Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Are You the Woman at the Well?

Hi Friends,

Reaching for Wonder releases later this month! It's time to order your copy. You can get it on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

A couple weeks ago Bryan and I preached out of the second chapter of the book, the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well from John 4. During the sermon, we played a video that told the story of the woman. It went something like this:

Drama of the Woman at the Well (John 4) from chapter 2 of Reaching for Wonder:

I hate this life. I hate what I am. I hate this dusty path that leads to a well dug by my ancestor. Dug by Jacob himself. He was a deceiver, but God chose him anyway. I am much worse. So shamed, so pained, that I trudge to the well in the heat of the day with the sun beating on my brow and the jar rough in my hands. The jar empty. It seems always to be empty.
         And so the dust swirls, my feet plod, my fingers grip the emptiness.
         I hear voices, male and Jewish. I glance up.
         A small group of men come toward me. One drops coins into the money bag of another. “He said to buy food,” says one.
         “Don’t know why he didn’t come with us,” spouts another.
         “Who knows why he does what he does.”
         They walk past me the other direction toward town. And I don’t care. I cross to other side of the road, avert my face as if by doing so they will not see me. I am invisible. No one sees me. They never do.
         I continue to the well alone, happy to be alone. Unhappy. But what choice is there? The other women come to the well in the cool of the morning. They laugh and gossip and share stories of lives I don’t understand. I come now when the sun is at its zenith. I come alone. I draw water alone. I leave alone. Except for the company of my shame.
         But not today.
         Someone sits at the edge of the well. A man. A mystery. He looks at me and I tremble. Why is there a Jew at the well in the heat of the day? Should I turn back? Should I flee? I need water.
         I sigh. I need more than water.
         I avert my gaze and sidle to the far side of the well. I am invisible. He will not see me.
         A voice shatters the silence. “Give me some water to drink.”
         I swallow and for a moment, the whole world stills. Slowly, I lift my eyes to him. He sees me. And I am stunned. Words sputter from my lips. “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?”
         Does he smile? What is that slight quirk of his lips? That crinkle at the sides of his eyes? “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.”
         Living water? Running water? He makes no sense. He speaks in riddles. But he speaks. To me. And that is something I cannot ignore. “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
         His gaze turns thoughtful now, as if he’s willing me to hear more than I can hear, see more than I can see. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”
         More riddles. And yet . . . yet . . . If only he knew the truth . . . “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!” For a single second, for the slightest breath, I envision what it would be like to be freed from my daily trek of shame. To avoid the whispers that still persist. To hide. From sun and dust and humiliation.
         To hide. But I don’t imagine what it would be like to be free. I cannot imagine that.
         Then he speaks again, his words dropping like boulders into my soul. “Go, get your husband, and come back here.” My husband, he says. His face is impassive now. His eyes keen. They watch me. They see too much. I cannot lie. I cannot hide. I should have known I can never hide, even at Jacob’s well in the hottest part of the day.
         “I don’t have a husband.” There, I have said it. Not a confession really, but the truth. The smallest bit of truth I can manage. I turn my head, willing him to silence. Desperate that he speak no more. Please, no more.
         Too late. “You are right to say, ‘I don’t have a husband. You’ve had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the truth.”
         And there it is. All my pain, all my shame, my hopelessness, my helplessness. EXPOSED. Laid bare before this stranger at the well. Five. Six, really. The number that defines everything that has gone wrong, that always goes wrong. This is my life, defined by a number twice what the rabbis allow. And the way he speaks it. He doesn’t sneer. He doesn’t accuse. He simply says it.
         It is what it is. We both know it.
         And I believe it’s all I will ever be. I cannot speak of this. I must not. Surely there is a safer topic, an old argument between Samaritans and Jews. Let us speak of that. It’s easier. Safer. “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and your people say that it is necessary to worship in Jerusalem.”
         He answers me with more riddles. He speaks of the Messiah. He speaks of worship in spirit and in truth. Truth. Somehow this man IS truth. And I can speak nothing else when I am with him. “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.”
         “I Am—the one who speaks with you.”
         His words bridge the gap between us, though neither of us move. I tremble. He has said more than I ever dreamed possible. More than I ever hoped could be true.
         I Am.
         He is.
         Could it be?
         What if . . . what if there really is hope in my shame? What if this man, this mystery, really is my Messiah?
         And what if that truth is the only thing that matters?
         I hear the voices of the Jewish men I passed on the road. They approach but say nothing to their companion at the well. I glance down at the jar that I clutch in my hands. It is empty. I am not empty.
         Living water. I am beginning to understand. I am beginning to believe.
         I leave my jar at the well and hurry toward town.
         I will tell them everything. I will tell them I met the Messiah. I will tell them we can all be set free.
         I cannot tell them that. They must discover it, discover him, as I have.
         Instead I will tell them what only I can say. I will speak of the thing that I have always most wanted to hide. I, who, snuck to the well at midday to avoid the uncovering of my shame. I, who have had five husbands and the one I have now is no husband at all. I, who carry with me nothing but guilt and an empty clay jug. I am no longer afraid of what they’ll say. I am no longer afraid  of the shame that has been all I’ve known.
         I will face it. I will face them. I will say, “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?”

         And in doing so, I will leave more than just an empty water jar by the well.