A man is there, a Jew, a rabbi from the look of him. She doubts she need fear him, but wishes he were not there to disturb her solitude. Jews are so condescending to her people, as though they weren’t just another branch on the same tree. She nods at him and sets about lowering her jar. He speaks, “Give me a drink.”
She answers, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" His answer is puzzling, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
She is in no mood for riddles. Does he not know the holiness of this well, its history? “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
He is more mysterious still: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” What could this mean?
A spring of water in us, gushing. Here is an image of abundance, of movement, of life. If you’ve ever been mesmerized by the rushing water in a brook or river, or stared at a waterfall or waves crashing, receding, returning, crashing again, you know how powerful a representation this is of not running out. And Jesus locates this gushing spring not outside of us but inside, where we always have access. This spring is God’s life, renewing us.
What have you been “going to the well” for your whole life, that you most wish to never run out of? If your answer is something material – food, money – it’s good to name it. If it’s emotional – love, affirmation, attention – it’s important to be aware of what motivates you. God guarantees no provision in those areas. But spiritual commodities, like peace, healing, forgiveness, love – those all come with God’s living water in us, and they are always being replenished.
Today in prayer you might image that river of God-life flowing through you, dislodging all the debris of sin and hurt, and bearing it away, renewing and refreshing everything in its path. You might reflect on areas in which you feel empty or dry, and invite the river to flow to those places. If you feel a need of healing, invite the river to flow into that area. If you’re burdened by anxiety about the world or other people, invite the river to flow through those places, a visual prayer.
As we become more practiced at accessing the living water inside us, the spiritual gifts it brings may just make us more content about those material and emotional areas we worry about. After all, this living water is the river of God, which Jesus likens to the Holy Spirit. Our mouths may thirst, our stomachs may hunger – yet with this spring in us, our spirits need never go dry.