This Sunday, we’ll be hearing about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4: 5-42). I’ve always liked this reading. For one, I love the fact that Jesus chooses to first reveal that he is the Messiah to a woman (and a Samaritan woman at that!). Anyone who believes God sees women as the lesser sex ought to ponder this.
I also love the whole thirsting analogy. Most of us know what it’s like to be really thirsty, to feel parched, to long for that cold glass of water. Figuratively, we’ve all been thirsty for other things in life – a raise, a cure for a sick loved one, a happy marriage. But, as Christians, what we should always thirst for is Jesus or at least things that might help us grow in our faith (sometimes, for example, thirsting for a less demanding job and then finding one might allow us to have a richer prayer life and more time to spend with our family).
In college, I suffered the malady of a broken heart. Actually, it was more like a demolished heart. It was a terrible breakup and for awhile I didn’t think I’d ever be able to piece back together the shards of my shattered self. I felt sad, unlovable as well as angry for a long time.
I met my heartbreaker at the Catholic Center and assumed that because he was a regular Mass attendee, he was a nice guy with a strong faith. Maybe this is true now (I hope so), but at the time he was a lost sheep (and so was I in many ways). He hurt me very much and it took me more than a year to get over him even though we’d only dated for about eight months.
During the intense heartache period I remember talking (actually sobbing) to a lot of my Catholic friends, wondering why this happened. How he could he change so quickly? How could he treat me with so little respect and why couldn’t I fulfill his needs and bring him closer to Christ instead of driving him away from his God and from me? At the time, I blamed a sudden lapse in his faith solely on me and the way I treated him. One particular friend looked at me and said, “Katie, you’re trying to fill an empty well that can’t be filled by you or anyone else. What he’s seeking, you can’t give him.” Honestly, as a 20-year-old I thought this was a load of you-know-what and a little too, I don’t know, deep or flowery or something. Yet, I know exactly what this friend meant now and every time I hear this reading from John, I’m reminded of this past conversation.
So many of us, myself included, find ourselves wondering at times why we feel discontented or what’s missing in our lives. Maybe we’ve finally secured our dream job or found our soul mate or held that baby in our arms we loved even before we were pregnant or went through the adoption process and yet, we still don’t feel completely satisfied. Like Faust, we just keep striving and searching for that elusive key to supreme happiness. Or, like the Samaritan woman, we keep trying over and over to find someone who will make us happy and whole (she did have five husbands and a lover, did she not?). All the while, God is quietly calling us to look to him. Jesus is the only one who can fill our wells. If we drink of Jesus’ living water, then we’ll never be thirsty again.
What are you thirsting for right now at this very moment? And if you quench this particular thirst, will it strengthen your relationship with Christ, or will it only offer ephemeral happiness?
I can tell you what I’m thirsting for: the kind of honest love my 3-year-old exhibited this morning. I heard her dump out a heap of toys and start to rummage through them. She’s in the habit of emptying every single toy container, including ones that litter our living room floor with potential choking hazards for our mobile 8-month-old (think marker caps, crayons and plastic French fries). I’ve asked her over and over to please not dump all her toys out if she doesn’t intend to play with them and that she must clean up after herself. I almost started nagging her again, but something stopped me so I bit my tongue. I came out of the bathroom and went to the kitchen to clean up after breakfast. A few minutes later Madeline ran up to me, smiling broadly. “Mommy!” she exclaimed. “I cleaned up all my toys by myself. I did it for you. I did it for Lent because I love you so much.”
Sure enough every toy was stowed neatly away, back in its place. We hugged and my eyes filled with grateful tears.
God is love. When we love and serve others, we are serving him. I need to remember this always as I go about my daily grind. I am thirsting for the means to continually offer this kind of simple but profound love.
My little girl helped to fill my well this morning and I’m going to keep it brimming to the top by humbling myself and asking Jesus for his living water. Now it’s time to take a drink. May Jesus help me to love my family, strangers and even enemies not just with a feeling (I still love my kiddos even when I lose my patience with them, after all) or even words (saying, “I love you” isn’t always enough), but with my actions, with my life.