It was just an ordinary day: hot, tiring, and very very lonely. Life is hard here. People don't like me, because I'm different. My life has taken many an unexpected turn, and events have left their scars...I know I don't fit in....and my neighbours make that very obvious.
When I go to the market for fruit the other women call their children to them, draw back themselves into the shelter of their homes...When I go to fetch water, I'm excluded from the friendly team work that makes light work of the heaving of those precious gallons from deep within the earth.
I'm not part of their group. I don't belong here and I don't really know where home is anymore.
Well, now I come to think about it, things may actually have changed here...There's a rather different atmosphere since that day.
But not then...not when I set out. You see, I couldn't bear the sudden silence that always fell upon any group I chanced upon, so gradually I'd began to shun the company of others even as they shunned me.It meant a few adjustments in the daily routine, like going for water at noon.Not the best use of time and resources – and yet, if I hadn't, I would never have met him.
So, there I was, trudging to the well....No way round it – any home needs water, many jars full each and every day...and somebody has to fetch it. And that someone is always and everywhere the woman...
But that day it seemed harder than usual. The sun beat down. The great jar weighed heavy and the distance to the well seemed to have doubled. My feet dragged along the dusty track, outside the walls of the village.
Always outside...that's where life seemed to have thrown me.
As I walked, I found myself mulling over the big questions once again, the ones that have you tossing and turning in the small hours.
“Why me? What's it all for? What if this is all there is?
I never thought I'd end up like this...
I feel such a failure! All my hopes and dreams turned to dust, as dry as the ground I'm walking on! I HATE my life! I hate what I've become.
Please God, there must be more - more to my life, more to me than this!”
I nearly spoke aloud – but I get enough looks askance as it is...so the words, the thoughts remained inside my head...
I rounded the corner and the well was in sight...
To my annoyance, there was someone there. A man, alone, rubbing tired feet and wiping sweat from his brow. He was bound to be bad news. I didn't recognise him, and I was sure he'd have nothing good to say to me, so when I got there I just carried on in silence, turning the handle, bringing up the bucket...weary work...
Of course, it didn't occur to him to help me. He was a man. I am a woman. End of story.
Except – he asked me for a drink...and when he spoke, it was with a Galilean accent. Then I noticed his prayer shawl
He, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink....
They say, don't they, that only mad dogs go out in the noonday sun...so clearly this man's mind had been touched by the sun...but all the same, I liked his voice...I stopped my work to reply
“Ummm....I don't think you'd want one from me. I'm a Samaritan. You're a Jew. We don't mix. History, you know...”
And then it happened. The conversation changed...We seemed still to be standing in that ordinary, everyday world...but somehow words had new meanings, simple exchanges were charged with extraordinary significance.
“If you asked me, I could give you living water...”
What could he mean? You didn't find living water, clear, running water in a well....Up in the mountains there might be a spring like that, but nothing for miles around here...
Well water was the best we could do...and at least it was wholesome here
Then he went on
“I could give you water that protects you from thirst forever.”
I knew then that our conversation had moved beyond buckets and water jars...He was talking about something different. I didn't understand him, but I knew that I wanted what he was offering more than life itself...
“Oh yes please....” I begged...
“An end to this daily slog...Refreshment whenever I need it....Oh, I long for that”
I stood staring at him, everything I was focussed intently on his face...Surely this was going to be a moment of transformation.
But then he brought me back to earth
“Go and get your husband!” he said
How did he know?
Much married, I am...I'm not going to say more than that, - but the man living in my home at the moment isn't a husband, that's for sure.
Why did this Galilean with the kind eyes have to bring that up?
Was he, after all, just another accomplice of the jeering villagers?
I flushed and looked away, mumbling “I don't have a husband”
But his response...Oh....I knew as he spoke to me that he was seeing into my heart, into my soul...that everything I had done, and that others had done to me, everything I'd longed to be, every dream I'd cherished, every tear I had shed, everything was open to him......that he saw it all, and accepted me just exactly as I was.
I didn't know who or what he was...but I could tell he was special...By telling me who I really am, he’d also shown me who he really was.
“You're a prophet, sir...Help me to understand who's got religion right. Does God prefer one style of worship to another...Should we worship him in the beauty of creation, over on the mountain side, or give of our best labour to make a splendid home for him? What should we do?”
“Wait...” he answered...”God's bigger than that....bigger than worship styles...bigger than churches, Temples, bigger even than creation. God is greater than your biggest imaginings...God is Spirit so you must worship in Spirit and in Truth”
Such huge words. Such huge concepts. I was out of my depth now, almost drowning in those living waters...Floundering, I remembered the age-old promise that one would come to save us...
“The Messiah...that's who we need”
And then,he spoke these heart-stopping words
And, do you know, as I stood there I believed him. No doubt anywhere. This was it. I believed so passionately that suddenly I longed for everyone in that unkind village to know for themselves....
There were some men coming, more strangers...it was time for me to make myself scarce...but now I was a woman with a mission. I left my jar there by the well, the hard won water sparkling at the brim....It didn't matter. Not compared with this.
EVERYONE must come and hear this amazing man...the man who knew me for what I truly am....who saw the secrets of my heart....the man whose words have given me a new purpose.
I was so tired of the treadmill, so thirsty for meaning that day...and suddenly, there it was...
Answers to every question, comfort for every pain, endless refreshment for mind and spirit....
The Messiah met by chance by a well in a small village in Samaria.
God in the ordinary, turning my world upside down.