Poor choices had filled the woman with regret. She was caught in a downward spiral of disrespect, abuse, and shame. Then she met Jesus at the well and tasted living water. The woman was transformed by newfound joy. The reader will be introduced to the same hope, joy and living water.
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The Woman at the Well
Copyright © 2018 GC WM
The Woman at the Well – Living Waters
Authored by Jamile Mansour Al-Kindi
Translation by Adventist Commons
Cover and Layout Design by Adventist Commons
Illustrations by Carlos Seribelli and Paula Lobo
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The Woman at the Well
“There’s no water, you lazy woman!” a rude, husky voice shattered the morning calmness. A pale woman, her eyes ringed with signs of sleepless nights and bouts of worry, rose quickly from her sleeping mat. “There is a bit of water left,” she quietly countered, dipping to the very bottom of the stone jar for his drink. “I will go later to refill it.” The man muttered under his breath, drank from the dipper, and swaggered to the door. “I’m going to work.” As the door shut behind him, she breathed a sigh of relief.
Peering out the window, she saw, in the early morning light, the other village women heading to the well. Huddled in small groups, they gossiped about community members, told humorous stories, and discussed news from abroad. The pale-faced woman knew that one of the topics would be herself. Oh, how she hated the upturned noses and scornful faces as she passed the women of the city. Sometimes they spit on the ground when she passed, and once, a woman had ripped her veil off her head while passing. “Loose women ought to have loose veils,” the neighbor had mocked contemptuously. As the city women chatted on the way to the well today, they would most likely be speculating as to where she was living now that her latest husband, Eber, had passed away. If they found out she was living with Tobias—without being married to him—the scandal would be too great to bear. Tobias was a man her grandmother would have called “the scum of the Bani Samaria.” But at least scum such as Tobias had food to eat and a roof over his head.
To avoid detection, the woman waited until the sun was high in the sky, beating down in harsh, direct rays, before venturing out towards the well. At this time of day, women never went to the well. Sweat trickled down her back and beaded on her forehead. Not a breath of wind moved across the stifling plain. The heat seemed to choke her. Like my own fate, she thought. Stifling and choking. Will it ever end?
A Downward Spiral
As her feet plodded along the path, her mind drifted back to old memories, as it often did. There were happier times she liked to relive. Mama and Baba had cherished her, their only child. Baba used to take her with him to the olive groves or to the fish market, carrying her upon his shoulder. As she grew into adolescence, Mama taught her to make candles, bake bread, and grow herbs. Baba would eat her first clumsy bread attempts without complaint and would remind her what a wonderful wife she would be someday. Baba always read the Tawrat after supper; she especially remembered the times he would speak about Al-Masih to come.
She remembered with deep fondness her first husband, Jeush. She loved him. Her only dream had been to bear children for him and keep loving him until the day they died. That was before The Sickness. Tears came to her eyes unbidden as she remembered. The Sickness had taken more than half of the city, including Jeush, Mama, Baba, and her grandparents. Only she had remained, desolate and alone. A man who had lost his wife in The Sickness proposed quickly because his children needed someone to care for them. She had married him out of desperation. When the man beat her harshly, she fled from him—finally arriving in this small Samaritan city of Sychar. Alone and friendless, she had married three other men, seeking for security, but instead found herself in an unrelenting downward spiral of disrespect, abuse, and shame.
An Intriguing Stranger
The well was close now, and she hurried her steps, puffs of dust rising beneath her sandals. She saw a man seated by the well, but from the clothing he wore, she immediately recognized him as one from the Bani Israeel, her tribe’s bitter enemies. In recent years they had managed to come to an uneasy sort of truce, but a thorny wall of hate still existed between the two tribes. Ignoring him altogether, the woman lowered her stone jar by rope into the cool depths of the well. Hearing it splash at the bottom revived her tired body. Then, unexpectedly, she heard the man speak to her.
“Please, would you give me a drink?” she gazed in shock at this man from the Bani Israeel, her enemy. His tone had been polite, not mocking. Did he not realize that their people had been fighting for more than 400 years?
“How is it that you, being a Jew, are asking for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” she asked humorously. Somehow it felt good to have someone ask a favor from her when most people merely mocked. “Don’t you know that Jews have no dealings with Samaritans?” The simply dressed man gazed at her the way Baba used to. How could she describe it? He looked at her with… kindness.
“If you knew who was asking you for a drink,” the man responded, “you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” What does he mean, “living water?”
Somehow, the woman intuited that this stranger was referring to something deeper than mere physical liquid. He continued looking through her, as if he could sense her yearning for a quality of life she no longer had. Feeling nervous, she feigned a giggle.
“Sir,” she responded, “You have nothing to draw the water with, and the well is deep. Where, then, will you get this ‘living water?’” His eyes twinkled and he smiled patiently, motioning towards her water jar.
“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. The water that I give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Something in the stranger’s words struck a chord deep in the woman’s heart. His words, the tone of voice, his face of compassion and acceptance seemed to break down all prejudice against the Bani Israeel. This man had something, a special sense of peace and fullness, that she craved.
