Photo Credit: Michael Belk

6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
John 4:6-7, ESV

Photo Credit: Michael Belk

Have you ever felt like an outcast? Do you know anyone who is labeled a loner? When someone is alone, whether by choice or the choice of others, it simply doesn’t seem right. God created us as relational beings, and we all have an innate need to be connected.

Jesus encountered a woman in the town of Sychar in the region of Samaria who was alone. She was most likely an outcast. How do we know that? Drawing water from the well on the outskirts of town was customarily a daily communal activity of women in that culture. They went out during the coolest part of the day, either at dawn or dusk. She was at the well alone at noon when the sun was at its peak intensity. That may have happened just by chance, but there was another critical factor. In verses 16-18, we discover,

 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

The popular belief is she was an outcast because of her multiple marriages and living with a man outside of marriage. This gave her a reputation that other women would not want to associate with her. Photographer Michael Belk suggests another possibility.

In that culture, bearing children, especially a son, was highly valued. (That is ironic given widespread protests supporting abortion in our country.) A man could divorce his wife for any reason, including not bearing children. Her past husbands could have married her hoping for a child but divorced her when she did not get pregnant. Although immoral, her current situation was more likely a matter of survival where women depended upon men to provide. A barren woman was viewed as cursed by God. What she was carrying were guilt and shame. Guilt says, “I feel bad because of what I’ve done.” Shame says, “I feel bad because of what I am.”

We have all carried one or both. God’s resolve for unconfessed sin is very clear. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (ESV). Resolving shame can be more complex because it cuts to the core of how we see ourselves. To live in the real world, we develop ways to hide our shame and protect our hearts. Most of us have had experiences that produced shame—feeling “less than”:

  • Discriminated against because of the color of our skin
  • Passed over for a promotion
  • Not part of the “in crowd” in school
  • Couldn’t afford nice clothes, a nice car, or things that seemed everyone else had
  • Had an unstable family background and found it difficult to connect or feel accepted
  • Insecure, having never felt validated

People make judgments based on what they see. Could you have developed survival strategies to hide your shame? Many people do not even realize this when it exists. The Samaritan woman was an outcast based on what the townspeople saw, but Jesus saw what was in her heart. As stated in the previous post, “He had to pass through Samaria” because of a divine appointment with this woman. She was shunned by the people in her town, but Jesus engaged her in a conversation that was going to transform her life!

Are you struggling with guilt? God forgives. Are you carrying the hidden burden of shame? God sees it, He knows, and He can liberate you from it, too. The Samaritan woman did not know that she was about to be freed from guilt and shame in the next few moments!

Next, Part 3: Are You Politically Incorrect?

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