I just wanted to fill my bucket and get home before it got any hotter. But that plan got derailed by the most marvelous conversation…
I wanted to tell the stranger, “you must be new around here. Jewish men don’t talk to Samaritan women in public.” Or, “Look, pal. I gotta get home. The man I live with wants his water!”
Instead, I got pulled into this amazing discussion. This wandering teacher took me seriously. He didn’t dismiss my desires as everyone else would–dangerous unless controlled by men! In fact, he never got his drink. I never filled my bucket. We set aside our pressing projects, our differences with our churches and each other for a short time—and whoosh! “Water gushing up to everlasting life!”
I guess he liked my nerve. After all, I’ve broken all the social taboos—what have I got to lose? Maybe you could say I was open to his message. And I liked the way he invited—never coerced. My life was pretty topsy-turvy anyway; I was used to surprises. He probed my past, but not in a mean way. Somehow, he led me from talking about ordinary water to another plane altogether.
I used to think the lines between Jews and Samaritans were rigid as walls. After all, everyone in my world regarded them as high barriers. But this guy didn’t seem to care; he dismissed big differences easy as fluff on the wind. He reminded me a bit of the prophets—like Amos or Micah or Isaiah, focused on the important things, trying to lure me away from the trivia. You could say I’d already stepped out of religious circles, or they had scorned me. Maybe that’s why I responded to him so fast; at some level, I already knew what he was saying. Much later, I remembered his phrase, “If you knew the gift of God…” Well maybe I do. Or I’m learning.
As we talked, I glimpsed something deep within myself, a depth I never knew I had. It was that spark within that responded to his promise. He made me feel happy, dignified—as I never had before. Many don’t notice an important sentence in my story: “then the woman left her water jar…” No more defining MY life by domestic drudgery! Now I know I’m cut out for more. It’s rumored that years later, women left their jars filled with embalming spices at an empty tomb. They too found more important things to do, like witness a resurrection.
Remember how I came to the well—alone, at the hottest time, when no one else would be there, avoiding the gossips and judges? That all changed. I ran back to my village loud as a brass band. No longer ashamed, I was so caught up in astonishment, I could trumpet, “he told me everything I’ve ever done!” Suddenly I felt strong, like a precious vessel spilling over with good news. Bursting, I began to tell the town… (Jn. 4:1-42)
Excerpt from MORE HIDDEN WOMEN OF THE GOSPELS by Kathy Coffey, which will be published by Orbis Press Nov. 20, 2020.
Retreat led by Kathy Coffey: “Those Feisty Gospel Women”
San Damiano Center, 710 Highland Dr., Danville, CA (925)-837-9141
www.sandamiano.org March 27-29, 2020