A Samaritan Woman — A Lifetime of Rejection

A lLifetime of Rejection

What makes Jesus’ visit with a Samaritan woman so significant? What personal lessons may we glean from her encounter with Jesus? Why is she given so much space in John’s writings?

As you can see, many questions fill my mind. This nameless woman intrigues me. Why Jesus intentionally met her alone intrigues me even more. Let’s begin at the beginning of the story.

“So (Jesus) left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.”
John 4:3-6

John sets the stage for us. Ancient, well-trodden paths made broad circles around Samaria. The road though Samaria was perhaps the least travelled route between Judea and Galilee. Yet Jesus deliberately went through Samaria. Tired from the journey, Jesus found momentary relief and solace, waiting alone beside Jacob’s well.

Well

History tells us that Jacob’s well was situated on a plot of ground he purchased and “pitched his tent” on. He made an altar there, calling it El Elohe Israel, The Mighty God of Israel (Genesis 33:20). The names Israel and Jacob were synonymous with each other. Jacob experienced a deeply personal encounter with God on this patch of ground generations earlier.

Rejected People

When Jacob came full circle, tired of running, deceiving, tricking, and stealing, he also came to the end of himself. After years of fighting God and those around him, at the end of all self-effort, He encountered the beginning of God. Here he dug a well. Here he found refreshing. And it was here near a place called Sychar, meaning “end,” that two weary souls met. One weary from His day’s travel; another weary from a lifetime of rejection.

Jews hated Samaritans; Samaritans reciprocated the feeling. Samaritans, a mixed breed of people, worshiped a blend of gods and God. Though they considered themselves genetically connected with Jews, generational rejection ran deep currents of pain and angst through the people. Samaritans, like other mixed races assigned equally derogatory names, lived isolated among themselves. Accepted by none. Rejected by all.

Samaritans believed in the God of the Pentateuch — the first five books of the Bible. It gave them a correct but limited view of God. Considered “unclean,” the Jews denied Samaritans access to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Consequently, they worshiped on Mount Gerizim.

Water Well

“The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.”
John 4:9

Rejected Woman

Usually, women congregated at the well during the cool evening. Together they walked, and worked, and enjoyed each other’s company.

The Samaritan woman came alone — a rejected woman within a rejected people. She, like Jacob, knew pain, struggle, and defeat. Married five times and now living in an adulterous relationship, she carried the deep marks of a lifetime of rejection — past failure, present shame, and a hopeless future. For this woman, Jesus “had to go through Samaria!” For this woman, Jesus came “tired as he was from the journey.”

Here at Sychar, the end, she met El Elohe, The Mighty God, in His Son, Jesus Christ. In the privacy of their one-on-one meeting, He refused to skirt around her pain or ignore her reality.

Stone well

” . . . Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
John 4:17-18

Rather than the familiar stabbing of accusation, she sees and feels and knows there is something different about this Man. But what is it? She probes further, responding with pointed, hard-hitting, and even confrontational questions.

Hope Again

Jesus ignores her sharp-edged response. He offers her the living water of fresh truth — truth that frees, truth that heals, and truth that sustains.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
John 4:23-24

John tells us in the very next chapter,

” . . . ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
John 5:19

Because the Father seeks true worshipers, the Son “had to go through Samaria.” Even in her limited understanding, the Samaritan woman believed. She believed the Messiah, called Christ, would come. He would answer the questions of her heart and her people. And here He stood saying, “Worship happens within us not in a building or on a mountain.”

Fountain

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you — I am he.’ “
John 4:26

Jews considered any man talking with any woman (not in his family) in a public setting highly unconventional. Even Jesus’ disciples wanted to question His reasoning for talking with someone they despised. I, too, wonder why Jesus revealed His identity to this rejected woman before anyone else. Astounding!

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’ “
John 4:27

One Encounter

That one encounter caused the woman to run back to town, shouting

” ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ ”
John 4:29

The town’s people listened to the least and lowest among them. They listened and responded, coming in droves to see Jesus for themselves. That one encounter with Jesus changed the Samaritan woman’s life forever. Her outlook changed. Her countenance changed. How she viewed the critics and criticism changed. And then change came to her whole community.

We have all faced rejection and criticism. Rejection leaves its jagged effects deep within us, waiting for the next time, the next slight, the next jab, the next dismissal, the next exclusion . . .

Studies reveal people relive social pain more vividly than physical pain. Our brains register a broken spirit as intensely as a broken limb.

