I had a chance recently to attend a retreat with several women from around Costa Rica. We were all tucked into a beautiful, verdant garden with every kind of flower and tree imaginable. One of the things I love about being in Costa Rica is the incredible picture it gives me about that first habitat Adam and Eve enjoyed. It had to be a lot like this!
The theme of this particular retreat was centered around the biblical story of the Woman at the Well. We were guided to look at it from the woman’s perspective and then again from Jesus’ perspective and finally to address it from our own perspective. In what ways might we be like the woman at the well, and what might such an encounter mean to us?
You can take a look at the story in John 4, but basically it’s about a conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman…two rather unlikely people to ever engage in conversation. I might liken it to me stumbling upon Prince Charles at a roadside vegetable stand and having him engage me in a conversation about tomatoes. It’s that unlikely. Anyway, the woman who was virtually an outcast in her own community for reasons only sketchily described in the writing, comes upon a weary Jesus sitting by the well without a way to draw a cup of water. Sure, sure, He always has a way to accomplish what He wants, but just go with me on this because His need for the cup gave Him a chance to speak to the woman.
Jesus asks the woman to draw some water for Him. She puts down her water jug and mumbles her surprise that He would even ask her to draw water, when He comes back at her with information about who she is and what her life is like. He says that as much as He might need a little drink of water, she needs something greater. She needs Living Water. Though she may have found all of this puzzling, she is so amazed that He knows so much about her life that she ultimately leaves her jar there by the well and runs off to tell everyone she just met a prophet.
We don’t know exactly how her life may have changed from there, but it begs a question about our own lives. What might be in the jar we’re carrying that would be better simply left at Jesus’ feet? I contemplated that thought much of the weekend and was rather startled to think about how heavy my jar was and how far I had carried it. In fact, I pretty much never let it out of my sight because this jar was filled with my hopes and dreams and those things I expected from life. Ah…there’s the problem. What we expect from life can become a burden, in fact, it can become such a huge jar that we can never begin to fill it. Everything then will be a disappointment. Every effort to find a new way will lead to yet another effort to find a new way. The Samaritan woman went from husband to husband looking for love and for a new way for life to make sense. At the point of the reading, she was still searching.
I returned from this experience determined to put down the jar. It’s not easy. When you’ve carried something around for a long time, it’s like losing a piece of yourself to put it down. But it’s time. The well is deep and the water is filling. I can come to draw as often as I’d like to be refreshed and renewed. I don’t have to wait until all the expectations are met to go there. In fact, my only requirement is simply to go, to rest, to drink in the possibilities of all that God designed just for me. If I do that, I can live life as a well woman…filled to the brim with joy!
What’s in your jar? Ready to put it down?