of you broadcast that you were going through a divorce? Me, neither, especially on round two. It truly embarrasses me to no extent to have two of these badges plastered to me. But here’s our lady who is shunned by foreigners because of her nationality and undoubtedly shunned by locals because of her repeated failed marriages and she goes running into town saying, “Hey, there’s a guy who knows everything I ever did. You should come see him.”
And it worked! Okay, gross understatement:
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.” John 4:39, emphasis mine
In Jesus’ day, if someone was caught having sex with someone they weren’t married to, they could be stoned–literally put to death. Yet here was someone who had been married five times and was living with a sixth and she’s the very person Jesus chose to use. She ran into town, her testimony simply that Jesus told her about her list of hims.
Friend, please, grasp this. If Jesus had simply talked to any old Samaritan woman at the well, it would have been remarkable, but the fact that he talked to this woman is beyond incredible. It boils down to this:
Her past didn’t disqualify her.
In fact, some could argue it actually gave her a voice in this instance.
We need to repeat that, don’t we, you and me? Her past didn’t disqualify her.
Can you read that without tears, for I surely can’t write them without my “allergies” kicking in as my dad dubs his leaky eyes.
No, I’m not proud of the demise of the sacred. Twice over. I wish that weren’t the case for me. But it is. And through it, I’ve learned about grace in ways I never could have understood before. I’ve learned about love, even remarkably a love that I must embrace for myself.
You know why?
Because I’m not disqualified.
And neither are you.