The key to life is not living for Jesus. Rather, it is found in Jesus living through us. – Terry Wardle
In John chapter four, Jesus has a remarkable encounter with an unnamed woman from Samaria who is in need of deep healing. I was reading this passage recently, and it occurred to me that everything Jesus wants to do for this woman will take place within her own heart.
He wants to give her living water “that will become in her a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He wants to place something inside her.
Not very far into the conversation, he asks about her husband. I always imagine that at this request, the woman hangs her head, and replies in words barely audible. “I have no husband,” she admits. Of course, Jesus already knows this . . . and more. “You are right in saying you have no husband,” he says gently. “In truth, you have had five husbands, and the man you’re with now won’t even give you his name.”
Now we’re at the heart of this woman’s existence, which is always where Jesus is headed with us. Used, broken, filled with shame and regret, perhaps abused, looked down upon by her peers – this is where this woman lives. Every day. These are the parts of her most in need of redemption, and they are heart issues.
She responds the way most of us respond when our tender, fragile, wounded hearts face exposure – she changes the subject, diverting Jesus like she’d learned to divert others from what is most true about herself. “Let’s talk about the mechanics of worship,” she says. “Some say we’re to worship here (or in this way), and others say we’re to do it there (or in that way).” How often we try to avoid intimacy by diverting ourselves and others into tiresome discussions about church mechanics and minutiae.
Remarkably, perhaps, Jesus does not force his way in. He never does. He will never force his way into a heart that has not invited him in. But he does begin to talk about truth. God desires worshippers who engage him in spirit – passionately, eagerly, and with joy – and in truth – coming clean about their brokenness, fears, hurt, and failures.
Why are these things so important to God? Because these things – eagerness and openness – are the basis of relationship. Any relationship God desires worshippers who come to him as they are, hiding nothing and inviting him into their life. Into the pain. Into the truth.
For a second time, she tries to divert him (v. 25), ironically by talking about the Messiah. “Well, when he comes, he’ll help us with such things.”
Jesus must have smiled. He says, in essence, “I’m here. It’s happening – here, now . . . and with you!”
And that does it. Off she goes to tell the rest of the town. And her message to them is so telling. She doesn’t say, “Come see the Messiah,” or “Come get your cosmic questions answered.” She says, “Come see the one who knows me . . . really knows me. He knows everything I’ve ever done.” And she doesn’t say it, but I’m sure she feels it: “And he loves me ANYWAY!”
Healing is free and abundant, but it is only accessible when we lay our hearts bare before the Lord, and dialogue with him about what we find there. Your heart is Christ’s favorite venue of activity.
By the way, the most important factors in a relationship with God – eagerness and honesty – are the most important factors in a relationship with our church family as well.