I'm Nobody! Who Are You?
The Rev. Laurel Hart
Scripture: John 4:5-42
“I’m nobody! Who are you?” This is the opening line of a poem by Emily Dickinson.
“I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.”
Do you think it’s possible that this Samaritan woman feels like a nobody? Maybe she sees herself as an invisible person? After all, she’s at the well alone. It’s thought that she came to the well later in the day, after the other women of the village had already filled their jugs. Perhaps she’s an outsider to the group – shunned by the community because of her life choices.
There have been times in my life when I felt like a nobody; such as the time when I didn’t get invited to the high school prom or the time I was fired from a job and had to leave the building in shame. After all, she’s a Samaritan – people who could be described as some of those left behind during the Babylonian exile and now the Jews look down on them and won’t associate with them.
It is apparent that she knew the rules, but she wasn’t necessarily a rule follower. When Jesus asked her for a drink of water her response was, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” She questioned Jesus’ request because Jews didn’t address Samaritans and men did not speak publicly with women. We hear weariness in her verbal exchange with Jesus. Perhaps the broken relationships have taken their toll on her. “Give me this water and I will never have to come here again.” More than likely she would have gladly given up her long treks to the well in the heat of the day.
She displays curiosity. Look at all of the questions she asks: “WHERE do you get this living water? HOW can you offer better water? DO you think you are greater? We have heard the old saying “curiosity killed the cat.” I have come to learn that the Lord loves inquiring minds. He tells us to ASK, SEEK, and KNOCK. Jesus wants to be known to her.
She is straight forward and honest. “I have no husband.” It would have been easy for her to make up a story about her husband being dead or unavailable but she didn’t.
She seeks truth. She was trying to find out from the One she perceived to be a prophet when she asks about the location of the correct place of worship.
She had an encounter with Jesus. All of her questions and persistence led her to come face to face with the Living God. Over and over, Jesus comes to the weak and broken, the blind, the crippled, the outcasts of society. Scriptures tells us this.
She unashamedly invited others to know Jesus. I wish I had the courage to do so. The scripture passage states many were transformed by her testimony.
Nearly all of us are like the Samaritan woman; we too have experienced times of feeling like a nobody. We are weary from the countless times we’ve been rejected, hiding in lonely spaces, separated from other people because of shame. We too have been thirsting for living water, oftentimes we come to the well of religion, or travel to the well of an empty relationship, maybe we’ve journeyed to the well of mindless repetitious work and find ourselves struggling in the heat of the day, hoping others won’t see or recognize us. We come with our water jug to get the water we thirst for. Jesus is the One who identifies with us in our weakness and meets us at our hour of need. Perhaps like the Samaritan woman, we need only to acknowledge our place of brokenness, that place where we are attempting to find satisfaction – admitting our emptiness or loneliness and deep needs. Isn’t her reaction beautiful? Even after Jesus breaks societal customs and speaks to her, he also talks with her about her divorces, and then reveals himself as the Messiah. She is not afraid or ashamed. From this encounter with Jesus, she becomes a somebody, a valued human being. Then she runs to the nearest city and shouts, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!”
Lent is a time to remove the distractions that make it difficult to hear and discern God’s movement in our lives. God is always present. We must act and come into God’s presence more fully. I find myself wondering if I could run to others to share what I’ve just learned or whether I might be ashamed in the presence of Jesus for the mistakes I have made in my life.
And yet, this woman gives us a faithful example of someone who has experienced the love of Christ that is not conditional upon any circumstances of her or our lives and she invites others to be a part of it. This woman gives us a deeply faithful model for what we, too, can do when we encounter Christ – even today. We are called not to get stuck in our sins or mistakes but instead to come and to trust that even with all that may have happened, Christ still loves us and is present with us. After we have experienced this presence, let us follow this woman’s example to tell others about Christ’s love!
Let’s take time to reflect on the Samaritan woman this coming week. How can we share this message of God’s mercy, telling others who need to hear this message of unconditional love coming from God? How might we share it with others just like she did?