A lot can happen in a week. Last Sunday, none of us had ever heard of a 14-year-old boy named Ahmed Mohamed. Now, the story of how he was handcuffed and taken into police custody after bringing a homemade clock (not a bomb) to school has gained international attention. At the very least, this incident highlights how very near the surface our fears and suspicions lie. Uncertain of the truth, we are all too ready to jump to negative conclusions.
Today's scripture seems to bear no resemblance to this story. Jesus travels through Samaria and meets a woman who has come, alone, to a well in the heat of the day. He asks her to give him a drink, then offers her Living Water. He asks about her husband, and we learn that she has had five husbands; and the man she is living with is not her husband.
It is easy for us to make assumptions about this nameless woman. Many assume that she is a woman of "loose morals," since she has been with so many men. Perhaps she was. But there are other possibilities. Perhaps she has been unable to conceive a child, and so has been divorced time and again by men who demanded an heir. Perhaps she has been a victim of the levirate marriage laws of the day, which required the brother of a deceased man to take the widow as his own wife so that she may produce an heir for her deceased husband. If the brother dies, the next brother is required to assume the role of husband. And so on. Maybe she has run out of brothers to be given to. Maybe the family has turned her out. Maybe the man she is living with is her only hope for economic survival.
We don't know for sure what the woman's story is. But the assumptions we are quick to make might be wrong. Uncertain of the truth, we are all to ready to jump to negative conclusions. And suddenly, this woman and Ahmed have a bit more in common than we thought.
It seems fair to believe this woman knows what it is like to be misunderstood. But Jesus sits and talks with her and offers her something different from what she knows. He offers her Living Water, not the same-old same-old, but something different; something transforming. She jumps at the chance to receive this life-giving water. As their encounter at the well ends, she runs to the village to share this Good News with others.
This woman wanted to be transformed by Jesus. And she wanted to believe that he could do as he said. I wonder if we have this same desire and this same belief? Too often, we seem willing to accept the negative things in our life for what they are. We don't really expect things to change.
I've thought about this during the past week, as we have engaged together in 21 Days of Spiritual Renewal. Although I have participated in scripture reading, prayer, and acts of kindness during the week, I have also faced many challenges. I've experienced strained relationships, misunderstandings borne of suspicion and mistrust, and disappointment. These sound like drastic incidents, but they aren't, really. Certainly nothing on the scale of what Ahmed experienced. But sometimes it only takes a little thing to derail us. We think we want to be transformed, but we still allow petty jealousies, passive-aggressive exchanges, and disrespectful attitudes to bother us. Do we really expect anything else?
The question on my mind this day is: Do we really believe we can be transformed by Christ? Do we believe that strained relationships can be healed? Do we believe broken systems can be improved? Do we believe our own transformation can empower us to make a difference in a broken world?
My conclusion is that, for us to truly live transformed lives, we have to be willing to be agents for transforming change in our world. We have to be willing to admit our own failures, our own pettiness, our own resistance to change. We have to recognize where we reject the Living Water that Jesus offers, preferring instead to re-circulate the stagnant, stale water of "things as they are." For us to be transformed, we have to truly want and expect that transformation is possible. And we have to acknowledge our responsibility to act in ways that make this possible.
What if, instead of letting petty concerns and misunderstandings drag us down, we remembered that Jesus offers us a different view of what can be? What if, instead of ranting over the latest wrong that has been done to us, we remind ourselves that Jesus offers something that matters far more than today's concerns? What if we lived our lives like we believe this?
Do you believe Jesus can transform your life? Do you act like you believe it?
The Monday Connection:
Petty differences can bubble below the surface and strike red hot when words are used to hurt. This week, practice thinking before you speak:
T - True (Is what I am saying true?)
H - Helpful (Is it helpful?)
I - Inspire (Does it inspire confidence?)
N - Nice (Is it nice?)
K - Kind (Is it kind?)
Some truths are hard to share and take great courage to express. Some words are better left unsaid. Pray for wisdom to guide your tongue.