Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


Living Water

I've been reading through John . . . slowly . . . stopping when something catches my attention and staying with it until it sinks in deep into my soul.  Yesterday, while reading about the conversation of Jesus and the woman at the well, I noticed something new.

Let's replay the scene a little: 

Jesus and his disciples are on the road, travelling from the countryside of Judah through Samaria (a non-Jewish town) to the city of Galilee. Jesus stopped at an old well, Jacob's well, while his disciples continued on into the city for food.

A Samaritan woman showed up to retrieve water and Jesus did what was culturally wrong and asked her for a drink. (Samaritans were the un-lovely, the un-touchables, the despised and rejected ones of culture. She would have been shocked that a man, a Jewish man would ask her for help.)

They chat. Jesus engages in conversation with her that is warm and kind and truthful. He tells her that he has "living water" that will take away her thirst forever. He invites her to get her husband so they can talk more. She denies having one and Jesus reveals that he knows she has had five husbands as well as the current man she's living with right now. She dodges the issue by asking deep theological questions and Jesus moves the conversation back to issues of the heart. She then tells Jesus that when the "Messiah" comes, all questions will be answered. Jesus says, "I am He".  Just then, the disciples returned with some take-out lunch and the woman left, leaving her water bucket behind and a cloud of dust as she ran home.  

IMAGINE! for a moment, how meaningful this conversation was for Jesus. He just had a profound conversation with someone who believed in the Messiah. He was able to reveal his true identity by caring for her, treating her with dignity and challenging her at the same time. He offered grace and truth. He must've known the ripple effects would be huge as she ran back to her village to tell them about Jesus (and she did! and they all came back to see him!)

But in the meantime, the disciples showed up.

I imagine Peter was munching on bread and Matthew might have been tossing grapes up into the air and catching them in his mouth. Perhaps a grape or two fell to the ground as they approached and saw the scene before them. 

Scripture says that although the disciples said nothing, their faces showed their shock for what they saw. So, they did what any human, practical response might be and said, "Jesus . . . want a sandwich?" And this next line is the one that stopped me in my reading:  Jesus responded, "I have food to eat you know nothing about . . . The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started. " (John 4, The Message)

All that mattered to Jesus in that moment was that he was doing what his purpose was about! He met someone's true hunger and thirst and offered what was the most satisfying and nourishing thing he could . . . a relationship with God! He revealed the generosity and love of God in his actions and words. Jesus was God-incarnate, God-up-close, God-relationship-able (I know that's not a real word . . . but I like it.)

So I've been wondering . . . what do I offer people? A sandwich? or living water?

And I'm realizing that until I am experiencing the refreshing life-giving water of a real relationship with Jesus in my own life, I won't be convinced that its any good for others. I must be drinking the living water myself. And if I'm not, what am I being nourished with? Hobbies? Distractions? Successful projects? a good hair day? new clothes? Relationships? Honestly, what are the things that are sustaining me and that I can't live without? If it's not a relationship with Jesus, then I might just be eating dry, crusty sandwiches and offering that to others too.  I don't want to be about sandwiches.

Lord, your conversation with the woman at the well is also how you relate to me! You love me, you know me, you offer me dignity and you acknowledge my hunger and thirst. You offer me more than just plain water and sandwiches. I accept your real relationship love today. Reveal what those other things are that I look to for satisfaction and fulfillment and help me to set those things to the side. You know what my true desires are and that deep longing in my soul can only be filled with relationship with You. Thank you Lord.