by Terri Fullerton
Sometimes we read the familiar stories without ever stepping into the story, imagining what the sights, sounds, smells that would have been part of the scene. I wonder if the Bible doesn’t come alive for us because we don’t read it with imagination and curiosity.
As I read the story in John 4 and think about the woman from Samaria, I imagine what her life was like before her husbands, before the man she is currently living with, before the day Jesus met her at the well.
Abigail wakes as early morning light lands on her face. It begins to evaporate the dark in her room. She hears the muffled morning sounds of mothers and daughters going to the well to get water for the day.
Her neighbor scampers past her door. Bethany, wait for me, she yells to her big sister.
Deep pain throbs as she remembers skipping down the path with her best friend Rachel. They held hands and scurried ahead of their mothers. She recalls the time they got caught in a sudden downpour. They giggled, turned their faces up to the sky, swirled, and caught raindrops on their tongues. The water soaked all of them. Mud splattered their cloaks and squished in their sandals on that stormy day.
A lump rises in her throat and she swallows hard, trying to push the pain back down. She tries to dismiss the yearning to feel love and belonging. She sits up watches the shadows from the fig tree branches dance across her blanket and the floor. They sway back and forth as if the leaves and branches hear secret music playing in the wind.
She presses the wrinkles in the blanket on Aaron’s side. She finds a small hole in it that she needs to mend. She recalls when she helped her mother as she wove cloaks and blankets. She would sit by her mother and rub her fingers through the feel of the fabric.
Her favorite days were when they went with their mother and father to the market place. They always went to buy bread, figs, dates, olives, and smoked fish before Sabbath. She recalls the noise of the sellers, the goats, and the lingering conversations. At the market Abigail could see the new oil lamps and smell familiar spices. She looked up to her mother as she purchased wool and sold the blankets she made. Sometimes they stopped to buy honey. Rachel’s father drizzled a dab of the golden sweetness in their palms as a treat. Her finger swirled sweet treat and she licked it off her finger a little bit at a time on their walk home. Her brother licked it off with his tongue immediately and laughed.
Abigail lays her head back down and weeps. She would give anything to go back in time.
She wakes up a couple hours later. She grabs her jar and heads for the well to get water now that the other women are gone. She hates this time of the day, when she feels so empty. She is weary from the sneers from familiar friends. She aches to be known yet she’s used to hiding. She doesn’t know who she really is, only the roles she plays.
As she approaches Jacob’s well she spots an unfamiliar man sitting on the dusty mound. A Jewish man.
He initiates a conversation by asking her for some water but she sees cultural division. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan.” The man doesn’t get distracted by the labels, He talks to her getting living water, the kind that gushes up and will never leave you thirsty. He tells her everything she ever did. Abigail sees him as prophet and the conversation turns to worship.
She reflects on the teachings passed down to her. “Our ancestors worshipped on the mountain but the Jewish people believe that you must worship in Jerusalem. This man speaks about people worshipping God in spirit and truth that doesn’t depend on place but person. The Messiah will come, she informs him, and when he does, he will proclaim all things to us. She speaks with a profoundness she may not even know.
I am the Messiah.
Abigail’s eyes are opened and something gushes up from within. She runs back to her community asking if this could be the Messiah. She proclaims “He told me everything I have ever done!” The next time she goes to the well, she doesn’t go alone. She takes others to him.
Healing has come to Sychar.
Terri compels her readers to live a better story by stepping into adventure, finding freedom, and deepening your faith. She is working on her Masters in New Testament at Northern Seminary. Her passions include reading, writing, hiking, photography, finding fossils, and traveling. She and her husband have 2 daughters and a son-in-law and love family gatherings.
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