The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
(John 4:9-15 NRSV)
As we continue our journey through Lent, we are encouraged to dig deep into the depths of our spiritual wells. This familiar exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman invites us to consider our constant search for waters in our quest to quench our thirsty souls. We find her alone – perhaps feeling isolating in the light and heat of the sun – seeking the refreshing taste and touch of the water in the well before her..
It is safe to say, given the culture we live in, there are many wells to which we are tempted to go to find “springs of water gushing up to eternal life.” There are the wells found on cyberspace – quickly providing us with answers to our every question, only to leave us with more questions as the thirst returns. There are the wells found in success and affluence – providing us with the impression that we have “value and worth,” only for our value and worth to remain lacking as the thirst returns. There are the wells of chemical dependency that may feel good in the moment, only for their effect to be short-lived and never enough as the thirst returns. There are wells of status and power – providing us and others with the perception of influence and importance – but then, in the company of ourselves, inadequacy rears its head as the thirst returns. I am confident you can name many other wells where you have sought to quench your spiritual thirst. These sought-out wells can be found within ourselves, imposed by the narrative of our individual stories and outside in the world, imposed by the narrative of the predominant culture around us.
As I have shared in the past, for me, education was one way to numb the pain of self-doubt. It was a well to which I went over and over again. It was a way of quenching the thirst of self-image and worth. It was a way of countering a narrative in my life framed by abuse. But just how many degrees would it take to make me feel worthy? When would they be enough? The answer- probably never. Now, I still love learning and recently have started training to be a certified coach, but I have come to understand and accept that all the degrees in the galaxy will not and cannot heal that which is broken within me, that which is yearning for wholeness. All the degrees in the world will not offer God’s gift of grace and love that allows me to stand humbly with you today. It has been allowing the truth of God’s relentless love in Jesus to permeate into my thirsty soul, which has brought hope against hope into my being.
What is most amazing about this sacred water we have been offered is not that it takes away all the human pain. What is amazing about this sacred water is that it sustains our souls to face the challenges we are presented. It provides us with a source of strength that does not dry up when the sun goes down. Its thirst-quenching ability transforms our lives as it focuses our hearts and minds on the source of life. C.S. Lewis captures this truth, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
I write this deeply aware of the current challenge before us – the coronavirus is causing its own kind of isolation and distress as we navigate the balance between the unknowns of the disease and the appropriate thoughtful response of a covenant community. We are called upon to consider what wells will satisfy our quest for and need to be in community during this time. We know we cannot be hugging and kissing – but we can be reaching out to one another to ensure that our fear does not perpetuate even more isolation of those most vulnerable in our midst.
What about you? What wells have called your name? To what wells do you go to quench your sacred thirst? I invite us each during this season to take time to re-examine the thirst we carry. I invite us to re-affirm the waters Jesus offered to the Samaritan woman. May we join our voices to hers, “Sir, Jesus, give me this water.”