DAY FIVE: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR
Reflection by Rev. Alissabeth Newton (Vicar, St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, Kent, Washington)
“Give me water to drink”
-Jesus, to the Samaritan woman (John 4)
“Nothing bad ever happens to you,” my close friend said one day to me. He was complaining, letting me know that the cost of never “needing” him was a real one, in our relationship. You see, as a priest, mother of two small children, know-it-all wife, and amateur theologian I like to be the person who helps others out, the one with the answers and the solutions. I like to wow them with my strengths, as opposed to exposing my many (many!) vulnerabilities to the world. To admit that I am not having a fantastic time feels too exposed.
But this isn’t how relationships work, is it? Real connections with other people, or between groups of people, needs to include honesty about what I need from you, and what you need, from me. This can be hard, especially for those of us who are raised up in cultures where vulnerability is equated to weakness, where it is taboo to admit to an outsider that they have something you need.
Jesus is not afraid of taboo when he sits, tired and thirsty, by Jacob’s well and asks the Samaritan woman for a drink. As a Jewish man he should never have spoken to the Samaritan woman, and he certainly should not have asked her to draw water for him. But he was tired, thirsty, and his needs opened the door for a transformative relationship between them. And so an exchange that begins with an inappropriate request for water ends with a woman forever changed and Jesus identified as “truly the Savoir of the world.”
I wonder, as we pray for unity among Christian people this week, what it would be like to begin with asking each other for the help we need. There are lots of reasons not to. There are lots of reasons to stick each of us to our own traditions, to close ranks along denominational, political, or national lines and to admit no weakness. But that is not the example given us from Jesus Christ. Bad things happen to all of us, and yet we can meet together at the well of our common faith, admit that we are tired and thirsty, and share Living Water with each other and the world.