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“They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ’Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!’” ~ John 4:27-29
The thirstiest I have ever been was twenty years ago. I was new to my city and I was parched for relationships. I had a friendship drought so dry that I would cling to anyone who threw the slightest bit of kindness my way. I was like a baby bird diving for each drop of love I saw falling my way. Everyone was friendly, but no one was a friend. What I wouldn’t have done to share a glass of ice-cold lemonade over conversation and mutual curiosity. Did anyone even see me? Did anyone care about my thirst?
We are a dehydrated lot, aren’t we? We thirst for financial security. We thirst for safety. We thirst for adequate health care. We thirst for a vaccine. We thirst for that next little fix, be it food, alcohol, people, or shopping. We thirst for significance in our lives and meaningful vocation. We thirst for belonging and community and we thirst to be seen. We thirst for assurance that our world and all her inhabitants are going to be okay.
Even today, here we are, thirsty again. This time in a strange new kind of desert we have named social distancing. We pant for shalom. We want all to be well. We are addicted to information, craving knowledge and facts and statistics. We watch from our computer screens as people around the world suffer and mourn from an illness with no cure and no containment. We watch our leaders give confusing and conflicting messages. We watch Wall Street. Our financial futures laugh at us as they shake their heads and testify “In God We Trust”, the black box warning tattooed on each of their green bodies.
The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at Jacob’s well knew this thirst for shalom, just as her mother, sisters, and grandmothers did. She thirsted for a full, rich, stable life. She didn’t even have the dignity of a name, but Jesus saw her story, gifts, potential, disappointments, and yearning. Jesus saw a survivor of horrible circumstances. He saw her trapped in a society that devalued the agency and care of women to the point of marrying them off as property, even five or six times. He heard her silenced voice that screams out #MeToo. He saw that she was an incredibly bright, witty, and charismatic woman and the perfect person to be an apostle and preacher to her own people. He thirsted for her to have the life she deserved, and he had the perfect water to offer her that life. People have called her loose, but Jesus set her loose.
So here we all are, sitting on the ledge of our well, begging for God to see our thirst, wondering if shalom will ever come. God sees us as Jesus saw the Samaritan woman. God sees our needs, limitations, and all of our beauty. Where is our Samaria? Who are the people in our circle thirsty for friendship? Where does God want to set us loose?
It starts by seeing who else is at the well. Who near us is thirsty? Who next to us reminds us of Jesus needing a cup of cold water? Offering care to another just might be the rain to nurture even the deadest of deserts. Do you want to be salt and light? Then start by being a cup of water.