An Honest and Good Heart

There is good news we welcome; there is exciting good news we share; and then there is teeming good news, the kind that rises up and spills over our deep, polished containers of propriety. What, though, hastens us as heralds of good news even to our antagonists, those who exclude us with cold shoulders, judge us with pointed fingers or dehumanize us through indifference? What raises us to a place higher than pride, purer than resentment, and stronger than fear? Grace does.

Her destination was a well—a pit, she called it—perhaps an apt metaphor for a life of deepening failures and darkening hope, and she was there to draw still more, yet again. This noonday, though, grace awaited her there, an appointment set before the beginning of time. She, like so many through the ages, had awaited the Messiah—“When he comes, he will explain everything to us,”1 she said—and now He was here, seeking from her a drink from the pit and offering living water from an inner well—a spring, He called it—sourced in Himself and rising up to eternal life. She came to the well defined by her failures and left as one renewed by grace. Teeming with good news and unable to contain it, she returned to her villagers, including her detractors there, saying, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”2 What confidence! What purpose! Such transformation!

Grace is like that: it sends us spilling over with good news of undeserved favor. Freedom is like that: it releases us in relief with the proclamation of pardon. Jesus is like that—He flows from us like streams of living water, even to those who don’t love us. He rises up in hearts made new in Him—in people “who have heard the word in an honest and good heart … hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”3 And if fruitfulness is its measure, I think we can safely say the Samaritan woman went back to her people with a new heart, “an honest and good heart.” For as John writes, “They came out of the town and made their way toward him.”4

At times, we don’t feel new, but if in faith we drink from the “spring of water welling up to eternal life”5—Jesus Christ, himself—we are new and our failures define us no more. Ours is to embrace what is true, rest in Him who makes us new, and with honest and good hearts, persevere. The fruit will be there; He will see to it.

Father in heaven, you have given me a new heart, and your Spirit lives in me through faith in Christ. Grace me to go and bear fruit with an honest and good heart. Amen.

1 John 4:25
2 John 4:28-29
3 Luke 8:15 NASB
4 John 4:30
5 John 4:14

It Is What It Is, or Is It?

It was yet another family member trip to the hospital, which, of course, portended more medical bills in the mailbox. His circumstance unchangeable, my friend sighed in disgust, “Oh well, it is what it is.” Overhearing him from the other room, his wife called back in a more optimistic tone, “But it’s not what it will be!” Pithy and profound, her rejoinder was the just the encouragement he needed to hear. They’ve re-told the story often in the ensuing years.

For woman at the well, “It is what it is,” was well-known at the time and remains well-chronicled today. By her own account, her very existence had begun two social rungs below that of the tired and thirsty stranger seated before her and seeking her help—“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”1 Living with a man not her husband, a fact she tried to conceal, dropped her another step downward to defeat in a frustrating life-game of Chutes and Ladders. Surely this was not the “happily ever after” of her earlier dreams, nor was it the fullness of Jesus’ plan for her. Of all people, it was this woman, mired in her “It is what it is” to whom He first revealed Himself as the Messiah—“I who speak to you am he,”2 Jesus told her. And from unsearchable depths, He offered her “living water,”3 a quenching of the soul from which she would never thirst again, a “spring of water welling up into eternal life.”4 “Sir, give me this water,”5 she accepted. Her “is what it is” was no longer; her “what it will be” had come.

We tend to view the Samaritan woman as she was on her way to the well that day, but this is not the same person who returned to her village, nor would it ever be again. Messiah changes things, and not merely so, for He makes us new. “If anyone is in Christ,” proclaimed Paul, “the new creation has come: The old has gone and the new is here!”6 Our sin patterns no longer define us—this is true of the woman who left the well, and it is true of us. We have met the Messiah, and we, like she, are new; we are different than when we came. Let no one persuade us otherwise.

Father, thank you for making me a new person in Christ. Help me to trust your faithfulness, your goodness, and your eternal care as you continue to make me like Him. In His name I pray. Amen.

1 John 4:9
2 John 4:26
3 John 4:10
4
John 4:14
5 John 4:15
6 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21

Something Better

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