Thursday, March 3, 2011

After the well

A little something different today, republished from February 2009. I don't usually dabble in fiction, but the story of the Samaritan woman fascinates me. We know so little about her and I wonder what really came before, and what came after. This is my 'what if'...


Painting by Daniel Bonnell

This town is not so large that most people don't know my past. But there are still the newcomers, the younger generation, those passing through who don't know my story, who don't know who I was, or what I was. They see only what I do here in this house; they believe me to have lead a blessed life. If only they knew. I am blessed, but it has not always been so.

Many years have passed and I am old now, old and looking back on my life. I wonder at the changes in it, it seems a different life, a different place, a different me. Yes, there are still people here who know my story. Some who know it and rejoice with me, others who know it but refuse to see past who I was then to who I am today. I suppose I can't blame them, at least some of them. I hurt, and in my pain I hurt others. I hurt them willingly, without caring about the consequences.

Once I believed in love. Once I thought that life would be simple; I woud find a husband, settle down, raise a family. I envisioned my husband coming home, our children running to meet him and being swung high in his loving arms. I believed in beauty; I believed in truth. When I married my first husband I thought that all of my dreams were coming true.

A year passed, then two, then three. As each year passed with no sign of children he became distant. I could see him looking at me, see the accusation in his eyes. I was failing him in my most important task. At the end of the fifth year he divorced me, put me aside like a worn piece of clothing with no use left in it. Part of my heart grew cold that day.

My second husband had no need for sons. A widower with two sons he wanted only a pair of hands to tend them, to cook for them, sew for them, wait on them. It took me only a few months to realize that he bore no love for me, that to him I was a slave, no more than that. Sleeping on the cold floor with the thinnest of blankets to cover me, cowering in fear when the meal was not satisfactory, not ready when he arrived home, a whole list of 'not good enough's'. My heart grew bitter within me. When he and his sons were killed in the attack on a trade caravan as they travelled in our eighth year of marriage I did not weep.

Barren, once divorced, once a widow...the choices were few. My third husband was solely a marriage of convenience, I needed security, he wanted a wife to meet his appetites. Two years later he put me away in favor of a younger wife. Husband four was much the same. I did not wait for him to reject me this time. I had a reputation, no longer the dreamer, no longer the woman who believed in love and family I resolved to take my fate into my own hands. By the time my husband found my replacement I had already found his. We were married for three months before an accident took his life.

Tainted, cursed, unloved. The words swirled around me. I turned to the last resort for a woman who bears the burden of those words. I sold myself, I sold what was left of my soul to whatever man would give me a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head.

That is who I was, until one day I went to draw water from the well. I went at noon, the heat of the day, but the best time to avoid the accusing glances, the whispered comments, the loneliness of being unloved in the midst of a crowd. As I drew close I could see the well was not deserted. A man sat there, clearly a Jew from the look of him. I thought about leaving and coming back later. But the day was hot, and I was tired so I approached the well.

"Will you give me a drink?" He spoke to me! I, the outcast, the cursed one, was being spoken to by a JEW, by a MAN! How could he ask such a thing? He did not know my position, didn't know my past, but I was a Samaritan and a woman, that alone should earn his disdain.

But wait, he continued to speak to me, words I did not understand. He spoke of living water, of the gift of God, of never being thirsty again, of eternal life. In my heart a dream long buried began to stir, a dream of being filled with love, a dream of beauty, a dream of truth. Never come back to draw water? Never bear accusing glares again? Something within me called out to be filled.

"Go, call your husband and come back." Dreams crashed and died. He would turn in disgust; this water was not for me.

"I have no husband," I replied.

And then he looked at me. Not with accusation, not with condemnation or scorn. He just looked at me and in his eyes I saw something. I saw a hint of compassion, I saw a reflection of my dream. "You are right," he said. "You have no husband; in fact you have had five husbands and the man you are with now is not your husband."

A prophet! A prophet who could see my darkest secrets, see the bitterness, the hurt, the anger. A diversion...my mind fumbled for a question and a voice not my own babbled about questions of the proper place to worship. Was I an idiot? What kind of question was THAT? But he answered it. Still looking at me, still meeting my eyes, still reflecting my dreams he answered me. Not understanding, trying to escape I fumbled for a response, the easiest out I could think of. "When the Messiah comes he will explain everything." That should have ended it.

One final look, deep into my soul and for the first time in years I saw love looking at me. "I who speak to you am he."

"I who speak to you am he." I had broken his laws, I had lived a life worthy of scorn and he said nothing about it. Simply, "I who speak to you am he." Tears began to fall down my face as I felt the broken parts of me beginning to mend. In his eyes I saw that my dream was not dead; that love, that beauty, that truth still existed. Even more, that they could still exist for me.

I left my jar and I ran back to town. Into the knots of women who had scorned me, past the stall of men who had used me. "Come!" I pleaded. "Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" I do not know why so many believed me. Some have told me it was the glow of joy on my face, a glow where there had only been bitterness and aloofness. Some have said it was the sudden passion with which I approached them, approached those who had scorned me and looked at them as if they had never hurt me. I do not know. But they followed. One by one and then group by group they came and for two days he taught us. He taught us of his coming kingdom, he taught us of love, of forgiveness, of healing the brokenhearted.

I left the man I had been living with. Some of the new believers provided me with this small house I live in still. They provide me with what I need to get by and they provide me with what I need to fulfill my dreams. It is because of them, and because of the one called Jesus that I sit here today, here in this house called Tikva, which means simply "Hope". It is here that I spread the hope that he gave me to those who need it. They find me, they always find me. The abandoned, the ill, the abused, the ones whose dreams have died. They find me and I give them shelter for as long as they need it. I give them shelter and I tell them everything I ever did, and everything Messiah did for me.

After the well nothing has been the same. I still go there every day for water, sometimes alone, sometimes with others who have lost their hope. And each day that I draw water I can feel the spring welling up inside of me, a spring of love flowing through my days into eternal life.

3 comments:

  1. Beautiful. Thanks for painting such a personal portrait of her. You made her come alive for me... and created more of a thirst in me for that living water. :) Thank you! Beautifully written.

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  2. I read this story just last night and i love your words about it.

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  3. Maybe you should dabble in fiction more often :)

    I love this story, have always felt a deep connection to this woman.

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