There is a story told of a woman who had a fairly bad reputation. She could feel the cold stares and hear the murmur of the crowd as she’d pass through the streets of town. Because of the shame she carried, she became one with her home and her routine of hiding.
Having to leave her home once a day to get water for her household, she’d wait until every person was gone from the well and then she’d leave the comfort of her home to go. It was hot, in the middle of the day and yet much more comfortable than when all the other town’s women would also be at the well sneering, snubbing and snickering.
One day her daily trip to the well was interrupted by a Jewish man. He said hello and asked for a drink of water. She replied with surprise and hesitation, “why are you talking to me sir, I’m not the kind of person Jew’s talk to.” “If only you knew who was talking to you, then you’d ask me for water and I’d give you living water. When one drinks of the water I give, they won’t ever be thirsty again.” This was a very attractive idea to the woman. For if she didn’t thirst, then she could stay home and not have to come out. She and her life full of secrets and shame could simply hide from the watching world. So without hesitation she responds, “Sir, where can I get this water!!!”
“Go get your husband and bring him here.” Wait, what? he wants my husband? I don’t have a husband… this subject is off limits. I just want to know where I can get this water and he brings up this subject! Her mind goes wild. Why this? What is this about? The thoughts continue to flood and she speaks sheepishly with the sort of shame that comes from deep within, “Sir I have no husband.” She breathes out and is thankful to be getting out of this conversation.
“You’re right when you say you have no husband. In fact, you’ve had five husbands and the man you are living with at this moment isn’t one of them.”
The dreaded truth was out. How did he know? Where did he get his information? She waited almost ducking as if she knew she were going to receive a blow to the heart. She knew what was to come. He would begin the name calling and then the sneering followed by the spitting. She knew, because she’d experienced similar responses many times before.
But something was different.
Instead of walking away in disgust. Instead of insulting and shaming. Instead of hurling stones. He stood there and it seemed almost as though he cared for her. She spoke the obvious, “I see you are a prophet.” This seemed fitting. He knew everything she’d ever done, so what else could he possibly be?
The conversation changed between the two of them. She spoke of the worship practices of her people and he spoke to the practice of the Jews. She spoke to the hope of the coming Messiah and he right at that moment said 7 powerful words, “I who speak to you am He.” She stood in awe. Could it be true? Could she truly be standing with the coming Messiah?
She was filled with excitement and anticipation. Others needed to know! Then it happened. She remembered that this man, knew everything about her and he stayed. The awaited Messiah was standing in front of her, saw all of her secrets and didn’t leave! Its a powerful thing to be standing in front of someone and be “naked” and unashamed.
Friends of the man started walking towards him. She said, “wait here… I’ll be right back! Just don’t go!” She does something that even an hour earlier would have been unthinkable. She ran into the middle of town. She came out of hiding. She gathered everyone around and spoke of her experience with this man. She was no longer afraid of the crowds opinions. She was too overwhelmed by the grace and love that flowed from the man, the Messiah! The crowds listened to her and followed her to the man, Jesus.
When they got there they begged Jesus to stay with them and for the next two days he taught, they listened and lives were changed. Several other people from the town came out of hiding too. The people believed not just because of the woman’s story and the obvious life change they’d seen in her. But now they believed because they’d seen for themselves and they too encountered the truth of Jesus.
The story is all too familiar. We all have hidden in some way. We’ve experienced shame and loss. We’ve experienced the power of a secret that has haunted us. This woman encountered Jesus and He exposed the truth. He spoke right to it. There was power in his making the secrets of her shame known and there was a kind of power that comes from deep love in the fact that he did not leave her once she was exposed.
Have you ever told a deep secret, exposing a deep shame and the person to whom you chose to bare this part of you received you with grace? There is power in that exchange. And it is healing.
The fact is, the truth will set you free. Even when the truth is messy. This woman encountered her greatest hidden truth. She also had a self truth abolished with it. Her self truth was that her value and her choices were one in the same. She made bad choices, she was a bad woman. So when Jesus speaks all she’d ever done and stays, he abolishes her self truth and breathes into her His truth and she immediately addresses her fear by running into the middle of town.
She was free! She was no longer a slave to shame and the opinion of others, she had placed her worth and life in the hands of the one who stayed, in Jesus. And by doing so, she was able to tell her story and lead others to the giver of freedom.
What is it that you hide? What are your secrets? Are there things within you that you think if others knew, they’d leave and you’re shame would be exposed? Take a moment to ask Jesus to search your heart and show you where you hide. Then confess those things that come to mind back to Jesus. And choose to come out. Come out of hiding! Take a step into freedom.
I don’t know what coming out of hiding looks like for you, as it is different for each of us. Ask Jesus to show you that too and fall into the freedom of the love and grace of Jesus, the one who stays!