Water Fountain

I’ve given birth to five sons. As much as I try, it is impossible for me to remember the pain of childbirth. How I responded to physical pain remains in my memory bank, but the actual pain does not. Yet, if I allow myself to think of deep moments of rejection, emotional pain immediately breaks to the surface, forcing fresh tears to spill forth. The need for inclusion, to be welcomed and valued, ranks high in our God-given priorities.

Jesus saw in the Samaritan woman a true worshiper — a woman worth reclaiming, redeeming, and restoring. One encounter with Jesus changed everything!

“Come, See a Man”

How are you doing today? I’m serious. Can you relate to the Samaritan woman more deeply than perhaps you thought? Has the pain of rejection cut deep swathes in your soul? Are you sitting in a personal “Sychar” — the end of hope, the end of trying to fit into someone else’s mold, the end of struggling to be valued for who you are?

Maybe, like this woman, you believe in the Messiah called the Christ, but you long for a similar life-changing encounter. Perhaps, you grew up in the church and know more Bible stories than most scholars, but you’ve never met Jesus in a personal life-transforming way. I welcome you to come to the well today. Allow Him give you a drink of “living water.”

Water Fountain

Many times, I’ve come to “Jacob’s well” — bringing unhealed wounds, unreconcilable disappointments, unanswered questions, and unresolved issues. Often, I “pitch my tent” staying in His Presence, until my soul is renewed and peace restored.

“Come, see a man!” Come, see Jesus. He will prove Himself to be for you what He showed Himself to be for the Samaritan woman, for Jacob, for me, and innumerable others, El Elohe, The Mighty God. Though others reject, He never will.

Come! Come, see a man!

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5 Steps to Navigate the Path of Forgiveness

5 Steps to Navigate Forgiveness

All of us have experienced rejection, betrayal and offense in some manner. Walking through the process of forgiveness occurs step by step. To navigate the path of forgiveness, we intentionally take several difficult but rewarding steps. From time to time, we must revisit these godly principles, ensuring freedom from the lingering residue which otherwise may hinder our Christian progress.

Success, on so many levels, depends on our ability and faithfulness to conquer the treacherous terrain of forgiveness. Forgive, in Hebrew, means to “absolve” or “release fully.” It first appears near the end of the first book in the Bible.

” . . . I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.”
Genesis 50:17

Joseph spent fifteen long years in prison and slavery, being harshly and unjustly treated, because of his brother’s jealousy and anger. Separated from family and alone in a foreign land, Joseph had plenty of time and reason to harbor bitter resentment against them. But he didn’t! Now, at the death of their father, they only vaguely confess, stating their father wanted Joseph to forgive them.

Steps to Forgivenss

The Hebrew word, שָׂ֣א (śā), also means “to lift, bear up, carry, and endure.” Rarely do people openly apologize. Usually, dealing with offenses occurs in seclusion — a yielding to God the wrongs done to us by others.

The Unforgiving Servant

Jesus’ disciple, Peter, asked Jesus,

” . . . Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Matthew 18:21

By the standards of any day, Peter might seem extravagantly generous to forgive someone so many times. We, like Peter, often feel there must be some kind of limit to forgiveness. Jesus clearly explains that grace goes much further.

” . . . I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18:22

In reality, Jesus said, “Seventy times seven times!” In other words, “Don’t count! Just forgive!” He used the opportunity to explain forgiveness more fully through a now familiar story about two men — one willing to forgive and the other unwilling. A servant owed his master the equivalent of twenty years of wages. (Before deducting living expenses!) Of course, he had no way of repaying his debt. The Master mercifully forgave the entire amount.

We encounter five key steps on the road to forgiveness. These godly principles endure through all circumstances, generations, and cultures.

Step #1 Desire

The Master in Jesus’ parable was no ordinary master. This Master, the King of Heaven, the One we have all insulted, betrayed, and violated, approached the indebted servant, wanting to settle the outstanding debt.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.”
Matthew 18:23

The first step in forgiveness requires a searching of our own hearts and intentions. Do we legitimately desire to forgive? Are we willing to “carry or endure” the pain of offense, even if the offender has no desire to resolve the issue.

Climbing

Neil Anderson often reinforces the truth, that forgiveness is a decision, or crisis, of the will. It begins with a decision within us. Forgiveness never implies that the offence doesn’t matter or gives room for continued disregard for another’s wellbeing. In forgiving, we acknowledge fully the depth of the offence and the pain we have endured.

Both the Master and the servant were clear about the extent of the harm, but forgiveness involves mercy.

Step #2 Mercy

In the parable, the deceived servant believed he could somehow reconcile the debt. The King knew the impossibility of his claims. Whether the offenses done against us are small or great, no human effort repairs the damage. In forgiving, we recognize that reconciliation is not always possible, or favorable.

