The Woman at the Well
Bonnie A. Perry
March 19, 2017
I come to the well every day.
I come to the well of our ancestor Jacob every day to draw water.
I come to the well of our ancestor Jacob every day to draw water at noon.
I come to the well at noon, when the sun is fierce, the air is hot, and it is deserted.
The rest of the women, come a dawn. That amazing time when night and morning meet, the dark gives way to day. It’s cool then and quiet. Then slowly out of the shadows the women from around the village emerge. Large jars on their head, some with poles across their shoulders, matching empty buckets on either side swaying. The women move quickly as they walk.
Then, when they reach the well, quiet murmurs of greeting and snippets of stories exchanged, encouragement offered, consolations received, plots unfolded in a daily installment plan. Here, at the well, is where they laugh, here is where they cry. Here is where they are known.
When the women leave the well, their day’s long labor begins, but for that forty minutes before they carry the water home, that is their time, their place.
But I go to the well at noon, for I am not like them. They shut me out long ago—maybe on husband three or four. (To be fair, two of them died, I liked older men, one went back to his mother, something about my cooking, and the other two found prettier women, who didn’t believe in sharing their opinions.)
I am not like them, or perhaps, I am too much like them, like their silent voices buried deep inside.
I do not go to the well at dawn, because no one talks to me. They snub me, they ignore me, they turn away from me. When I appear at dawn, the quiet grace of the well is replaced with judgment and blame.
So I go at noon, no one to talk to then, but no one to mock me either.
Then, that day, like any other day, except…
I go to the well at noon and there he sits, a Jew.
I’m not turning around.
I need the water.
I ignore him.
“Give me drink,” he says.
It’s lines like this, that got me to the well at noon in the first place.
I give him my stop this now look, remind him of the basics. Jews don’t speak to Samaritans, and certainly not men to women.
But he persists.
“If you knew who I was, you’d be asking me for water. And I would have given you living water.”
You don’t even have a bucket. That well is deep. So how do you get this living water?
Then he starts talking about living water. How if you drink it, you don’t ever get thirsty again. It’s just a spring of water gushing forth, a well of water offering eternal life.
Gushing, running water, offering eternal life. Sure, of course I want that. So that’s intriguing—but crazy.
But I listen to him. I keep interacting with him, because he is interacting with me. Not talking down, or trying to pick up. It’s a normal conversation. It’s been years since anyone has talked to me this way.
So I say, Ok—give me this water.
He says, “Go get your husband.”
There it is…
Well, never mind, it was nice while it lasted.
But he was real, so I was real right back.
“I don’t have a husband.”
He says, just matter of fact, “No. You don’t. You’ve had five husbands. And the one you are living with now, he’s not your husband.”
But he says it looking at me, to me, not above me or through me. To me. He sees me. He knows me. He is not judging me. He’s not judging me.
So, sir, you are a prophet…
He’s still looking at me. Seeing all of me. Not turning away from me. So I stay. I engage him at the level he is engaging me.
“You Jews say that we can only worship in Jerusalem, but our people worshipped on this mountain. What do you believe?”
He doesn’t answer my question, at least not in terms of location, instead he tells me, that soon where we worship God will not matter. But instead what will matter is the spirit and the truth of our lives we offer to God.”
I say, “I know sir that the Messiah is coming. When he comes he will proclaim all things to us.”
And then he says, still looking right at me. Looking right at me, he says, “I am he.”
And it was then, as he said that to me, it was then that I knew, that I mattered. It was then I knew, what it meant to be seen as true and holy and loved, for exactly who and how I am.
He saw me.
He knew me.
He loved me.
I left my jar.
I left my jar at the well at noon.
I went back to the town and began to tell everyone about this man.
I told everyone, all of them, all who had ignored me, judged me, avoided me.
I told them all.
Because, now, it was different. I was different. He saw me. He loved me. He knew me.
“Can this be the Messiah?” I asked?
They who had not seen me, for years, listened.
He stayed two more days.
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I am a Christian. Because God, in the person of Jesus Christ Crosses all borders, ignores all bias and sees all of us. Knows all of us. Loves all of us.
Even those of us who are sure that we are not worthy.