“What makes the desert beautiful is that it hides a well somewhere” – The Little Prince
In addition to being a vital source of life, a well consistently carries the themes of longing and marriage. Even in modern day literature, it is a place where wishes are made, and where they come true; a place where adventurers find eternal life. It’s a place where a little prince and a weary traveler find life in a single drink of water. In Scripture, it’s a place where people find all these things and more. It’s where longing, hurting, and broken people are written into the story of redemption in unexpected ways.
An Egyptian slave, running from the abuse of her mistress and dismissive master, lands at a well in a desert. Unseen, unwanted, and utterly alone, Hagar finds herself choking on shame and bitterness, and literally dying of thirst. It is in this very place, this desert of emptiness, longing, and uncertainty, where Hagar comes to know God as “The Living One Who Sees Me” (Genesis 16:14). She is also instructed to go back to the place of her pain, carrying a promise and a life.
For Abraham’s head servant who was given the task of finding his master’s son a bride, a well becomes a place where he finds the Lord faithful in his steadfast love and faithful to keep his promises to provide just the one. Jacob and Moses, two men running for their lives after acts of deceit and murder, find a bride and a new life at a well.
Then there is a story that appears as the culmination of all the rest as another, yet altogether different Jewish man, rests at a well. A man who is avoiding people who would seek to take his life, a man who stands as the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people, a bridegroom who has come for his bride.
A Samaritan woman, left nameless, approaches a well in the heat of the day as she avoids the women in her town. She has a past with men, and there is no mention of family or children. Like Hagar, she undoubtedly approaches the well in bitterness, shame, loneliness, and longing. It is here where she meets Jesus.
It becomes clear that this woman is bound by the expectations of her world and her insecurities as she remains quite guarded. Knowing she cannot trust anyone with her heart, she has locked it safely away behind barriers. This man crosses them all.
He crosses the barrier of gender, culture, and race as he asks her for a drink. He then shows her that he knows her story, and he has come to heal it. He sees her, and he wants to talk about her thirst.
As she defensively throws her theology at him, he shares the good news that “the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for those are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks” (John 4:21-24). She finds it’s time to lay aside the bounds of religion, and drink. Suddenly, the woman is running back to the very people she earlier sought to avoid, and what does she proclaim? “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Christ?” What’s more, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did” (John 4: 28-39).
At The Well, we hear the combined cry of Hagar and the Samaritan woman: “Come and see the Living One Who Sees Me.” A cry that echoes in the stories and literature of our day, and one we know is answered in Jesus.
That is our prayer, here at The Well. May this be a place where we go straight to the heart, where we cross barriers of all kinds. May this be a place where we humbly rest in the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit, where we worship in spirit and truth. May this be a place where we lay down our striving, and offer up our longing. A place that equips us with the courage to run into the areas of pain, to the people we would otherwise seek to avoid, and cry aloud in praise, “Come and see the Living One Who sees me.” Come see the One who sees me in my brokenness and offers me life and forgiveness and love. The One who sees me in my shame, isolation, and striving. The Prince of Peace who has come for me, who has won my freedom and has written me into his Story. The One who satisfies my soul, and does not leave me thirsty.
Come and see.