Have you ever felt scrutinized? Maybe you’ve had the experience with an angry parent, a suspicious employer, or even a jealous spouse. Scrutinized, your actions are watched minutely, your motives guessed at, a litany of questions pick through your past. It’s an awful experience to be suspected. It’s worse still if something is discovered, if something we shamefully guarded within us is then forced out into the open. It can be the most wounding experience, naked and exposed to the fiercest arrows of judgment and ridicule. Yet, the very same experience, if done in the light of love, can be the most healing. For what is sweeter than admitting to the worst truths about ourselves and then discovering that we are loved anyway.
This weekend, we hear the Lord instruct Moses, “strike the rock, and water will flow from it.” That rock is a symbol of the sinful heart. More precisely, the rock is the sin itself around which the heart has hardened, solidifying like a protective shell, admitting none to a knowledge of its contents. As Moses struck the rock with his staff, so God strikes the heart with his omniscience. His perfect knowledge is a pointed stick piercing what we thought impenetrable. He knows us. Water follows. Tears of repentance wash out the heart’s twisted rationalizations, lonely strategies and coping mechanisms. We are left only with ourselves, the pieces of our shame, and a God who loves us eternally.
When Jesus meets the woman at the well, he exposes her sin to her: “you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” She has felt society’s judgment (she comes to the well when she expects to be alone). But Jesus meets her there and strikes her with his knowledge of her sin. He knows it well. Water follows. He promised to give “living water.” This water now wells up within her (we can imagine it appearing in her eyes). She leaves “her water jar” behind and goes into town announcing, “come see a man who told me everything I have done.” We might add, “and one who loves me.”
Throughout the scriptures, scenes at a well foretell marriage. Anytime a man and a woman meet at a well, matrimony is around the corner. Among the many consolations of marriage the deepest, and the most essential, is to be known and to be loved; that despite one’s brokenness, despite one’s faults or sins, one is cherished exclusively in the heart of another. Marriage, of course, is a reflection of God’s love. Jesus invites all of us sinners to meet him at the well, there to be known, to be loved and to be healed.