“I’m sorry, but I just can’t hold it in anymore.”
“I’m having a hard time keeping it together, too.”
These were some of the words from two friends who joined me for their first time at Core Creek Community Church. For the past month, I had been praying that at some point, they might feel compelled to join me, and finally that day came on one particular Sunday. Little did I know just how much it might move them. And in a way that was much deeper than I could have ever anticipated.
Not only were the worship songs that day powerfully effective, but the sermon itself hit them hard. And then to top it off, it was also communion (which I had completely forgotten was to take place that day).
“Oh Lord, this is going to be really intense. Are you sure this was the service you wanted me to take my friends to?”
A Moment of Self Reflection
I remember feeling a similar wave of hard-hitting emotion when I began my spiritual renewal in Christ—finally reaching towards Him, instead of running from Him. And in turn, He spared no hesitation moving right on in and targeting the most wounded, sensitive part of my shell at that time—my heart—in order to soften it up enough so He could reshape and retransform it.
Oh, there were times back then, I never thought I could care so deeply or feel such compassion like that. Even in the pain of divorce, it never hit me like the moments God hit me with some sort of supernatural touch. Moments that I had no problems with before. Scenes of the crucifixion suddenly destroyed me with intense sadness. Stories of those that experienced Christ’s forgiveness were hard to sit through stoically. It was frightening just how hardened I had become when I resisted God’s true residence in my life. Yes, it was difficult getting used to my new heart, but because I had fought Him for so long—believing the lie of who I thought God was and desired Him to be. That wasn’t who He is. And once I accepted His true nature, the distorted shell of my former self crumbled like a pillar of salt to show just how incapable I was without Him—the true source of strength and foundation in life.
Open Heart Surgery
One of my favorite ministers, Dr. Tony Evans, warned that God likes to perform open heart surgery to heal us. And when you need a quadruple bypass heart operation, it requires a deeper cut and a more painful procedure.
On Sunday, I think the same thing began to take place with my friends. I couldn’t help but pick up on that intense emotion as well, as fellow brothers and sisters become rather intertwined in emotion when the Spirit finds a way to connect them and bring them together under Christ.
After the service, I encouraged them that it was a great sign! And further proof that the Holy Spirit has begun the spiritual renewal that they so desperately need, just like I was in desperate need of myself. But why does the process itself hurt so much? Does transformation always require a watering hose of tears? Can’t a loving God just take it easier on people instead?
The Woman at the Well
The woman at the well asked the very same thing in John 4:4-18…
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
Ouch. That’s kinda mean, Jesus. Why did You have to add insult to injury there?
Matt Chandler puts it best by saying that Jesus goes after the space that only He can heal. Chandler further explains in his sermon series “I Am” that He touched the tender, most guilt-ridden, shame-filled part of her inner being.
“Go get your husband.”
“I don’t have a husband.”
Yet, the passage doesn’t want us to know why exactly the woman at the well has had so many failed relationships, so it leaves it open to speculation. But it does want us to know the time of day because that clues us in as to how she was viewed by her community.
“It was about noon,” the passage says. That is the hottest part of the day. NO ONE goes to fetch water at that time. Everyone goes at the coolest point, usually in the morning. Chandler further explains that the woman was there because she was avoiding the very real or perceived judgment of the other women in town. She had come out in the middle of the day to avoid being wounded by the stares, whispers and judgment of others. She felt ashamed and dirty of whatever she did, that she continued to hide from it, and was quite successful at it. Yet through all that hiding, she became enslaved by all that guilt, shame and sin, which of course, the devil loves to keep us in bondage to. For then we forget all about God’s forgiveness.
And yet, whatever was the woman was hiding from, she couldn’t hide from Jesus.
Living Water Amidst Racial Divide
The Jews and Samaritans did not get along. In fact, it was made very clear in not just this passage but several passages throughout Scripture that there was this outright prejudice towards the Samaritans.
And here is Jesus in verse 4…
Now he had to go through Samaria.
That implies that He must have had the option to go around Samaria, to get to Galilee, as most Jews often did, but He had a destined appointment to meet with this woman, unbeknownst to her.
And after His encounter with her, it transformed her so much that she went on to become a living testament to the Messiah who had finally come. She even rejoined her community as a result of this testament. The living water that Jesus said He would provide to those who seek Him out—she begged Him for it, and He delivered.
But before He frees you with that living water, He has to expose the deepest, darkest shadows that we often want to bury away and ignore. Jesus goes to THAT space that only He can heal. And being rich in love, He engages that spot to pull it out to heal. After all, the places that we go to hide will always hinder our ability to know Him personally. How often do we hide from God, as if He doesn’t already know about them? He isn’t taken off guard. He knows it already!
“I don’t have a husband.”
A Lasting Effect
I don’t think I’ll ever discover exactly why that Sunday service hit my friends as hard as it did in that moment, and I’m sure that for each of us present that day, it resonated in vastly different ways. Yet whatever context it was, it is between each individual and God Himself. I know this, because both of them pointed out that it was almost as if the pastor was speaking directly to them, yet for much different reasons.
Have you ever experienced that before? When you’re sitting in church and it seems like the day’s sermon was written specifically for YOU. Or you’re reading the Bible, and the words you’ve read a hundred times before leap off the page in a different light almost as if they were being highlighted just for you? Ah, these are some of the signs that the Holy Spirit uses to grab our attention. And when He has an appointment to meet you at the well in the midday sun, you know you can’t hide anymore. Transformation has begun.