Shortly into their marriage, my mother and father faced a minor dilemma; it concerned card games. Both of them enjoyed this recreational blend of socializing and strategy, but there was just one hitch: Dad liked pinochle, and Mom enjoyed bridge. Neither had played the other game before, so they agreed to try each one together and then decide which to pursue as a couple. They joined friends for bridge first, and on the way home, my father said, “We can forget pinochle.” He would let go of his old pastime, for he had found something better.
It is human nature to favor the familiar; we shed old paradigms only when that which is superior shines brighter by comparison. Such was the case with the woman at the well. Their repartee about bodily thirst and social propriety now behind them, her conversation with Jesus turned to deeper matters of the spirit, and as it did, she scurried for safety in trusted traditions. When He revealed Himself to be the source of living water, she replied, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”1 Then upon perceiving herself in the presence of a prophet, she doubled down in discomfort, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”2
People around the globe and throughout time find comfort in their traditions, yet when these sources of identity become fortresses of retreat and hiding places from Truth, we miss the person of Jesus Christ—the purity of His soul, the fullness of His character and His grand plans for us. He comes to us “not … to condemn the world, but to save the world.”3 He engages us in everyday life through activities as simple as a genuine conversation beside an old well. It was there that a woman saw beyond mountains that divide and cities that separate and to a unifying place where “true worshipers … worship the Father in spirit and truth.”4 It was enough—she was beginning to change, for she had found something better, and leaving her water jar and paradigms behind, she went to tell others about Jesus. Her witness continues today, assuring He will engage us, too, as we leave the safety of our old ways and trust in the One who secures us in Himself.
Father, we are humbled before the openness of the woman at the well. Grace us also to leave behind any comfortable thing that would keep us from trusting entirely in your Son. In His name we pray. Amen.
1 John 4:11, 12
2 John 4:20
3 John 3:17
4 John 4:23