Knower of Secrets
“Sir,” she exclaimed, “give me this water, that I may never thirst, nor come here to draw!”
“Go,” he replied tenderly, “Call your husband and come back with him.”
“I have no husband,” the woman said quickly, hoping to end all discussion. After all, Tobias had not actually married her. She lived together with him only out of sheer desperation and fear of poverty. Not a soul knew of their unseemly arrangement, and she planned to keep it this way until a better situation could be found. The stranger spoke again:
“You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that, you spoke truly.” A rock of terror plunged into the pit of her stomach. How could he know? “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” Hoping to distract him from the disturbing truth he had mysteriously revealed, she began to question him about some points of contention between the Bani Israeel and the Bani Samaria. As he answered her, his voice steady and calm, her heart continued to race. His answers to spiritual questions were so different from what she was accustomed to hearing. There was something hopeful and reassuring in what he said. She couldn’t help but remember Baba’s readings from the Tawrat that spoke of Al-Masih, who would come to make plain the path to unending life.
“I know that Al-Masih is coming,” she told the stranger. “When he comes, he will tell us all things.”
The man looked at her for a long moment, seeming to gaze directly into her heart and feel every painful moment, every loss, every rung of the downward spiral to her current position. His eyebrows drew together in pity. “I who speak to you am he.”
A Transformed Woman
“Master! Master!” a shout arose as a group of 12 men approached. “Forgive us for taking so long. Some of the markets would not sell to us since we are from the Bani Israeel. But we were able to buy some bread and a few fish.” Seeing ‘Isa Al-Masih’s companions approach, the woman slipped away, running towards the city as fast as her feet could take her, the water pot abandoned at the well. Encountering some women in the street, she ran to them and gripped their arms, ignoring the looks of disdain they cast upon her.
“Come!” she begged, “See a man who told me everything I ever did. Is not this Al-Masih?” Their faces registered surprise and interest. They, too, were waiting for Al-Masih. And if he had told this despicable woman all her sins and yet she still wanted to hear him, surely he could hold no danger for respectable citizens such as them. Intrigued, they passed on the word to their own neighbors.
The woman, bursting with newfound joy and excitement, barely realized that she had left her water pot at the well. She had found Al-Masih—the one Baba had always spoken about! The one who would make plain the path to everlasting life! And this great man had condescended to speak with her—yes, her. The lowest of the low, the most despised and outcast, yet in her inmost soul still a woman and a human being with feelings and passionate memories. When this woman left her water pot by the well, she left more than just a clay container. She left behind an old way of thinking; she left her fears; she left her insecurities. She was transformed.
As ‘Isa al-Masih and his companions finished their midday meal by the well of an enemy city, they looked up and beheld a throng coming forth to meet them, led by the woman who had forgotten her water pot by ‘Isa Al-Masih’s side. Scorned and rejected because of life’s fateful turns, she had felt the magnetic pull of Al-Masih’s hope and acceptance, and had brought the entire city with her to hear his message. Offering their greatest hospitality, the citizens surrounded him and begged to be told the message he brought from Allah. This lowly woman, craving the Water of Life that would bring fullness to her empty existence, had been transformed by a single encounter—and then became the catalyst that broke down the prejudice of her entire city so that they could receive Al-Masih.
Living Water for You
Many women today have gathered hope from the story of the Woman at the Well. Sometimes we may feel as though life has offered us a blow of fate so shameful that it cannot be borne. Our sins, unspoken to any human ear, lie heavily upon us and choke the peace out of life. We worry about our earthly future and we fear the judgment. Events beyond our control have shattered us and poor choices have filled us with regret. But ‘Isa Al-Masih, who is called the Word of Allah, spoke words of peace for pain-filled, anxious women like you and I. The “Water of Life”—that delicious sense of spiritual assurance and joy from Allah—is freely offered to everyone: male, female, rich, poor, high, and low. It is offered to me and it is offered to you. Yes, you, my friend. Allah will guide you, day by day, to the straight path, if you will believe with all your heart that His mercy is meant for you. Too many women, burdened with regret and fear, fail to keep Allah in their thoughts because they are tricked by the false idea that Allah’s mercy is reserved only for the top, most perfect 2% of believers—but not for normal women like them.
The story of the Woman at the Well assures us that if Allah would send the promise of Living Water, springing up into Everlasting Life, to this disreputable, outcast woman, surely it must be for everyone. Do you want to receive this Living Water today? You can quietly pray a little du’a that is just for women like us:
Our Lord! Your eyes are upon me in good times and bad. You see the drought that parches my soul and leaves me thirsty for a reminder of Your compassion. Bless me now with Living Water, to flood my soul with wholeness, healing, and assurance. Let me be so submitted to You that I will never thirst again.
Devastating twists of life have pushed her to the fringes of society. But the stranger at the well speaks intriguing words of hope into the pit of her hopelessness. Little does she realize the astonishing identity of the man who speaks with her.
More stories from the Tawrat and Injeel:
Abigail / Hajar / Jochabed / Naomi
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