Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water."
The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is one I have read and has been taught to me many times in my life. I understand why, it is a simple story with weighty and beautiful implications. However, just when I thought my exploration of this passage had ended, the part I've underlined hit me hard.
For some reason, the importance of the woman's response to Jesus after being offered eternal water was centered on, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty." The part about not having to back to the well was simply subsidiary, for if she no longer needed water of course there was no need for her to come to the well where it came from. But, like I said, this past time around it was the latter half of her response, "so that I will not... have to come here to draw water." that seemed to be most important and give meaning to prior.
You may know this, but many cues in the context suggest that this woman had been outcast by her society. For example, she admits to having several husbands, which alone makes her an undesirable (to use Harry Potter language) but might also suggest she was barren, another deplorable character flaw in her society. In addition, the fact that she is coming to the well in the heat of day at noon alone implies she is an outcast. For most women would come to the well together in the cooler hours of the day.
I had heard about these societal cues years and years ago, and knowing them adds so much to the significance of Jesus' interaction with her (there are more, but I won't go into them now). But for some reason, for me, they had never reached this line, "so that I will not... have to come here to draw water."
Why is it that this woman is so excited and eager to receive this living water? Is it simply so she will never thirst again? Cause honestly, thirst seems like the least of her issues if she is utterly despised by her entire village. And I doubt she fully understood, if at all, the spiritual implications Jesus alluded to in his delivery. Rather, I think the weight and beauty of her retort lies in the prospect of never having to come back to the well again. That is what gives value to the water.
For her trip to the well was a journey and task of shame. It drove home the loneliness and shame inflicted upon her by her village with every step. Step: I have no husband, step: no one to love or claim me, step: no friend to travel with, step: no friend to confide in, step: no shade to be my refuge from the chocking heat, step: no worth of my own, step: known by none, step: loved by none.
This is why the idea of never having come back to the well again caused her soul to leap. It was promise of leaving that trip of shame behind. Therefore, this eternal water Jesus offered was valuable because it allowed for her shame to be removed.
And more then that, it also offered her worth, love, relationship and restoration as we see later on in the passage on her return trip home where she shares her interaction with Jesus with those who had rejected her. Not only do they acknowledge her by listening to her but many believe her and find value and validity in what she has to say.
This idea of eternal life, a life complete with Jesus, is inseparable from the removal of shame and the adornment of worth.
Which begs the question, are there unnecessary trips I make to the well? Trips I take even though I have been restored by the association and worth my Father had given me? Wanderings into the dessert of worthlessness and dishonor even though the scent of shame no longer lingers anywhere near me?
For, I am a child of God. Loved by the Father, related to His Son, wiped clean, never alone, with someone to confide in and a refuge that will never fall, loved and known.