“I grew up, together with my brother and sisters, a child of the Samaritan Woman…”
Jesus was travelling through the region of Samaria. Near the city of Sychar he and his disciples stopped at Jacob’s well. The bible says that Jesus was tired and thirsty. He rested as his followers went into the city to face the community (who were hostile to Jews) to attempt to buy food. This is when Jesus begins his interaction with the woman of Samaria. It has been suggested by scholars that the woman came to the well alone in the heat of the day because she had been ostracized by the other women of her community. I can attest to their behavior. I grew up, together with my brother and sisters, a child of the Samaritan Woman…
We come from a small Midwestern community. Our family had been well known and respected. The local American Legion Post is named after my great uncle. My grandparents were active in leadership in the most respected social organizations. Our family had recovered from the economic losses encountered during the Depression. They were well educated and well regarded. Then my mother became pregnant out of wedlock. In what may have been an act of rebellion she married a man other than my eldest sister’s father. After my brother was born and later myself our mother divorced her first husband and married her second. Together they adopted my second sister.
These were difficult years. This husband was an alcoholic who like her first husband had not been acknowledged by his own father. He became violently abusive and our mother suffered a mental breakdown leading to her becoming institutionalized. Witnessing acts of violence and suicide attempts left it marks upon all of us. We became wards of the court when our father abandoned us leaving the State and marrying another woman.
While in the mental hospital our mother met and fell in love with a man who had killed his children in a domestic dispute and had been institutionalized by the courts. After he and my mother were released we moved across the State where we lived until she was re-institutionalized and we were once again placed in the foster care system. Upon her release she was able to regain custody of all of her children and lived as a single mother until she met the father of my adolescence. My third sister was born. They were married for several years until their divorce.
In spite of all my mother’s challenges she had many wonderful qualities. She was fiercely protective of her children. She had a wonderful wit and sense of humor. She was creative and intelligent. She was sympathetic to anyone in need… and she loved with all of her heart. The men in my mother’s life who she either married or who fathered children were: Bill, Ernie, Kenny, Ace, and Garth. At the end of her life she was once again dating Bill until her sudden death at age 64 from cardiac arrest.
Like the Samaritan Woman she knew what it was like to be judged by her community and those in her church…
What I love about Jesus’ interaction with the woman of Samaria is her question following his revelation of her past. Jesus did not judge her past behavior; he commends her for speaking the truth. In response to his supernatural display of knowledge she poses a fundamental question of how her faith differed from the Jews. Jesus respects her search for a greater truth and describes a faith model in which the spiritual life of an individual is more important than the physical.
This debate continues in the church today as we pray, not for spiritual maturity but for physical blessings.
We expend so much energy worrying about our appearance to others… our material wealth… our homes and our cars… the people whom we associate with… and we judge others by these same standards. Jesus sees beyond lifestyles into the heart and offers to satisfy the thirst within ourselves that is often the origin of our life choices. In doing so, throughout the gospels he is embraced by the outsiders and too often, rejected by the religious leaders.