There is nothing quite like a rainy Spring day. Sure, you can choose to notice that the clouds are gray, hate the feel of wet clothes, or resent the extended commute. But all I can see this day is how quickly the grass turns from a lifeless brown to a vibrant green. All that I can see is newness of life. Truly amazing…awe inspiring…magisterial.
Staring out at that vista of life I get lost in the connectedness of life. “No man is an island,” words from a song, leaps from the deep recesses of my brain to my frontal lobe. Suddenly I find my vision widening out from the rain drops to see a little broader. I can make out houses and neighbors busying themselves protecting their basements from flooding or sheltering their prized flower beds or covering that car they polish every Saturday afternoon. I can see birds of every sort hiding beneath our parked cars to escape the heaviness of this particular storm, all the while scanning the newly fertilized soil to see where the grubs will surface (yummy). I can see children playing in the newly formed–ever expanding–puddles in our yards. Filled with excitement at their good fortune–God made them a new pool!
What I see is this crazy, disjointed, yet intimately connected, dance of life. Faces of wonder, hunger, distraction, determination, single-mindedness, survival, hope…
And, as is so often the case with me, my thoughts drift from this mortal plane into thoughts about God and how, if at all, this vision mirrors what it means to be a child of his in this world. Is there a message for me in this moment?
This time I find that there is something for me to notice. I find the steady rhythm of the rain pouring its way into the inner recesses of my soul and I feel quickened in a way that I haven’t felt in some time.
I am immediately reminded of the story in the New Testament of the woman at the well and recall Jesus asking her if she would be interested in partaking of a kind of water that satisfies in a way that she has never experienced before. It is a story that I have read countless times yet I find suddenly resonates with me in an entirely new fashion.
Never before had I connected with the woman at the well. But now…she is me. An outsider, a shameful past, an imperfect present, in need, always thirsty but never sated,
Then Jesus is said to have offered her an alternative to her life as she knows it. Her world can change. She can be satisfied if she partakes of a life-giving water that he has to offer.
I am transported some 20 years in the past and, vaguely, I recall that time when I tasted that water and felt satisfied for the first time. I recall having clarity, peace, and purpose. It is a memory that brings a small smile to my lips and a wistfulness to my soul. For that satisfaction has long since passed. Somewhere the water that springs forth into an eternal kind of life has been suppressed back down into the dark recesses of that deep well that is my soul.
Life happened. Brokenness happened.
I wonder if it is as simple as going back to that person I was back then, but I know that I can never go back. I am not the same person that I was then. There are layers and layers of life in the way. I know more. I ache more. It has been too many years. By now that period in my life has moved from reality to memory to myth. There are no glory years just glorified partial memories.
And so–back in this present moment–I find that I am the woman at the well, drawing water that does not satisfy out of that deep well. Daily. An outsider. Caught in the grind of life.
Then I recall that Jesus asked the woman about her spouse and relays to her that she has had 5 husbands. I don’t know that his words were meant as anything more than a sign of his intimate knowledge of her and a demonstration of his power and status as more than a simple Jewish man. But, due to my own story, I find myself feeling judged by her string of failed marriages.
You see, I went through a divorce 5 years ago after 10 years of marriage. I never thought I would experience such a thing and had no idea in how many ways that experience would come to define me. How it would scar my perception of my self. How I would let it derail me from my God-given gifts and consign myself to the mundane. How it would seal away that life-giving water…deep within me…
Yet, now, like the woman at the well, I find myself encountering this Jesus character once more and, like her, am excited at the idea of an alternative to this daily grind. I find myself asking “Can you give this water so that I do not have to keep coming back to this place?”
In the silence that follows I realize that the only thing preventing this explosion of life is my own self. My doubts. My fears. My scarlet letter. My perceptions. My weaknesses.
I look back outside my window and it dawns on me that I am too much like that guy covering his car–preoccupied with mundane tasks–and not enough like the kids playing in the mud with nothing but wonder and excitement on their little faces.
And in that moment of wonder my observation of the connectedness of things starts to take on a whole new life for me. Pieces that seemed random before start to coalesce into a coherent picture of the life before me. Before us.
This is going to seem a little disjointed but bare with me…
That life-giving water that you may have partaken of was never meant to be bottled up within us. It was meant to spring forth, to come bursting out, to make its way to the world around us thereby bringing that life to others. I don’t meant this as a call to evangelism. It’s more personal than that. What I mean is this…In the Old Testament God entered into a relationship with a specific group of people and in that relationship he called them to practice justice. Not the kind of deeds-consequences justice but the kind of justice that looks out for one another. The personal, interrelated, risky kind of justice.
They were to look out for the disenfranchised: the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, the stranger. Policies were created to ensure that these things took place and to discourage individuals from succeeding at their expense. So important was this idea to this relationship that it embeds itself in their worship and sacred text for centuries. It was an enduring, foundational idea, woven into the fabric of their eternal relationship with God.
In this way they were to be guardians and givers of life; to one another in the name of their God.
I see now one of the biggest impediments to this life-giving water within me. In life we either give or we get. For too long I have been a taker and not enough of a giver. I think that when we receive this life-giving water that it becomes our responsibility to act as conduits of this water for the world around us.
To bring life to our families. To bring life to our neighbors. To bring life to our work places, school mates, cities, country, and world.
Giving a kind word, a much needed hug, a helping hand, a smile, reassurance, guidance, time, patience.
The second that my gaze moved from within to the world outside of myself I began to feel that life-giving water stir within me. Ready to be used for the betterment of those around me. I think that is what Jesus was calling people to be. I think that is why he made the deposit within us of that kind of living water. The church should be a place where people are showered with life. And it starts with each and every one of us extending our gaze outward and pouring life into others.
Do you want to enliven that personal relationship with God? Then take care of those around you who are in need because he loves them. Start SEEING people, truly seeing them. Be a conduit of that life-giving water today.