3-15-17 - Miss Communication

One of my favorite things about this week’s gospel story – and it is one of my favorites – is the subtle way the characters reveal themselves by what they say, and what they don’t say. For instance, the narrator does not tell us that our heroine has had a complicated romantic life… there is a hint in her coming to draw water at noon, when the sun is hottest but she’s more likely to avoid the stares and murmurs of her community, but we only learn about her when Jesus shares this information he could not know.

Jesus and the woman exchange many words, but they seem to keep talking past each other. He asks her for water; she wonders why he’s willing to ask her. He says if she knew who was asking, she’d be asking him – and that the water he gives never runs out. Then she goes literal – and sarcastic: ‘Okay, so give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

Then Jesus changes the subject. Abruptly. “‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” If this is meant to shut her up, it doesn’t work:
The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet,” and swiftly changes the subject again.

We aren’t told how she felt when Jesus spoke her past to her. He had no earthly way of knowing this about her, unless she sported tattoos with different men’s names on them. But she doesn’t deny it – and even more significantly, she doesn’t break off the conversation. She changes the subject, sure, launching into a discussion of proper locations for worship… but she doesn’t leave. There must have been something about the way Jesus spoke and looked at her that invited her to be real, not hidden.

I think that is how the Holy Spirit works in us. In some ways, we are to God as wild animals are to humans – skittish, afraid to get too close. And God comes into our lives, sits down, invites us into conversation. We might try to obscure it or stay on a surface level of needs and thank yous, so that we can avoid really be known… but eventually we learn that we are in the presence of the One who already knows us, knows everything thing about us, the good, the bad, the ugly – and isn’t walking away.

Have you had that kind of conversation with God lately? Ever? What would you rather Jesus didn’t know about you? Can you bring it up first? Just lay it out there… see how he reacts, what he says?

Chances are, you will come away feeling more accepted and loved than blamed or shamed. We can see how this works on a human level in 12-step meetings – people are accepted as they tell the worst about themselves, and are loved into sobriety. If this can happen with people, imagine how thoroughly God can love us into wholeness as we make ourselves available.

We learn later that this moment with Jesus had an impact, for the woman runs back to her townspeople – the ones whose judgment she was presumably avoiding – and tells them, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!” She has not been shamed. She has been liberated by discovering that the Lord of heaven and earth can know everything about her and still offer love and forgiveness. I hope you have discovered that freedom, more than once. As we receive it, so are we able to give it.

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