I’m familiar with the stories in the Bible. I’ve heard most of them multiple times, some just on certain occasions or holidays. Very few are new to me.
But I love to stumble onto surprises as I read other books or hear good speakers, like learning not so much about the verses, but about the setting or the back story. Or the customs of the day or how it would have looked to me had I been there in the room or on the seashore or at the well. Or why it was written at all.
And I’ve learned to read with a pencil and a roll of washi tape. I mark and make little comments or pictures in the margins. I underline or highlight and tag pages that wow me. As do a lot of pages in Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway, like 130-131:
So there’s nice old Jesus one afternoon, sitting near Jacob’s well, pooped, when a Samaritan woman approached to draw water, a dirty, disgusting Samaritan. Why was the woman there at such an odd time? All the “good” women came early, when it was still cool, women who wouldn’t go near her because she was a prostitute.
Jesus asked her for a drink of water, from her vile Samaritan utensil. You just didn’t do this. Jesus and the Jews went to elaborate lengths to observe purity, and His eating with hookers and tax collectors was one of the things the Pharisees later charged Him with. It’s mercy beyond imagining that He would even approach her, and then create a container for the two of them, and then remain in conversation with her. It’s the longest conversation Jesus has with any one person in the Gospels.
Marked. Underlined. Tagged. Washi taped. All of it.
It was the longest conversation Jesus has with any one person in the Gospels.
Yes, I know. It doesn’t say it was the longest conversation with one person on Earth ever. We know He was pretty chatty with the disciples, especially when they were doing stuff sideways or getting it all wrong. He spoke at great length on the Mount and on boats. He did a lot of talking.
But the Gospels are not a transcript. Not every word spoken was memorialized. Those carefully chosen scribes knew, by a miraculous Guidance system, what and how much to write down.
So how important must it have been to God, the Original Truth and Light, that we witness Jesus speaking at length to one of the despised. We know He spent hours and days and whole walking tours with the disciples, teaching them, encouraging them, sending them out well-prepared.
We also know He spent hours in prayer. He loved His Father, trusted Him, looked to Him for strength, and leaned into Him for wisdom.
But this woman, this unholy mess of a girl with whom none of the others would arrange coffee or a play date, this woman was something special. Her conversation with Jesus was so important to the world that it warranted a place in the Gospels, the story of Jesus.
Let’s look back at our own lives and select a handful of conversations we believe are the most important. Not the prepared speeches saved on cell phone videos, but the everyday happenings and chit-chatting we cherish most. Which are worthy of consideration?
- Will you go to prom with me?
- Which college?
- Am I a poet or an accountant?
- Who proposed to who?
- We’re pregnant
- Stranger-Danger and the first day of school
- No, we don’t hit back
- Pimples and puberty
- You like that countertop?
- The first breakup
- Grandad can’t live by himself anymore
- Grandad isn’t here anymore
- Dad isn’t here anymore
- We want to get married
- We’re going to get married
- We need to get married
- I lost my job
- He wants me back
- It that job right for you?
- Is he right for you?
- Jesus loves you
If we had to narrow down the list of conversations to fit into a slim chapter of a single book, we’d be pretty darn selective. Each one would have to add something. Each one would have enough meaning to carry its own story and enough significance to carry its own weight.
That’s what God did when He breathed life into the Bible. He picked out the most critical and left the rest for reminiscing in Heaven.
And He picked the woman at the well. The most despised. The one to avoid.
Good golly, Miss Molly.
So, my lovelies, there isn’t really much more to say, is there?
Yes, we need to spend time with our friends and loved ones and Jesus for strength and love and support and enjoyment.
But we also might want to think about who the woman at the well might be in our lives. And leave a little or a lot of time for her.