Woman At The Well
by Allen Clupny
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She had never been awakened so gently. This place between sleep and consciousness was comforting and pleasant. And it made opening her eyes difficult. Then she noticed the single beam of soft light piercing her room’s darkness. The blade pointed strait to her heart and she felt its warmth as it was thrust through the wooden shutters. Then she rolled her head and looked at the young man lying next to her.
“He's still asleep,” she thought peaking at the figure next to her. “But I wonder, if Shimshon is awake.” Slowing, so as not to disturb the younger man, she moved the coarse blanket that covered them both and sat up. She gently massaged the back of her neck rubbing the stiffness away.
“EEERRRK, EEERRRK.” A sound from a loaded wagon outside her door. She knew it wouldn't be long before the street was crowded with merchants, customers, and thieves vying for the day’s meals. She stood up and straightened herself as high as her still lean frame could extent. Slowly walking to the baby's bed she thought, “Certainly not the best crib, but better than many in Sychar.” She then walked over to the water bowl and realized there was none in it.
"There seems to be no end to this drudgery." She said out loud. Quickly, as if catching a grasshopper in her bare hand, she covered her mouth. The baby began to stir at the sound of her voice. “Someday,” she thought, “I will be in a house with more than one room. I had better get some water from the well before the others get there. Besides, I don't want to hear the latest gossip in the village. Many times I've been the subject.”
As she quietly dressed for the day a whisper startled her. "So, your day starts so early?"
"Ssshhh! Yosef." She whispered.
"So, the baby runs the house?” The young man questioned.
Slowly she approached him and kissed his head. "There is a time and place for everything." She quietly replied, "Shimshon will be waking soon. I should go to the well of my fathers before the street fills."
"Is this what it means to live with a mother and her son? I'm certain there must be some advantage to this arrangement." Smiling, he asked, "What do you think?"
Her smile confirmed what he already knew. "I'll make something for you to eat when I return." She said, "Lay down, your work will begin soon enough. Besides, you’ll need your smooth talk for your customers."
"All of it?" He asked jokingly.
A sharp glance, then a look of embarrassment covered her thirty-year-old face as she reached for the door. "Just hold the baby if he wakes. I will be back shortly to feed him."
The sun had steadily risen and its comforting warmth made her forget about the coming task. She carried a clay pot and a smaller worn wooden bucket, which was tied to the end of a long horsehair rope. “Just a couple of dips of the buckets will fill my jar.” She thought to herself. The soft sand, still cool from the night air, chilled her feet. As she walked she sensed an unexpected brightness in her heart. There was nothing new about the day and yet it somehow felt different. A voice from the corner of a building broke her thought.
"Good morning Sari. Time for water again?" Asked a man who was huddled against a wall.
Recognizing the voice she replied, "Micah, how is it that you see so well for a blind man?" As she approached he answered.
"I know my people." He said, "Besides, I've come to know the sound of your walk. Though I am blind, Jehovah still lets me see. I just see differently."
As she kissed his forehead he reached up and found her hand and asked. "How have you been since Benjamin left?" The question caused her to blush. Feeling the new warmth in her hand he sensed her shame. "It is alright my girl," he said trying to comfort her. "Sometimes life plays funny games with us. Right or wrong, we must deal with it the best we can. I’ve heard in the streets that there may be someone else? Is he a gentle man?"
Knowing the older mans intentions she answered. "He is kind to me and my baby."
"Ah yes, Shimshon! He must be playing like a lamb in a pen by now." He felt her hand relax as he spoke of the child.
Smiling, she answered, "Yes, he gets into everything. But he is my joy."
"Micah," she asked, "Please don't mention to anyone about Yosef. Though there is talk already, there’s no sense in fanning the flame."
"Yes. I understand. There’s nothing worse than gossip to weigh down ones heart." Smiling he finished. "I won't be part of that."
"I should go.” She said to the man as she squeezed his hand. "I will see you in a day or two."
"That long?" He asked with a smile.
"Perhaps sooner. Maybe we can just talk." She replied.
"Another time then daughter."
"Yes, another time." She said and turned to walk away.
Just outside of town she thought, "I am glad it’s to early for the other women to be at the well." Suddenly, she stopped. “Who is He?” She asked herself. “I don’t know his face and he doesn't appear to be one of us.”
Slowly, cautiously she walked toward the water as random thoughts raced through her mind. She began to realize that at least gossiping women offered her the comfort of familiarity. This one though, who could he be? Then she noticed his gaze. It was different from that of other men she had known. She wasn't bitter about her time with them. Each was willing to give and take. But this one had strange eyes; not handsome or beautiful, but they showed a depth of heart she was unfamiliar with. Something in his eyes made her look with anticipation and expectancy, though faith and fear waged for a place inside her heart.
“He seems to be coming toward Jacob's Well. Tired. Yes, He looks too tired to be concerned. I'll just get my water and leave. I won't say a word.” She thought to herself.
With her plan of avoidance in mind she pressed toward the watershed. Lost in her attempts to ignore the man she kept her head down as she approached the well.
By the time she had reached her goal fear had found a home in her heart. “If I don't look up he won't notice me." She kept reminding herself. Wiping her forehead, she realized sweat was slowly trickling down to the small of her back. Ignoring her fear she began to draw water. He watched intently as she quietly poured the first bucket into her jar.
Suddenly her silence was shattered as she knocked the clay jar onto the rocks surrounding the well. Her shoulders slumped in frustration. When she knelt to pick up the pieces the stranger spoke. "Will you give me a drink?"