The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.”
Matthew 18:27

Mercy requires NOT giving someone what they deserve.

Instinctively, when someone wrongs us, we choose either to retreat or retaliate. We desire to either withdraw, avoiding further injury, or fight back, giving them a bit of what they’ve handed out to others. Jesus calls us to a different approach; He calls us to compassion.

The Greek word used for “pity” means “compassion in an absolute sense — feeling deeply for another based on emotion rather than on intellect or reason.”

Climbing Mountain

Talk about a massive boulder plopped in the middle of the path to forgiveness. Not only does Jesus call us to forgive, He calls us to a deep level of compassion for our offender.

While serving on guard duty, I have to position my heart free from critical judgments over the incarcerated. I see them at their worst. I watch over them during extreme times of crisis and intervention. Only God fully knows the twisted paths that have brought each one to this place.

Forgiveness doesn’t ignore or deny someone’s cruel behavior. It acknowledges the painful consequences we endure from their actions.

Forgiveness reaches across the chasm of personal pain to empathize with another, facing the blunt force of that pain head on. It looks the offender in the eye and says, “Despite what you have done, I forgive you. I no longer consider you indebted to me.”

Step #3 Revoking

In the same verse, Jesus tells us that the king “canceled the debt.” Can you imagine forgiving someone for twenty years of continued indebtedness, twenty years of insult and injury, twenty years of negligence and abuse? Some who are reading this relate all too well. The offense against you may span much longer — years have flowed into decades.

In this step, the sheer rock face of personal pain impedes our movement. To press through requires nothing less than the grace of God.

We know our offender owes us —
        owes us apology
                owes us restitution
                        owes us recognition of what they’ve done.

I wish every offender, including me, would quickly see their error, apologize, and make restoration. Unfortunately, few seldom do.

Team Work

Only by writing “PAID IN FULL” across the bill of their indebtedness will we overcome and conquer, moving toward full forgiveness, restoration, and personal freedom.

God called Job to forgive his friends, who turned into harsh critics.

” . . . My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly . . . After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before . . . The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”
Job 42:8,10,12

Praying for our offenders provides the strength and wisdom to take the step of revoking the wrongs done against us. Through prayer, we release our assailants to God. Then, and only then, can God freely restore blessing to us.

Step #4 Let Him Go!

In practical terms, “letting him go” means refusing to dwell on the situation any longer. When I allow myself to regurgitate past offenses, I become stuck on the plateau of self-pity.

The plateau of pity appears quite pleasant — honestly, way too comfortable. No risky routes around boulders. No knuckle-whitening grips up granite cliffs. Parking in the pleasurable place of pity perhaps presents the greatest peril.

The Peril of Parking

The longer I park, the better it feels, the more self-righteous I believe I am, and the more critical I become of others. Pity deceives and lures.

Interesting how the right kind of pity, a compassion for others, sets our grand course. Yet, this misdirected pity and self-seeking gratification keeps us from reaching the destination of forgiveness.

“Letting him go” releases not just him, but us! It sets us free from being held back by the poor behavior of others, releasing us to reach the pinnacle of our destiny and purpose.

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Matthew 6:15

Parking in pity is a luxury none can afford!

There is one more point Jesus makes in the parable.

Step #5 Release Judgment

God judges justly! When we master the narrow path of forgiveness, extending mercy and compassion, considering another’s debts “PAID IN FULL,” and releasing our offenders completely from their wrong, God still holds them accountable.

Forgiveness never belittles or denies the incredible pain of offense. Only through the act of forgiving comes the power to walk free from it. Earthly powers lack ability. Even monetary recompense fails to satisfy. Only through the cross of Jesus Christ does justice reign.

Forgive as You Have Been Forgiven

Jesus paid for every offense on the cross, We measure the weight of sin on faulty human scales. Sin is sin to God. Only He sees the full picture. Only He judges justly.

“The LORD arises to contend
And stands to judge the people.”
Isaiah 3:13

As we listen to the voice of Jesus, leaning into His heart, and choosing the path of forgiveness, we will find He is with us, guarding our steps. With Him, we will overcome every obstacle, reaching the high place of forgiveness, where someday we will view all things from the Kingdom of Heaven perspective.

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Birthing the New: Change, Transition, Beginning

As a mother of five sons, I have had some practice in “birthing the new.” Birthing can happen in many different ways, however. Have you birthed a business venture, a ministry, published a work or started a career? Each of these also contains processes similar to birthing.

