TITLE: Compromised Dreams
By Don Beers
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There she goes.
The mid-day sun, blazing, assures her she will stay alone.
Perfect. Well, preferable anyway. The heat of the day was pleasant in comparison to the fiery criticism, sarcasm, scorn and hatred of the villagers.
The well near Sychar was a beehive of activity of a morning. The women, rising early, would come to draw water for the needs of their own and draw conclusions about others.
She used to meet with most of them on those mornings. Perhaps they were all on a first name basis, and the current (and often, inconsequential) events of the area were broadcast in just this way, word of mouth.
Engagements, births, deaths and family matters were a small sampling of the verbal wares the women shared here.
The news, both truth and lies, were nearly as important as the water they'd come for.
Little has changed that. Even to this day it is so typically American, that upon rising, to have something close at hand to drink while you either read the paper of watch the news channel.
The water is piped in and the gossip is electronic. The messages are basically the same; the medium is the only difference.
What it must have been like for her, oh, so few years earlier.
As she danced the dance of the newly engaged, down to the well to share the wonderful news with her friends. Perhaps many of them had been childhood friends and as they had shared much of their young lives together, so too, they had come to adulthood and any news from one was good news for them all, or sad.
They indeed would rejoice with those who rejoiced, and weep with those who wept.
"I'm getting married! I'm getting married!" she may well have exulted on some warm spring morning, when nearing the well. Where she would be wished well by so many who held her in their hearts, cherished her in their thoughts and spoke only good things of her in her absence.
Whether is was days, weeks, months or a few years we do not know how long the happy couple stayed together, but we do know from this story in John 4, that it did not last.
What of the demise of that relationship?
Were they there for her? With her?
Did they stand by her in sincere compassion? Were there several shoulders for her to dry her tears on as her young heart broke over this lost love?
As time passed, the pain eased, and love found her again.
One morning she drew near the well, she danced again, but with a limp noticed only by the closest of friends. She announces that she not only can love again, but, in fact, she does & the wedding day is not far away.
Her friends wish her well; with an occasional " I hope it goes better for you this time". Those words, like a fiery dart, glance off the armor of new love.
They offer a blessing of encouragement. Their slight misgivings over the betrothal remain unvoiced so as not to bruise this still fragile soul.
Months go by, the gossip column penned at this Sychar well strains for new stories and our newlywed is destined for headlines, again.
Her second divorce, and for many of the same apparent reasons are given an audience, and the rumor mill begins to turn, crush and grind. The words, once kind, gracious and healing begin to take on a hint of venom.
Soon, painfully soon, the "looked forward to" walks to the well are somewhere around eight in the morning. Not so late as to be obvious, but late enough that most of the regular crowd has gone home.
The fewer the ears, mouths and eyes, the lesser the pain. Manageable embarrassment.
Second verse same as the first, oh, excuse me, third verse.
"I'm, uh, well, it's different this time…" she begins.
"I'm sure it's going to last, uh, well, I'm getting, you know, again" she stammers.
"Oh sure", a few suggest half-heartedly, "it'll be better, and you know what they say…"
"Yeah, third time's a charm!" As if that was supposed to offer encouragement.
"Well, I'm certain that this man is…" she attempts.
"Oh, hey, look at the sundial, Gotta go! Good luck! See you tomorrow!"
Tomorrow. Another today filled with lost yesterdays. "Yeah, tomorrow, okay."
The end of the fourth marriage was slightly less painful than the third; the numbness didn't really find its mark until husband number 5 shadowed the door.
"I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you!" he spat out the Jewish ceremony for parting as he shook his feet at the door. The dust from his sandals settled over her heart.
As she draws near the well, on this day, we are introduced to her, she sees something familiar.
There at the base of this well, a gift from Jacob (this promise to his sons of a better life), there is a pitcher. An earthen vessel.
