Random Blog Clay Feet: December 07, 2008
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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Atomic Water

They say that fire and water don't mix. We usually depend on water to extinguish a fire, not start one. But in the kingdom of heaven you can never depend on your old traditions and assumptions to explain what is real and true.

What if you found out that drinking water could cause a fire to ignite inside your body? And what if you then learned that this fire would not only begin to infect your intestines but would spread deep into your bones and cause you extreme discomfort? Would this fascinate and attract you to want to try out this water or would it terrorize you and cause you to do everything possible to prevent others from getting close to this source of strange water?

But in the kingdom of heaven things are very, very different than how we perceive reality from our perspective. When a person finds themselves suddenly in the strange new world of kingdom realities they find that there are many surprises and many things that are opposite of what they would normally expect from their past experience and assumptions. Here is the true story of one woman who was entrusted above all other women to experience this very strange phenomena of water that burns.

Talk about burning hot! Her body was certainly not ready to accept the heat that surrounded her with suffocating intensity. The sun blazed unmercifully overhead in the same way that the glances of the people along the street burned into her soul. The shame that she lived with on a constant basis was just as inescapable as the heat of the desert in which they lived. She had long since given up finding any sympathy or solace from anyone who might feel pity for her condition or who would be willing to look past her lurid reputation to see the enormous weight of pain that filled her heart from the many memories that constantly haunted her. No, that was a vain hope that she had abandoned years ago. Now she was just in survival mode, living as much as possible outside much contact with other people while depending on the meager provisions of a man who was willing to support her in exchange for access to her body.

Today was no different than any other day had been. Because she lived in a poor part of the world where there was no running water in the small houses people lived in, it was necessary for all the women of the village to travel some distance to a well that had been in place for centuries and fill up their containers with water to meet the daily requirements for cooking, washing and everything else involving water.

Usually the women enjoyed walking together to this well outside of town, chatting happily and enjoying each other's company while they did their work. But this was not the privilege of the woman in our story. Because of the shame heaped on her by the others in her community she did not feel free to join the others in the cool of the day in their socializing trips to the well. To avoid the stinging gossip and condemning looks from the other women, she had long ago taken to making her trips to the well during the most uncomfortable part of the day so as to reduce the intensity of the emotional pain she would have to endure during this necessary part of her existence.

By now you may recognize this story as the one recorded in John 4. This woman was a Samaritan woman and was considered about as low socially as one could get from the Jewish men who considered Samaritans to be some of the most reprehensible people on earth. On top of that, in those days women in general were not even considered worthy to be taught about the Torah, the Bible of the Jews. It was believed by Jews that teaching any woman religion was just as bad as teaching her to be immoral.

The intensity of prejudice by the Jews against Samaritans plus the disdain that women endured by men in general only led this woman to experience the greatest level of surprise possible when a Jewish man resting by the well began to talk with her. She had intended to avoid him and simply get some water and leave as quickly as possible. She was also quite confident that he would be quite offended if she even looked at him and so she was unprepared for the interaction that Jesus was about to engage her in that hot day at high noon.

When reading about the ensuing conversation that went on between these two, it seems that it only lurched from one disconnected subject to the next. But Jesus was no ordinary man and all of the encounters He had with people, particularly when on an individual basis, were usually not the routine dialogs that most people would expect. That is because Jesus, unlike most of us, was so tuned in to the atmosphere coming from their heart that He often gave answers to people's questions that seemed on the surface to have little to do with their external questions. That is because what He was saying was always geared toward addressing their real heart issues instead of playing the pretend game of shallow discussions that most people use when talking with others.

As I was revisiting this story today, something caught my attention like never before. That is partly because a few minutes after reading about this dialog between Jesus and the woman from Samaria, I also read a verse from Revelation that parallels what Jesus was talking about in John. Let me lay both of these verses out together here and then explore what really began to grab my attention.

Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. (Revelation 21:6 NRSV)

Most people do not realize the amazing privilege and responsibility that Jesus gave to this woman. No other person, man or woman, was entrusted with the declaration that Jesus shared with this woman. That important information was the revelation that Jesus was the long-looked for Messiah that both the Jews and the Samaritans were longing to appear and deliver them. No one else was told directly by Jesus that He was the Messiah except this woman. So why did Jesus seek her out to entrust her with this most important announcement when He did not even share that with any of His own disciple's?

It is true, as many have pointed out, that Jesus deliberately did many things to shatter paradigms and challenge traditions that obscure the truths about God in the minds and hearts of people. He intentionally seemed to have encounters with women at a time when it was considered one of the most shameful things a man could stoop to doing. He also deliberately worked miracles on the Sabbath day to challenge the traditions of religion that had obscured the true meaning and purpose of the Sabbath as it was originally introduced at the end of creation week. This openness that Jesus had with a woman from a people despised by the Jews was no exception to His pattern of challenging traditions. But was that the only reason that He entrusted her with this vital piece of information that He shared with no one else while He was on earth?

I believe that the answer is found in the second text quoted above. Quite possibly this woman was the most spiritually thirsty person that Jesus encountered while here on this earth. Or possibly He chose her because of the combination of her social status along with her thirst. At any rate, I think it is very significant and worth examination to try to perceive the deeper significance of why Jesus chose her to unveil His true identity.

There is not very much information revealed in the very brief discussion that went on between the two before she hoofed it off back to town a totally transformed woman to compel everyone she met to come meet her Messiah. A careful analysis of this brief exchange cannot produce enough compelling evidence that would likely cause most of us to have the same kind of reaction that she had. In fact, for most of my life I have always found it very puzzling as to just why she suddenly acted the way she did and even the words she chose to invite others to meet Jesus. Obviously there was some important information missing from what I was getting out of this story.

I am coming to realize that there certainly is a great deal of missing information in this story that needs to be discovered. But that information is not intellectual information as many have supposed – more details to be filled in to explain this sudden rash of bizarre behavior. No, this woman was actually acting quite normal for a person who has just entered into the true kingdom of heaven and is now living freely from the heart instead of from fear and shame. She was a livid example of a heart suddenly healed and coming alive in an explosion of faith and joy and love in response to meeting a man unlike any man who ever walked the face of the earth. She was suddenly in love and was acting quite normal given the conditions.

The missing information is heart-type information, not head information. To perceive this secret but vital information one has to themselves have their own heart softened by the same Spirit that awakened and healed the heart of this animated woman of Samaria. But interestingly, this water of life has the effect of causing a fire inside that is in reality the same fire that emanates from the very heart of God. When one drinks of the water of life they find themselves suddenly filled with a growing passion to infect others with this healing love that is burning away all the fear and shame and guilt that has kept them feeling like slaves for so long.

The more thirsty one is the more thrilling and wonderful the sensations one experiences upon receiving refreshment. The strange part of this whole story, the really sad part, is the exposure in most of us reading this story of our lack of real thirst for the water of life. The reason that most of us are baffled by this story is our own lack of thirst for healing and wholeness. We have analyzed this story, have pontificated upon it, have extracted all sorts of lessons and truths from it, but until we begin to sense our own deep emptiness of soul that causes us to ignore anything anyone might think about us in our desperate lunge to grasp the water of life, we will continue to be baffled by the actions and words of this woman who had suddenly received eternal life.

“Because of the cross, the water of life is freely available to all who recognize their thirst (John 7:37-39). Sin, however, makes many of us deeply unwilling to accept the gifts of God. To receive a gift is to, in some degree, lose control of our lives. As a result, many vulnerable people feel reluctant to take gifts, even those from God.” (The Gospel from Patmos p. 350)

Father, please prevent me from being one of those standing near the spring telling people they have to pay something before they can taste this water. That is a spirit of anti-Christ, for Christ says that this water is a free gift. The only qualification is that a person must be thirsty. Father, make me more thirsty so that I will drink more deeply of your water of life. And make me a truthful, humble, bold witness to the fact that Your water has the power to burn away all of my inner resistance and to ignite an atomic reaction deep within my soul that will cause me to glow with the strange and beautiful light of Your presence.