Inside Out, the Samaritan woman & our wounds
Updated: Apr 21
It’s hard to believe we’re almost halfway through Lent. Though I’m glad to see the daffodils and crocuses poking their heads up and the redbuds starting to bloom, it does still boggle the mind that Easter is coming so quickly. How is your looking inside going? Finding anything unexpected in there?
Our Lenten theme, Inside Out, was actually inspired by this week’s gospel reading about the Samaritan woman at the well. I’ve never seen a homily give this woman anything other than a rough time, and I’m not the only one who noticed. In her book Belonging: 5 Keys to Unlock Your Potential as a Disciple, Karoline Lewis says, “The amount of interpretive ink still being spilled to browbeat the woman at the well already burdened by her times and circumstances could likely fill your local library (63).” Why so much browbeating? This woman’s only crime is being a woman, being at the whims of a culture that allowed her no agency in her own marital status. She was probably some combination of widowed and divorced (and since there are no children to take her in, it’s reasonable to assume that any divorce would have been for infertility) and yes, living with her dead husband’s brother because there was no one else to take her in, no other way for her to survive.
Whereas the rest of her community, and our Christian communities for generations since then, saw embarrassment and shame, Jesus sees her. Jesus sees her plight—“it’s true, you are in a tight place, with no protection and no one else to care for you.” She is seen, truly seen and known, and we know this is transformative because after their conversation she returns to her neighbors testifying that Jesus is the Messiah because “he knows me inside and out (John 4:39 MSG)!”
I wonder if, as much as we need to look inside to see what we might offer outside, maybe we also need to look inside and discover that we are thoroughly known and thoroughly loved, no matter what. We and our community have been through a tremendous amount of change in the last few years. Not just a global upset, not just national tension, but a change in location and a pastoral transition too. It would make sense that when we take time to look inside we find some places that hurt and are grieving or some unresolved situations that need attention. Those tender places are important too, and are just as worthy to offer to God. God, who knows us and thoroughly loves us, inside and out.
If you have discovered some wounded places and want to find ways to honor or offer them, know my door is open. There is also a community resource at The Listening Place. Additionally, we could also find a time to gather communally to hold open, contemplative space to be present and then offer these tender places to God. If that is something that would interest you, let me know and we’ll find time to do that.
Like the Samaritan woman at the well, we are seen, truly seen, by God. We don’t have to be afraid of being judged because God knows us, has compassion for us, and will always love us, inside and out.