It is mid-day in the desert, and it is hot. The sun, high is the sky, is broiling. The land is dusty and dry as you gather your empty water jug and make your way to the well. Underneath your layers of fabric and your head-coverings, you are sweltering. Like every other day, you long for the ability to fill your water jug in those cooler early morning hours, just as all the other women do. But as soon as the thought enters your mind, so does your shame, and you’re reminded again of why you can’t stomach those stares, those whispers, those turned backs. In this town, even among other Samaritans, you are the fodder for their gossip.
“…all those husbands…”
“…isn’t even married to the one she’s living with now!”
“…should be ashamed…”
So instead of all that, you go at noon. In the heat. In the isolation. In your shame. Only today, when you arrive, there’s a man there. He’s someone you don’t recognize, but you know he’s a Jew. You contemplate turning back, afraid of what people might think if you’re seen, but you desperately need your water. And he’s already seen you. I’ll just draw my water, stay quiet, and leave quickly. No one will see me. No one will assume I’m beginning yet another relationship with yet another man.
But this man, who seems harmless enough, throws a kink in your plan. He speaks. He asks you for water. Despite your suspicions regarding his true intentions, you enter into conversation with him. And then it happens. He asks you to go get your husband and bring him back with you to the well. Oh how easy it would be to simply lie: he’s ill and cannot come. He’s recently passed away. Instead, you see nothing but kindness in this man’s eyes, and before you know it, you’ve simply told the truth: “I have no husband.”
It was this moment, John 4:17, that I began to see this woman at the well in a whole new light, a light that made me envious of her relationship with Jesus. Where I tend to justify or excuse or try to explain away my shortcomings, our Samaritan friend simply stated truth. She didn’t attempt to explain to Jesus why she had those five previous husbands, why each relationship failed and how it wasn’t even her fault. She didn’t attempt to make excuses for why she was currently living with a man to whom she wasn’t married. She simply laid the truth and the shame it created for her before Jesus.
This, my friends, is EXACTLY the kind of relationship I crave to have with Jesus Christ. I want to take my sin, my shame, my destitution, my addictions, my insecurities and place them straight at his feet, without explaining them away, without making excuses for why they’re there in the first place, and without a need to justify them. I want to let Jesus carry that shame that’s so incredibly heavy for me right up on that cross where it, too, can be sacrificed.
We serve a God who is the same today as He was so many, many years ago with the woman at the well. The same Jesus who showed her love and offered her the chance to fill her emptiness with something soul-satisfying and unending is the same Jesus who offers those exact things to us today. “But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more. But the water that I shall give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling) [continually] within him unto eternal life.”–John 4:14 (AMP).
The Samaritan woman was doing what you and I are still continuing to do: she was filling her empty jar with temporary satisfaction, a water that quickly ran dry. Today, you and I do the same things. We spend our days filling our emptiness with all that is fleeting: alcohol, food, drugs, sex, social media adoration, possessions….and the list goes on and on. Then those feel-goods run empty. Our shame is suddenly much heavier, and our “water jar” is empty once again. The shame game cycle begins anew. But because of God’s Word, because of the woman at the well, we see exactly what we should do. It’s time to take that shame to God, it’s time to fess up, and it’s time to follow in the Samaritan woman’s shoes. The Bible tells us that once she recognized Jesus’s power, she left that forgotten water jar behind as she ran straight into town, straight to those same people she’d punished herself by avoiding every single morning, to tell them of Jesus’s goodness. She was healed; her shameful burden was lifted. She could run into that dusty city with her head held high and proclaim her Savior’s glory without worry over who was judging her for her past. Her past was no longer with her. She had left it behind, next to that wonderfully nice man with the kind eyes that she met at the well.
The devil’s shame game (because, believe me, it belongs to him) is powerful. But his power is limited. It is NO MATCH for our Jesus. When Satan tricks you into believing that your worth is negligent and your presence is ineffectual, remind him WHOSE YOU ARE! Remind him that your worth and your value aren’t determined by your choices–good or bad–but by Jesus, whose blood was shed for you, despite knowing what choices you’d make. Satan wants you to feel so ashamed, so weighted down by your own guilt that you forget that. Remind him that your guilt has already been completely erased, for you belong to God! YOU. ARE. LOVED.
So I ask you today, friend, what shame are you holding onto because you’re afraid of what Jesus will think? What shame is keeping you isolated and lonely and in fear of our Savior’s love? Isn’t it heavy? Isn’t it exhausting? Isn’t it time to lay it down? Your God loves you. Just like He did for that woman at the well, He is seeking you out. Stop filling your emptiness and soothing your shame with temporary pleasures. Let the One who knows you and your battles inside and out fill you up. Decide now that you’re going to let that past go, let that shame go, and you’re going to turn instead to Jesus and the Word of God which NEVER runs dry. And then, take a cue from our new friend, and go tell the world about this incredible love that saved you from yourself.
Dear Lord, I am so grateful to be your child. I praise You! Thank you for your willingness to love me and your desire for my worship in spite of the wreckage I can often be. God, help me. My shame is very heavy, and I can no longer bear it. Help me, Lord, to let it be crucified with Jesus so that I, like the Samaritan woman, can be a testimony to your healing. Thank you, God, for hearing me, for saving me, and for loving me. May others be brought to you through me. In Jesus’s Name–Amen.
Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.