She could tell from the shape and artistry that it was the vessel she had fashioned with tender care for her second husband. It was her gift to him on their six-month anniversary, affirming eternal love.
His wife must have broken it and left it there. Maybe she even left it there out of spite, a testimony to the one betrayed that another now held the man she loved. The man she could only hold in her dreams.
Broken vessels left behind, by broken vessels.
She offered a single tear.
A single tear from one long torn.
The desert air dried the offering long before the desert floor could drink it. The torrent of tears had parched marriages ago.
Five ex-husbands had drained and dried her soul. Avoiding five new wives had hardened it.
Had she looked up, she would've seen Him there, sitting on the well.
But, it's hard to hold your head up when the weight of the whole world has been on your mind. When the eyes you were used to looking into, no longer looked in yours.
With each divorce the time at the well was postponed more and more. The words had been bad enough, the glares were more than she could bear, and so eye contact was avoided as much as any hint of conversation.
Even alone she had learned to walk with her head down, or else she would have seen Him there. "Why walk with my head up? I don't know where I am going anyway," she may have offered, with no one to listen to her, she could vulnerably say this to herself. The safest place to voice her feelings was in her own mind, her wounded heart had her as its only friend.
Five marriages testify that she hated being alone, so she came here alone. Looking for love, but settling for lonely. A painful contradiction, she craved good company, but avoided crowds.
She used to have morals and values.
Her live-in boyfriend took care of her morals. In her heart and mind the five broken promises of eternal wedded bliss established her value.
Her life proclaimed what she now believed-"I have no value, so why bother with morals!"
She came at noon to avoid the women, but she loved men. Or, did she love "love"?
Every day a reflection of her being, every moment a mirror. A portrait of how she had come to see herself. An empty vessel. Searching, drawing, poured out, used up.
The man she lived with took it all. All she had to give, she gave.
She knew he didn't love her. Else he would give her honor, respect, dignity and a wedding.
She'd pretend this was love.
After all, she had had five loveless marriages, so why not have a marriage less love?
If she even wanted marriage by this time. After five tries at marital bliss maybe the scorn of living in adultery was more bearable than the pain of divorce. Maybe, and more likely she gave less of herself each relationship, as there would be less to give.
Maybe, she was giving all she had left and that "poverty" is the woman we now see.
There He sat, another man, "Give me a drink" he requested.
"Oh, great, just what I need! Another man telling me what to do!" she may have screamed in her mind. Yet, not wanting to be rejected the words remained unspoken.
Being who she really is had earned her divorces. She had learned that she was unlovable as she was. Better by far to be "what other people want me to be".
She dons the mask of the religious, rather than the "real" and begins a discussion about any topic but "herself". Fig leaves worn to hide from God, to hide from each other.
In just minutes, she is brought out into the light. The light of who she was, and the "Light" of His unconditional love for her. He knew her, all about her, and she was not afraid. Imagine this, conversing with another man after all she had known & not being ridiculed, criticized or used.
In a moment of time, another suitor asked for her hand in "marriage". He knew her better than any and extended an invitation to matrimony, with the promise of His taking her to His home forever.
Diversely amazing & amazing diverse are the ways He will meet with His chosen.
In another story, in another life, yet with some similarities of this woman's life we know of another woman taken by religious people in adultery. In that other narrative, we see this other woman thrown with religious ferocity at the feet of Gods Lamb.
But, here in this story, is a woman living in open sin. Known to the population and yet none of the villagers knew Him. None of them knew Him in a way that would incite them to throw this woman at the feet of the Galilean "hunter of hearts".
This woman was not thrown at his feet, but found herself there nonetheless. Diverse. Amazing. At His feet.
The way(s) in which they were brought to God Incarnate are different, but the result of having met Him, seeing Him, hearing Him is graciously the same.
A transformed life, a changed heart, a cold soul warmed by the heart of God and His love.
"Our God is a consuming fire…"
He, by His own nature, consumes the sin….
…and warms the heart.
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