Sari's defenses were suddenly reinforced. “What could he want from me?” She thought. “Surely it can't be just water? It's early and I am alone. No one here to answer a call for help.” Then she realized he was a Jew. “How strange he would even speak to me.” The woman, now curious, asked, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?"
Seeing fear no longer embraced her, Jesus answered. "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."
Confused by the man's words she replied, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep." The sun was beginning to bear down on them both. Sari put her hand over her brow to shield her eyes. Still puzzled by his words she continued, "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 his sons, flocks, and herds?"
Gently smiling, he reached his cupped hand into her bucket and raised it letting the water seep through his fingers. Then he answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will thirst again." Then placing that same hand over his heart he continued, "But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give will become in him a spring of everlasting life."
Thinking on his words she reached her small hand into the water; it’s coolness refreshing to her soft skin. Slowly she closed her eyes and touched her lips with her moist hand and thought to herself, “How wonderful to never thirst again.”
Opening her eyes she said the stranger, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." As soon as she spoke it she realized how much she disliked coming to the well. She didn't blame the women because she knew her past and her present home life. It just hurt to be talked about in public.
Her reflection was broken when he said, "Go call your husband."
She could feel the flush suddenly veil her face. Looking down at first, then reaching deep inside herself to stand in defense she said, "I have no husband." Her peak of defiance reached, she tilted her head forward again, embarrassed that she so boldly proclaimed her sin.
He waited. Not long. Just enough time to insure she realized what she had confessed and her position on it.
Then he said, "You are right when you say you have no husband." The man in his early thirties was gentle here. He knew her sin but condemnation was not his aim. It was love. The love of God was reaching to the sin that stitched her soul and spirit together. It was a weak seam that he desired to remove to bring both back together with love’s strength. "You have had five husbands," he said and then pausing to let the words seep down deep into her being, "and the man you now have is not your husband." The abruptness of his words pierced her heart
Soul and spirit now divided she felt the pain of conviction. It was a good pain. Pain like that of a festering old wound being reopened and cleaned. This pain would now lead to real healing. She was vulnerable, but she had one defense left.
"Sir, I see you are a prophet." Looking for the right theological words to use she continued, "Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews, claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
“Oh how my sheep buck and kick at the shepherd's crook” the man thought. But he continued to lead her to the destination he chose. "Believe me woman, a time is coming when you will worship not on this mountain or Jerusalem."
His response surprised her. She thought an argument might insure her release from this uncomfortable place of conviction.
He continued, "You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we know. For salvation is from the Jews." The crook was firmly pushing, prodding, guiding; taking her to the place where she could drink deeply of the waters of life. On he went, "Yet a time is coming when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. God is spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth."
Uncertain of his meaning she retreated from her defense to neutral ground. A place she would discover had no neutrality. "I know that Messiah called Christ is coming." How could he respond to her? She believed she found a place of escape. She continued, "When he comes he will explain everything to us."
Then the itinerant preacher spoke words she hardly imagined possible. He said, "I who speak to you am he."
She realized that He had proclaimed deity. She turned her face from His gaze and her heart from His words. A gaze that revealed the way to hope, words of truth to live by, and new life for her heart, soul, and mind; his gaze revealed peace.
As she thought about these things she noticed men approaching the well. But the impact of this man was only temporarily broken by their approach.
Sari had felt peace before when she was holding Shimshon in her arms nursing him. She new peace when she first married and lay next to her husband and a peace that she thought about, when she heard the history of her people. But this peace was new. It was richer, lighter, filled with freedom, as if her spirit was suddenly washed with cool, clean water.
The disciples approaching the well saw it. The Messiah saw it. But Sari knew it; the peace of knowing her creator, of submitting as a child, the peace of forgiveness from one who sought no payment. She felt a peace that affirmed new found faith. No shame. No doubt. No more hiding. Only hope.
She began to sense an urgency to share the hope that was freely given. She wanted to freely give. He scurried back to Sychar leaving her shattered jar and bucket.
"Everyone!" She shouted, "Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. On seeing her blind friend she excitedly knelt down and spoke to the man, "Micah, Could this be the Christ?"
As the towns people gathered around her some mocked, some stared, most just listened. "Come!" She shouted.
"Let's see the soothsayer this woman speaks of." Someone yelled. "Yes, let's see what wisdom or prophesy he can give us.” Another mocked.
Micah, standing with the help of Sari then spoke, "People of Sychar. I have known this woman all her life. She has made mistakes. We all know that. But she is no fool… or liar." Sweeping His head from side to side as he continued, "Let's visit the one who calls himself the Christ. Let's listen for ourselves." So they went out of the town and made their way toward him.
"Micah is right.” Said one in the crowd to another, "I too know this woman and I believe her." Many nodded in affirmation.
"Look, at the well. There he is." A high pitched voice spoke." A young married couple quickened their pace and were the first to speak to Him.
"Please teacher, come and stay with us. We have so many questions." Many others followed with similar requests urging him to stay with them.
For two days he stayed answering questions, giving hope, and encouraging the faith of the villagers. Then He was gone. But because of his words many more became believers.
Not long after the traveler left Sari was once again visiting the well. "Sari." Said one of the women, “I am sorry for speaking of you so cruelly. I believe this man can forgive you and I ask you for the same. You see, I no longer believe just because of what you said." Touching her finger to Sari's heart, "Now I have heard for myself and know that this man is the Savior of the world."
For the second time in a few days, Sari’s heart was warmed by a piercing light.
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You made me feel as if I were right there. Stories that make the Bible come to life are my favorite. God has given you a great gift. May He continue to bless you. Keep writing.
What a beautiful piece!! I love stories and articles that make the Bible come alive, and this did it--great job!
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