a flowing fountain in the desert near my retreat house
The temperature has hovered around 107 degrees out here for the past several days. It gets hot in the desert and that's probably why there are so many fountains around the area in which I live. Yesterday, as I sat, looked at and listened to a fountain, it made me feel cooler in the hot, dry, oppressive desert heat.
As I sat at the desert fountain, one of my favorite stories in the Christian Scriptures came to mind - the story of the "woman at the well" found in the Gospel of John.
As the story goes, Jesus comes across a Samaritan woman who sits alone at a well in the heat of the noonday desert sun. According to Jewish law, Jesus should have had no contact at all with this woman. She was "unclean."
First of all she was a Samaritan (Samaritans were sworn enemies of the Jewish people). She was also a woman who had been divorced and remarried seven times, and thus she was a social outcast even among her own people.
This woman was the epitome of what it meant to be a castaway, an unwanted reject- and so she sits alone, drying up in the baking sun.
But instead of following the law and passing her by, Jesus does the unthinkable. He sits next to the woman at the well, and he even asks if he she would give him a sip of water from her very own cup.
This one simple act of generous acceptance was life changing for the woman. After years of being thrown onto the trash heap of life, someone actually lifts her up and takes the time to embrace her.
Jesus then tells her that he is a "stream of living water." And indeed, that's exactly what he has been to her. Jesus pours out the water of his life upon this dried-up, aching soul - her spirit "blooms" again.
As I sat in the noonday heat and looked at the desert fountain yesterday. the thought came to me that, as a follower of Jesus, I am called to imitate him in my own life. There is a "woman at the well" sitting alone in the noonday heat; and I am called to sit next to her and be a stream of living water.
Throughout my life, that "woman at the well" has shown herself to me disguised as many faces - the gay student thrown out of his home by his overbearing father, the abandoned wife with a cheating husband, the man dying of cancer alone in his bed at home, the homeless woman sleeping on the street asking for spare change - almost every day of my life I have encountered a "woman at the well."
Like Jesus, sometimes I have taken the time to embrace her as she sits alone in the noonday heat; and when I have done so, I have been a refreshing stream of living water.
At other times I have avoided contact with that woman sitting alone at the well; because I have been too busy, or she was too scary or too dangerous, or I just didn't want to get involved-- so many missed opportunities for amazing grace to flow.
It's supposed to be 107 again today. I know that a woman is sitting alone at the well in the noonday heat today - a good day for us all to find that woman, stop and sit with her, and be a stream of living water.