I love books and movies. Ever since I was a child, no matter how satisfying the ending, as I got to the last page or to the end credits, I wondered, "And then what happened?" The gospels are full of Jesus' short encounters were he heals strangers. I always wondered, "and then what?" How does being healed by the Savior in the flesh change the rest of your life?
One of the women I always wonder about isn't even named. We simply call her the woman at well. We know she was avoiding all the other women in the village because she comes to draw water in the heat of the day at the worst possible time. She'd rather sweat, puff and pant in the heat, not to mention loose some of the water to evaporation, rather than face the whispers and stone faces of the other women.
Then Jesus shows up. He asks her for simple water and when she is surprised, offers her water she'll never have to replenish. He gives her a chance to confess wayward choices and when she wonders where God wants her to go to begin to worship again, Jesus simply asks her to worship in spirit and truth and trust him as the Messiah.
Most of us who have been believers for a while have heard this story. There is nothing new here. But I'm fascinated by what she does next. She is forgiven her sins, completely healed of the longing that caused those sins and invited back into a relationship with God. What is the first thing she does? Instead of running away or asking to come with Jesus, she runs back to the town, to the very people she was trying to avoid and tells them, "Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?"(John 4:28-30).
Notice how she runs toward the very people she was avoiding. She risks further criticism and isolation (Can't you just hear them saying, "So what, we know everything you ever did too?"). She risks their further scorn. She even leaves the water jar, forgetting the chore that brought her there in the first place.
Stop and think about the people in your life you would gladly rearrange your daily schedule to avoid. Whether their judgement of you is fair or not, think about the people whose criticism feels like it can never be healed no matter what you do. A co-worker? A sibling? Some one-time friends? Now what would make you want to walk into their homes or call them up and tell them God has healed you from past mistakes and you want them to have the same joy? What gave this woman that courage? Maybe their labels and judgements no longer mattered? As right as their opinions of her were, now only God's forgiveness and healing matters. She needed a reminder of who she was to God and an invitation to make God the center of her life again. This forgiveness and calling make up her new identity, and she boldly walks into it. So boldly that the possibility of rejection doesn't matter. This new identity fuels her compassion that asks her former tormentors to see the Messiah for themselves.
When you truly, completely feel the forgiveness, love and acceptance of God, nothing else matters. No one's opinions, rejection or even approval can possibly compare to leading others to the healing and acceptance she's found.
We don't know what the rest of woman at the well's life was like after she met Jesus. But if it was anything like her first reaction to Jesus' offering her healing, we know she lived life bravely focused on who God said she was without any fear of rejection. May we all be so courageous.
This time Jesus' healing brings people together. The townspeople come out to meet Jesus and encourage him to stay for three days. In my next blog entry, we'll talk about times when being healed by Jesus brings isolation.