She was the talk of the town, and for all the wrong reasons. She hadn’t intended to grow up as a girl with this kind of reputation, but somehow it happened. She wanted to blame the men in her life, but more often, she threw the blame at herself.
But deep down, she blamed God for the way things turned out. Yet, she chose to stay in this lifestyle she had adopted.
She was an attractive girl in her youth, and like most people, she longed to be held and loved, to be accepted at face value. But her first husband didn’t see it that way. In his eyes, she was pretty much property. All she was good for was cooking, cleaning, and pleasing him physically.
It's not like she really have a choice about marrying him. He had paid a handsome sum to her father for her hand in marriage. So she felt stuck and unloved.
Then it happened. First it was just a glance, but it was a glance that lingered long after eye contact had been broken. A handsome young man looked at her, and not just with an ordinary look, but a look of pleasure at gazing upon her natural beauty. She blushed. Had a male actually seen worth in her?
Then she saw him again, and his gaze lasted a few seconds longer. Then again. And yet again.
Then they happened to meet. He smiled. She melted. And a friendship was born. The desire to be held and loved and accepted at face value skyrocketed to the surface...
...and she found herself in this man’s bed.
At first she was ashamed. So ashamed. She had just broken every sexual norm she had been taught as a young girl. But she needed this. (Or so she told herself.) So she snuck away each week to be with this new love.
Of course, secrets like this can’t stay hidden forever. Her husband found out. And he went ballistic! She’s not quite sure how he restrained himself from killing her, but she was definitely kicked out with a letter of divorce in her hand. But she knew the man of her dreams would take her in, which he did.
For a while.
The dream was shattered just a few months into the new marriage. She caught him with another woman. Suddenly she didn’t feel so attractive or loved or accepted. So who could blame her when her internal pain drove her into yet another man’s arms.
Five husbands. And each and everyone of them eventually rejected her.
And now here she was, going against every cultural norm of her community by living with a man who was not her husband. But honestly, she wasn’t interested in marriage anymore. She only wanted to be loved. Truly loved. And if that meant it came from a man who lacked legal papers recognizing their union, then so be it. She didn’t want this reputation. But she was willing to accept it if it got her what she needed.
Each day, the women in her village headed out to the well to gather their day’s worth of water. Their verbal attacks and gossiping tongues kept her from going out at the same time. So she slipped out in the middle of the day. Sure, it was hot. But better to be drenched in sweat than drenched in spit and evil wishes for your early death from your neighbors.
One particular day, as she headed to get water at noon, a man was near the well. She thought about not going, but things weren’t going so well with her current live in. Maybe… no…, well, maybe THIS man, sitting at the well, could be the man of her dreams, the one who would finally accept her at face value and truly love her. So she walked on toward the well with a nervous, anticipating pace.
But as she approached, she suddenly realized – this man was a Jew! Jews did not associate with her people, the Samaritans. Even worse, the Jews didn’t have a very high opinion of women. Suddenly the nervous sexual excitement turned to a deep dread. She needed water and she had already committed herself to coming to the well by walking so far out from the city walls, so on she went.
Her plan was to go quickly, not make eye contact, and not say a word. He would probably not even acknowledge her existence, so this awkward moment should pass by soon enough, she hoped.
But then he spoke.
He didn’t speak vile words like the women in the village. He didn't speak like a man trying to get her in bed. And he didn’t speak with the typical arrogance of a man of his race toward a woman of her background. Instead, he very kindly asked her for a drink.
What should she do? Ignore him? Fulfill his request? Neither seemed right, so she simply reminded him that he was a Jew and she was a Samaritan, and normally their kinds don’t mix.
But his response was most curious. Here he was asking her for a drink, but suddenly he says that he can offer her living water. How? He doesn’t have a pitcher to draw water from the well? And this water isn’t living, it’s just water! Who does this guy think he is? Does he think he’s better than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it’s springs himself?
But he stuck to his story. He said it again – “living water”. In fact, he said that whoever drank from his water would never thirst again. That sounded wonderful! If she had water like that, she wouldn’t have to come out in the hot sun or endure the wrath of the other women anymore just to get drinking water. Yes, she wanted this "living water!"
And then he asks for her to bring out her husband. Her face flushed. She couldn’t fess up about her reputation! He was being so kind - what would he think? So she gave a half truth. Said she didn’t have a husband.
But then this man speaks with wisdom and knowledge that completely shocks her. He knows her. He knows her past. He knows her present. He knows her sin. He knows her dreams. He knows her longings. His eyes don't look at her with disgust like the women of her village. His eyes don't look at her with lust like the men of the town. His eyes show something else. His eyes accept her, just as she is. And yet his eyes reveal he wants something so much more for her.
She came to the well to get water. But she got so much more. Rather than looking for love in the arms of yet another man, she finds herself truly loved in the eyes of a stranger. She is finally the loved woman.
Receive Riverwood's "News & Notes" weekly email in your inbox. Submit your email address below and stay in the loop.
We are on a mission to help people love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.
It doesn't matter to us if you:
No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, we want to help you become who God has created you to be.