I have had a new book, or should I say, a series of books, almost ready to reach full term. Pregnancy can present challenges, but pregnancy isn’t an end in itself. The goal or the new thing about to be released is the ultimate purpose. Every pregnancy is unique to itself, yet contains similarities to others. Each birth both predictable and unpredictable.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them and
make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.”
Isaiah 42:16

Count them! Five times God says “I will!” I am the blind one; He is the “I will”. Are you pregnant with a new ministry, industry or purpose? Or are you in the birthing process right now?

Unfamiliar Paths

Sometimes pregnancy can be unexpected and unplanned. I remember well, my mother coming home from town crying a torrent of tears. She was pregnant “again!” This was not her plan, desire or longing. Her present children were all in school and she was enjoying some independence. But this child to come would be the cream of the crop. He would become the adoration of her heart and fulfillment of voids she didn’t realize she possessed.

What unfamiliar paths does God have you walking down?

It seems every year God drags me into unfamiliar terrain. I both love it and dread it! It can be intimidating and daunting, to say the least. “Just own it” has become my new motto. One of my present “paths” is attempting to write and publish my next book. It is giant leap from anything I have ever done.

Talk about “unfamiliar paths”; every one of the processes involved contains new, even fearful elements of a journey I never asked to take or ever anticipated travelling.

Mine, it turns out, is an adventure of joy!  But like most unfamiliar places, this pathway

exposed deep insecurities,
revealed hidden fears,
demanded new levels of submission to God,
required more time than anticipated,
and has been a refiners fire of cleansing and healing
that I didn’t even know I needed.

Giving Birth

Five times God said “I will.” Five times in the natural I gave birth as I co-operated with His desire to bring forth something new in my life. Each birth embodied a promise fulfilled and a promise to be revealed.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain
because her time has come;
but when her baby is born
she forgets the anguish because of her joy
that a child is born into the world.”
John 16:21

Birthing brings unavoidable pain; a pain that seems impossibly more than one can endure.  Unfortunately, there is no birthing without first going through the process of labor. “Labor” defines it well! In the final moments before delivery, a woman goes through what is called transition — where she expends every once of energy, endures beyond what she thought possible and draws from a deep well of fortitude she never knew existed.

There is no shrinking back, tagging out or throwing in the towel. Pain marks this life giving struggle. Selfless love propels her through the temporary transition phase to ultimate joy. With that indescribable joy, she finally sees what has been hidden, carried, nurtured and labored for.

Birthing the new cannot be fully explained, only experienced!

God Births

Just in case you male readers are getting a little squeamish with all this feminine birthing stuff, relax. God is into birthing too! He is birthing forth amazing things in the lives of all of us — corporate and individual.

A multitude of people have been pregnant and holding on to God dreams for many years. They have surrendered to the process of humility, struggled through training and development, fostered destinies and withstood the season of transition. Like a baby’s first cry, freedom shouts, “The new has arrived! Make way!” The umbilical cord has been cut; a new independent life begins to grow outside the protection of the “womb.”

In the previous stage, everything was provided. Not now! At least not in the same way. The Source always is and always will be God — never of our own efforts, ingenuity or skill.

I see God birthing in this season like never before. He is releasing spiritual gifts in unprecedented proportions. New ministries are springing up with maturity and vitality. Communities and cities are being changed.  Spiritual landscapes redefined!

“So Christ himself gave the apostles,
the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
to equip his people for works of service, 

so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Ephesians 4:11-12

Birthing the New

Pride has no claim to either the gift or the work being birthed in this season. We receive God’s gifts as evidence of His unmerited blessing and favor. The Giver asks only that we use His gifts wisely for the encouragement and benefit of others.

Like any true gift, it is ours — freely given and freely received.  If we choose to misuse or neglect it, it is still ours! Luke 19 makes it clear that gifts come with responsibility, however.

“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
  Isaiah 43:19

Babies arrive without instruction manuals. As much as we plan and prepare, unexpected surprises accompany birthing the new. The “I Will” makes a way, providing all that is needed.

“Take courage,” Jesus told his disciples who were losing the stormy battle. (Matthew 14:27) Remember God is always the I WILL. He never leaves you nor forsakes you.

He says, “I WILL be
on the ground beside you while you crawl,
the hand lifting you up when you stumble,
the ONE at the finish line cheering you on,
the gentle arm of encouragement,
the whatever you need in the moment
…I WILL

You aren’t alone! God accompanies you every step of the way. No matter what the processes you are in or the pathways ahead, you are guaranteed to experience Him in ways you would never have known otherwise.

In birthing the new, with a sense of peace and joy, we both look back and gaze ahead. We are confident not in ourselves but in God alone. He is leading, empowering, directing and holding us fast.

Many more pains and joys of birthing the new are ahead for each of us. Hold to His sovereign hand.