We Are the Samaritan Woman
In a world of perfromance, conformity and image, where teens learn that they are loved, embraced and praised only when or if they fit into our agenda and able to navigate the expectations that we have for them, is it any surprise that they end up hurt and broken deep inside?
It isn't that one kid out there is hurt, or that just fringe kids in youth culture are hurting, but it's that all teens have been systemically abandoned. This is to say that teens live in a world that has systems and structures which are to meant to support them, but actually fail and damage them ... those systems promise support, love and nurturing, but when teens push back against them or step outside the boundary lines, those structures abandon them. The result is broken hearts and a hurt generation.
Jesus begins the conversation in this passage by making an initial connection with the wowan that he encounters which breaks Jewish law and the ethical expectation of the day. This is the same thing that we are called to do in youth ministry: to care, initiate and honor those who culture would suggest we should avoid.
At one point in the conversation Jesus asks her to get her husband. He brings up this point of hurt / pain with her and enters into her story, moving past small talk and into the messiness and brokeness of her life. We see here that ministry involves working hard to serve Christ and honoring others, coming alongside of them and leading them to Jesus.
There is a second track and calling here, however. It is something that is hard to navigate. It is rooted in a belief that we, as pastors, are taking on the Jesus role in the story as we minister to others. However, we are not Jesus.
In Acts 1 Jesus says we have one task ... to be his witnesses. This is to demostrate his grace - poured out into our lives - to the world. It speaks of honesty and self examination. It speaks to vulnerability on our part that has to face what is on the inside of our hearts.
It is easy - as pastors - to identify with Jesus in the story ... but we are not Jesus. We are the Samaritan woman ... we are the broken one who is in need of healing from Jesus. We are the woman who, after the encounter, then goes out and tells all she meets of the God who knew everything about her.
“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
(John 4:29 NIV)
"What must I do to do the work of God?" (John 6:28) ... to trust in the one who God has sent. It is not about external law-keeping, but something more. In John 6, Jesus reveals to the man looking for direction his heart ... he exposes to the man his hurt and brokeness by telling him to go and sell all he has, giving it to the poor first and then to follow Chirst. He can't do it. He chooses to keep it hidden.
Back to the Woman at the Well ... notice that the woman went to the well at noon because she had strategized how to hide her brokeness and hurt from others.
"I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day and then I must watch my reaction to it. In my position, I have no other way of spotting both my well-denied shadow self and my idealized persona." - Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
What Jesus is most concerned about is the 'shadow self' that denies who we are on the inside. It denies the power of the Gospel in our lives. It would allow us to avoid the sin in our life in order to, as pastors and youth workers, concentrate on the ministry before us at the cost of our hurt being healed and our brokeness restored.
To die to the shadow-self that I constantly feed and to daily take up my cross and follow Jesus: to acknowledge our dark side and allow Jesus to take it away that we might walk with him and minister from the healing and grace he has given to us.
It was when the woman's shadow self was revealed that she was set free. The disciples labelling of her when they returned held shame no longer. Returning to the city where she had a history didn't produce fear in her any longer. She had been set free.
- What steps must you take to reveal your shadow self and allow The Lord to set us free from it? It must be acknowledged and acknowledged daily. What might God be able to do with people who have come to the end of themselves, fall into the arms of Jesus and rediscover their first love?
- Who are the friends that you can reveal your shadow self too?
- What questions must you ask daily to make sure that you lead out of your brokeness which has been / is being healed rather than your shadow self which you so focus on keeping hidden?
Jesus can see into our deepest heart ... we are his beloved children ... and we can trust Him. My God grant us the courage to crawl into his arms and be set free from the inside out.