A brief reflection on the Samaritan woman at the well about our inner-thirst reflecting the prior thirst of God for us and saying YES to our journeys that always lead to deeper self-knowledge until we hear ‘I AM is speaking to you’. Delivered at Ince Benet on the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the community October 2007.
(READ JOHN 4v 1 – 26)
An elderly Darby and Joan couple in their eighties were recently asked what it was that had kept them together, so faithful, for all their years. Joan said “Oh, I think it has been our ability to have a head-on row at least once a week.” And then they were asked “And what do you think love is?” “Oh”– said Darby after a bit of a pause – “I think love is what is there when all the reasons for getting married have died away”.
The Samaritan woman had gone to the well with her water jars. Clear what she was about. And she finds One waiting for her, one who draws her into a conversation which culminates in her heartfelt, “If only I knew“ and the reply “I AM is the one speaking to you”.
The intervening conversation had started with the One-who-was-present voicing his thirst. For the author of the gospel this was surely a trailer for that great cosmic cry from the cross “I thirst”. All Christian life and maturing conversation opens up from God’s thirst for us not our thirst for God. God’s thirst for the world not the world’s thirst for God.
The One-who-was-there—before-her then reveals to her her own inner thirst and the deep wellsprings of life present within her. A good deal of humour and teasing invites her to go deeper than her superficial self-image.
The unfolding conversation demands self-honesty, in her case to be honest about her less than orthodox marital affairs. Self-knowledge, in humble honesty, is indeed crucial for the conversation to mature. And then he invites her to recognise that whatever the importance of places of worship, she can learn: ‘Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here’ – in this place.
I AM is speaking to you.
* * * *
In different ways perhaps all our journeys are an ongoing conversation from the clarity of our initial commitment, through the persistent humour, teasing and demand for self-knowledge by the One-who-is-there-before-we-are, until that unforeseen: I AM is speaking to you.
We may of course be tempted to say: hang on a moment, this is not what I had in mind, not what I signed on for.
But the One, in his mercy and gentleness, whispers: Yes, yes, I know it wasn’t;
But I had to get you first before you knew what lay ahead. Would you have said ‘yes’ if you had known the trials, the testing, the bewilderments of the journey?
Would my mother, Mary have given her Fiat to my being carried in her womb if she had foreseen what lay ahead for both of us?
I know what you do not know, that my grace and my love are enough for you.