From the moment this whole series started to swirl around my heart, I felt drawn to one story that I’ve not been able to escape.
To this one woman, her hard past, and to all she believed made her who she was.
You know the woman, I think. This woman at the well. Here’s our story:
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” John 4:4-26
When I think about identity, I think about this woman and all that defined her. Whether they were fault of her own or realities of the culture of the day, she was surely defined by these factors:
Her ethnicity… she was a Samaritan.
Her gender… not just a Samaritan, a Samaritan woman.
Her status… kind of the first two combined, a Samaritan woman being of much lower societal status than a Jewish man.
Her circumstance… unwed, adulterous.
Her sin… many men, many husbands.
Her religion… “You Samaritans worship what you do not know.”
Each of these are real elements of this woman’s identity. Her gender, religion, status, ethnicity… indeed these are facts of her life and person. And it is OK, friends, that we identify ourselves in these ways:
I am a woman.
I am a Christian.
I am part Irish.
But look deep, pause with this woman as she encounters Jesus. Do you see what He thinks about each component? Stop and listen. By His mere willingness to speak to her in hot of the midday sun, he turns each piece, each little bit of all that defines her, upside down and on its head. He doesn’t deny that each represent pieces of our friend at the well, but he makes it oh so clear, they certainly do not define the most important part: Her spirit.
Do you see it?
It is our spirits that make us. And we don’t need to deny that our identity is found, at least in little bits, in race or gender or circumstance. Indeed, these are some of the beautiful things that make us uniquely us.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Jesus says it is our spirit that makes us fully us, in spite of any other ingredients. If you’re looking desperately to find yourself, dears, can I suggest you have a come-to-Jesus-at-the-well moment? Bring it all. Don’t pretend to be anything else than all those things that make you up.
Then, then, let Him minister to you, right there, in the light of the midday sun, vulnerable as ever. Let Him pour Living Water over and into and all around every nook and cranny and crevice of your brokenness. He will fill you up. He will show you who you really are.