Coming Out

It was a hot day. It seemed the sun shone more brightly with its beams hitting the hot dusty ground on which I walked as though it were a spot light perfectly directed at me. I made my way to the middle of town where the well was to be found. Most of the women go to well in the morning. Me? Well I choose to go in the afternoon.

Although I walk by myself, I do not travel alone. I carry with me the stares of neighbors and once friends, so no, I don’t go alone. I feel the shame of my public secrets with each step. This day was no different.

Or so I thought.

As I was drawing water, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man walking towards me . He looked distinctive. He couldn’t be? Wait. He was a Jew. They don’t come around here. You see here in Samaria, we’re seen as half breeds to our Jewish neighbors. But yes, this man was Jewish and he was getting too close. I kept my head down to avoid eye contact. I felt his presence as he walked towards me. I felt my heart race as my personal space was being greatly invaded.

Please go away, just turn around, don’t come any closer.  Maybe he won’t see me? Maybe he’ll… “excuse me, can I have a drink?”

WHAT? He spoke. “I’m sorry you’re not really supposed be talking to me are you? And why are you here in Samaria. I know you’re a Jew.”

“If you knew the gift of God who is asking you for a drink, you’d ask me in return and I’d give you living water.”

“Sir, 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 flocks and herds?” I asked.

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

All I heard was that I’d never be thirsty again and I was sold. If I was never thirsty again, I’d never have to come here. I could stay safe, hidden and not have to publicly allow my shame to be seen. YES! GIVE ME SOME OF THAT!

I asked the man, “Sir, please give me this water so that I won’t go thristy and have to keep coming her to draw water.” This one thing could save me so much heart ache.

He answered in a strange way, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Wait? Call my husband. What does a husband have to do with living water that will make one not thirst? This is outrageous! Call my husband? I knew if I told him my story he’d take back his offer. He’d probably spit at me and turn and walk away, and frankly that would be kind compared to some of the things done to me.  You see, I am not living with my husband. I’ve in fact had five husbands and right now I’m living with a man that is not my husband. This is why I hide. This story of mine is why I don’t want to keep coming to the well. This is why people stare. And this man just asks me to get my husband, what will I say?

“I don’t have a husband.” Simple.

“I know, in fact you’ve had five husbands and the man you’re living with now is not your husband.”

My heart raced. How did he know? Who told him? Was this a trap to stone me, or humiliate me in some way?  I didn’t know what to expect, but I can tell you this much, I did not expect what came next.

The man talked with me for a bit longer. He shared with me about worship. He actually told me that he was the man the Jews were waiting for, He was the Messiah. His words at this point didn’t sink in immediately. I was overwhelmed with a warmth, kindness and compassion that seemed to seep into my heart. I could feel the weight of my shame lifting and life begin to flow through my once cold veins.

We chatted for some time and the head I once hung is shame was lifted and was ready to be seen. I begged him, “sir, please stay. I will be right back. Just wait right here… I’ll be back, I promise,” I urged him as I ran off without thinking into the middle of town.

People in town didn’t know what to do with me. Some hadn’t seen me for some time, others assumed I never made it out of my house and others I’m sure wondered if I had a voice. I’d be silenced by shame and the power of the opinion of others for years.  I yelled, “Come, you have to come. Come quickly, this man, Jesus has told me everything about myself. He knew it all. You have to come! Everyone please!” I’m sure the people were stunned by my story, but I couldn’t help it. He knew everything about me and he didn’t leave. He didn’t shame me and in fact, I believe he loved me.

It was that love that compelled me to run into the middle of a town from whom I’d been hiding for some time. It was as though I were an orphan. I was unwanted, and if I were unseen then no one could reject me. But He, this Jesus, he saw me and he stayed. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever felt like a daughter. I was loved and the power of the opinion of others faded away and I came out of hiding and into the streets on a mission to tell my story to the world.

It was a story that needed to be told. It continues to be. I saw hundreds of lives change. My village was never the same. He remained with us for several days, teaching and listening and loving and something happened that was powerful, restorative and beautiful.

That moment changed everything, for I was an orphan crippled by the power of the opinion of others and in that moment I became a daughter, loved simply for being. That transformation made me come out of hiding and go on a mission of telling my story so that others could join me in freedom!

*****

Are you like this woman? Hiding in shame in some way? It’s time to come out! Come out of hiding. You are seen. You are lovely. You are loved. You are a daughter. And, You have a voice to tell your story!

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Love is too Big: 1

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the topic of love lately. It’s Advent season and Love is one of concepts given to a week of Advent. As I’ve spent some time thinking and praying over the topic I’ve decided that love is too big of a topic. It is something not easily defined with words.

Every culture has a definition for love. Some have more than one. Check this out:

Most English speakers define love as an intense feeling of affection or an emotion.  If you think about it, ideas of love permeate our culture in movies, books, music and art. It is one of the most common themes.  There are different kinds of love, interpersonal: between people, impersonal: between a person and an object, there are scientific understandings of love, styles given to love, and theories of love.  Religions also carry with them various understandings of love.

Christianity, much of the time equates love to, agape, one of many greek words for love.  Agape love is a love that is charitable, altruistic and unconditional.  It is a kind of love that creates goodness and is reciprocal between God and people.

A Jewish understanding of love holds a much larger view of love. Love is given between people and between God and people. The idea of loving your neighbor as your self and Loving God with all your heart, mind and soul. So basically love is, in the Jewish understanding, expressed with good deeds, willingness to sacrifice one’s life, willingness to sacrifice one’s possessions and being grateful to the Lord despite adversity.

Many other religious views see love only in terms of pleasure and therefore are filled with sexual concepts and ideas. Indulging these desires is a gift to their god.

As I continued to peruse articles, books, websites my understanding of love got more clouded from the pure love I was wanting to describe. Love as a concept has so many definitions and interpretations. And although there are many definitions for love, our personal understanding of love is greatly influenced by how we were and are loved by others.

Love is BIG! Love is misunderstood. Love is at the core of human desire. Love is expressed. Love is withheld. Love is given. Love is received. Love is… you fill in the blank.

How do you define love? I’m still figuring this one out.