Reflection on John 4
It was a frosty, white morning. I awoke, again, at 3 a.m. with the ever pressing need of the dog and could not get back to sleep. Also, the deep was calling, calling me somewhere into “the gospel of John around chapters four and five,” the deep said. So, before sunrise, I complied.
Presently, my church sign reads, “Let All Who Are Thirsty Come.” I don’t like changing it in the cold and quite frankly, I grow weary of inventing pithy statements in six words or less, cleverly created to inform the busy world that you are about another business, and so it’s been there a few weeks. After all, it is a timeless saying, what he said to her, the Samaritan woman, the lost woman, the woman going through the incurious motions of her day, the woman fetching water from the well, the foreigner, the forbidden one.
Though he knew full well that he could give her the kind of mysterious water called living, and one tall, long eternal drink from it and her insatiable spirit would be quenched, though he knew this full well, he withheld the offer. Rather, it was he who asked her for a drink.
The disciples had left him alone
with a woman who had come to a well as alone
as a lone gazelle in a kingdom of tigers.
His question, at first, made her indignant. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan?” With the heat of rivalry in her voice, a rivalry that flowed in her blood, a Bloods and Crips kind of loyalty of one to the hatred of the other. That is how she said it.
What came next makes entirely no sense, still, he said it, “If you knew the gift, you would have known that you could ask me for anything and I would give it. You would know the art of the question, that what I am asking from you is what I am willing to give, only more so…..if only you knew the gift”
It was a new kind of merging he was offering, this gift. Different than all the other gifts she had sought with her five husbands plus one lover. She had craved a gift and all she could find were takers. His words undid her there, this would be a good trade, a different trade, she knew it in her core wherein a life-long ache had, like a river of tears, sculpted a deep crevasse of emptiness. Still, she had nurtured there, somehow scraped together enough tenderness to keep alive, a rare jewel of intuition and now she would spend it on this man. For he had, in one word, unlocked the chamber within which she had stored this rare strain of intuition in one word, a magic key was inserted, the word was “gift.”
A slew of questions proceeded from her mouth when the lock gave way, it was only natural, it was all such a new experience, love. Why? How? With what tools? Where do you come from? Who are you, anyway? The one question she did not ask was, “What do you want from me?” She was willing to give whatever it took, though she had not yet played her hand.
In that moment of awareness, when time stood still, when she took a drink of the living water, which was not done with any utensil known to humankind but in the loop of strangeness between two souls, she drank. In this moment the disciples returned. Sensing the intimacy of the moment, and since time was in fact, standing still, they did not say a word and the woman, filled with her new life, fled the scene, clutching in her soul her gift.
As this new life is wont to do, it began to spread like wildfire into the village. She testified to what had happened to her and others came and drank this living water freely.
You see, the invitation is not to think about it or pray about it but to come and see.
After the event, as the crowds were beginning to press in, his disciples tried to get him to eat some food but he was not quite empty yet. He kept saying, over and over, “Lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white for harvest.”
Today, it was a frosty, white morning.