I may be cold. Even impassive; but everybody appreciates me. And though still waters run deep, I know their moods, their struggles and their celebrations. I may not be attractive, but I’m …well …
But wait; here she comes!
At midday, again.
Typically downcast, she hasn’t noticed my visitor. From up north, he’s resting against me, waiting for friends to return with some takeaway food from town. I’ve never seen him, but his touch seems familiar.
Her muttering I’d know by heart - if I had one. I can’t play favourites, despite feeling her tears …
“…All those bridal showers … all those husbands – all gone! They get sick; they lose fights; they lose interest ... Divorce? Well, it’s easy to say ‘I divorce thee!’ Game over! But that stale emptiness keeps growing inside every time I think of it.
I’d love to come with the other women at daybreak or sundown; but the gossip is just too much.
Me? A man-eating ‘black widow’ - when adultery means death by stoning???
But does living de-facto now prevent any pain when it’s over?
Can men be trusted!
But can I trust myself?”
Then, as she sets down her jar away from the heat, my visitor invades her mood:
Could I please have a drink?”
“What? You’re Jewish! I’m Samaritan! We just don’t mix! ”
“If you knew God’s gift, and who I am, you’d ask me for living water.”
I enjoy her leaping to my defence…
“But you can’t reach any water! Who do you think you are? Our ancestor Jacob himself dug this well. It was good enough for him, his family and all his livestock!”
I almost cheered: ‘Wow! You go, girl!’
But let’s mark him up for persistence…
“This water doesn’t last. My living water will quench your thirst for ever. It springs up and splashes out to refresh others!”
Me? Temporary? Not with my loyal clientele! My expression is smug, even stony. But I’m rocked by her reply:
“Sir, please give me this water. I hate coming here!”
“Go, get your husband, then I'll tell you more.”
With common decency debarring men talking publicly with women, to protect reputations, she wryly sees the irony beneath his innocent request. Though warming to his courtesy, she tries averting her eyes.
“I have no husband,” she whispers.
“True!” His tone precludes looking away: “You’ve already had five; and man number six is still waiting for the nuptials!”
Instantly, she feels exposed. He knows her; sees her down deep; where no-one else bothers to look. However the cold disdain that infuses their opinions is absent, and her gasp of vulnerability relaxes in the warmth of his acceptance.
The lonely turmoil that accompanied her arrival is now subsumed by a growing aura of promise and security that needs no protective, self-deluding façade. The weightlessness of forgiveness is releasing her from deep within.
At last! A man she actually can trust!
He knows her – and he respects her - but he’s too good to keep to herself …
** ** ** ** **
“Come and see! He’s told me everything I’ve ever done!” Unexpected; unwelcome; a woman’s cry stalls the haggling in the market. Until the muttering starts: “Yeah, sure! We know what she’s done! But why is she so excited? She sounds different somehow …”
New-found self-respect is now challenging her reputation, and her excitement piques their curiosity: “Could he be our Messiah?”
“Messiah!” The most powerful word in the Jewish lexicon.
Sychar’s pariah now leads Sychar’s parade; with the whole town following her to the stranger. His friends have returned; her water jar is still at his feet; but her shame has gone.
In the crowd and one-on-one, his wisdom and warmth connect with their deepest hurts and hopes, and they urge him to stick around.
During the next two days, six hundred years of Samaritan-Jewish prejudice collapse against his common promise for their future.
Through a most-unlikely source, they have met their long-awaited Messiah - whose story of a Good Samaritan sometime later is well-founded, since he’s met more Samaritans than any of his hearers!
Since that episode I’ve learned more about this Messiah – my maker! He sees everyone on the inside: at their worst; and for their greatest potential. Potential that is realised as they recognise God’s promise in him, and as they act on fulfilling God’s promise for them - forever.
Author’s note: On the first “Palm Sunday,” Pharisees rebuked Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. He replied that the stones would cry out if the crowd were silent. So I was wondering: if they had cried out; what would be the POV of Sychar’s duirng this conversation from John 4. It’s an imaginative exercise than a “sychar”-logical one. (“Sorry about that, chief!”)
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