Do you have a story that you would rather not tell? Are there things from your past that are so painful that even the telling of them brings back waves of pain and shame? If someone were to ever write the biography of my life, I would definitely want editorial rights! There are in my life (and maybe yours as well) memories that are so plagued with guilt and embarrassment, that the simplest recollection of them causes me to cringe. The same seemed true of a woman from the nation of Samaria that Jesus encountered near a well. One of Jesus’ disciples named John recounted the story in his mini biography on the life of Jesus. (John 4: 1-42)
I’ve heard many teachings over the years on this story, and most (including a few of my own) have been pretty hard on this woman. I feel now that we have gotten her all wrong. The thought has been that when Jesus revealed the truth of her past that she was shown to have been sexually promiscuous and an adulterer. She was exposed to have had five past husbands, and was now staying with a man without being married to him at all. The reality is, however, that women who lived during that time period of the New Testament were not allowed to leave their husbands, and divorce was completely out of the question. If somehow they were miraculously able to be granted a divorce, no Jewish man in town would dare marry her, because his reputation and standing in the community would have been ruined. What seems to be more likely is that this lady had experienced the death of five husbands. She had felt the heartbreak of becoming a widow, the hope of a rebuilt family, and then heart-crushing loss all over again. She was the center of attention and pity at five funerals. At the end of all of her grief, she had become an outcast by living with a man that was not her husband. Whether it was she who would no longer risk marriage, or he who refused to marry her is unclear. What is clear is that the story of her life was filled with blinding pain, doubt, and loss…
…at least until she met Jesus.
The story spins forward and we find this broken woman back in her hometown telling her story to anyone and everyone who would listen. She talked of her past husbands and of her current living situation with a strange new hope that hadn’t been there before. The pain wasn’t gone, but now there was optimism for the parts of her story that still lay ahead. The truth she found is just as applicable to us today and comes in two simple pieces:
1)Time with Jesus reminds us that our story isn’t over yet
2)With Jesus, the darkest parts of our past are often just the beginning of our greatest joys in the future
So, if your story isn’t shaping up the way you had hoped don’t give up just yet, the greatest parts may be just a few pages away…