I’m just like the Samaritan Woman with honed defensive strategies.
My primary defensive emotional and verbal response is anger and blaming another. Or pointing out that person’s inadequacies.
In all the times I’d studied the Samaritan Woman, I’ve never seen so clearly the purpose of her comment,
“The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” (verse 4:11).
Here’s how Jesus and the woman’s conversation started:
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? (John 4:7-11). (italics added)
The Jews hate the Samaritans (it’s a long story why). This woman knows she is hated by Jews and she knows Jesus is a Jew. Usually Jews never walk through Samaria to get elsewhere. They will take extra and effort to go around Samaria. They don’t want to be “dirtied” by such horrible people who aren’t pure ethnically.
This woman is intimidated and on shaky ground to have a Jew actually be nice to her. No one treats her nice, even her own people because she is considered immoral. So to have a man who supposedly hates her even give her power to say “no,” is scary. The passage may not give the initial impression that Jesus is asking, but notice what she says, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me…” She recognizes He is asking, not telling her.
Maybe no one ever gave her a choice; only commanded her. Now this man Jesus gives her an option. That’s actually scary and not always empowering–if you’ve never learned to manage your own life. If you’ve only been told how to act.
In fact, it’s so hard to know how to handle it, she reverts to her well-honed self-protective sinful strategy: strike back! “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.”
Using our imaginations, isn’t she basically saying, “Whoever you are, don’t you realize you are powerless? Where’s the bucket? Hidden in your robes? You are helpless? You are inadequate and so how can you say you can provide me living water? You’re scaring me with power I don’t know how to use. I will attack you. I’m out of control here.”
Of course, i recognize we don’t know her heart’s motives. But her response rings true with me–because I’m like her. I ask Larry to do something and I believe his quick response will help me feel loved and cherished. If Larry doesn’t do what I want him to do, the message seems to be , “You aren’t important and I don’t love you.” Then I respond with anger.
“I feel unloved when you don’t take care of me. I feel insecure. It’s your fault.” And so I attack finding something wrong about him. My favorite? The “you phrase.”
- “Don’t tell me I shouldn’t be angry. You get frustrated all the time with….”
- “Don’t tell me I did something wrong on the computer. You couldn’t solve a problem last week.”
- “Don’t tell me the meal isn’t perfect. You can’t do it better.”
Now, let me defend Larry. He didn’t say any of those three statements but I heard them in my mind anyway. I’m very good at writing a script including his intentions but I don’t let him be script co-writer. I feel weak and threatened so I imagine what he’s thinking. Later when I tell him about my inner dialogue, he looks shocked and says, “I wasn’t thinking that at all.”
But the feelings are so real and my defenses seem so effective. But they aren’t.
Through the conversation Jesus has with this needy woman, she learns her defenses don’t work and Jesus really can provide her living water. And at the end of their conversation, she forgets about her bucket and runs off to tell the villagers about a man who “told me everything I’ve done.” She sure isn’t defensive anymore, even though the townspeople could use her honesty against her later. She doesn’t care.
What defensive measures do you use? How do you protect yourself emotionally and spiritually when the script varies from your carefully honed belief system? Will you let down your guard and leave behind the bucket filled with your self protective strategies? We all find freedom when we do.
(These thoughts go along with the ideas in my books, Never Ever be the Same (co-authored with Larry) and Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory).