Disheveled and stressed, the woman burst through the double doors of the gas station right outside of city. Coast is clear, she thought as she slipped on her sunglasses and tied up her wild curls, No one will recognize me. She was not in the mood for all the questions and accusations she regularly received from the people in town.
She passed the cashier a crumpled fifty dollar bill and crossed off, "get gas" from her long list of errands. She checked her watch as the receipt was printing, 4:37am. Success, she had finished her errands long before the sounding of most people's morning alarms.
The sleepy teenager handed her her collection of bills and coins, and she darted towards the door, hoping to beat the light of the sun, but something, on the newsstand, caught her eye. There on the front page, displayed in full color, was an old memory: a gray-haired man, well dressed holding hands with a younger version of herself. The headline? Beloved Senator Caught Cheating On Wife.
Suddenly the blood drained from her face. Her worst nightmares were becoming a reality. It was bad enough that her entire town treated her like a prostitute, but now she would be known as the harlot in the entire county of Samaria, New Jersey. Even more hurriedly, she vaulted through the first set of doors only to find herself crashing into a man, her money flying everywhere.
So focused on recollecting her scattered coins, she barely noticed when the man asked, "Do you think you can buy me some gas?"
"What?!" she exclaimed, "Who do you think you are asking me to buy you gas? Your kind of people don't deal with my kind of people."
The man chuckled, "If only you knew who you were talking to," as he bent down to hand her the dollar that had fallen on his foot. "You could have asked him to buy your gas and he would have done it."
"Sir," she said annoyed, "Obviously, you don't have money to buy gasoline," snatching the money. "What are you even talking about?" And she went about searching for any lost pennies.
"Everyone who fills up on this stuff will eventually find their tanks empty again, but what I can give you is something that will never run dry!"
Standing she said, "Fine. Give me this 'gasoline', so I don't ever have to come back here, especially at this horrible time of night."
Locking gaze he said, "But first get your husband."
She seemed to deflate. "I have no husband."
"That's right. You've actually had five affairs, including the one that has hit papers this morning, and the man you're sleeping with now isn't even married, but engaged to another woman."
The woman was paralyzed with shock, and then started "Are you a reporter or something? A prophet?…" beginning to pace, "Cuz I don't believe in that whole religion thing. I'm more spiritual. You guys judge all of us when we don't meet your self-righteous standards. I prefer to believe in energy and vibes."
And the man said to her, "You worship what you don't know, but we worship what we do know. But the hour is coming when the true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth; for such people God seeks to be His worshipers."
She pondered this statement for awhile, and finally said, "I heard the Messiah is coming, and when He comes all things will be revealed."
And Jesus smiled. "You're speaking with Him right now!"
If you know the real story of the "Woman at the Well", you should know that this completely outcasted woman, then made a huge impact on her entire city because she had an encounter with the visible image of the invisible God. For the first time, she met someone who knew the depths of dirt and refused to reject her. Instead, he encouraged her into a completely new and holy lifestyle, something she probably thought was out of the question for her.
There are two important lessons we as missionaries (former, present, and future) can learn from this iconic encounter:
- Don't be afraid to break social-norms or the patterns that everyone else follows because it could keep you and others from fulfilling their God-given destiny.
- We must see beyond ourselves and the present circumstances because they do not define you. God defines you.
This story could have turned out very differently. Jesus could have easily judged this woman, even stoned her according to Jewish law, but He didn't. And the woman? She could have been so caught up in the shame of her current situation and the prejudices of her misogynistic society to even choose to take a first step faith. But both the woman and Jesus chose to see from the Father's perspective, and they made an impact that we still feel today.