A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of preaching my very first sermon in front of people. I honestly loved it and the group I spoke to was amazing, attentive, and so kind. I wanted to share this sermon with you as well because part of it is my personal story and how God worked in my life. The other part is the story of the women at the well. There’s a good chance you can find yourself somewhere in one of these stories.
Growing up I was a pretty shy kid and a perfectionist through and through. I was SUPER competitive and the one thing I hated more than losing was sharing my feelings. That was because on the inside of me I was having these HUGE emotions and either I didn’t know how to put them into words or I felt like I was the only one feeling this way.
You see, I had anxiety as a kid growing up, but I had no idea what I was dealing with. I just knew that on a deep level inside of me something was off. This is why I would only let people and friends get only so close to me. I put up walls when anyone tried to get close and ultimately I would probably just change the subject. If you would have met me in High school or college, you would have been greeted with a giant smile and the appearance that everything was a-ok. You see that perfectionist side came out and I created an image that everybody wanted to see or maybe it was more what I wanted them to see because showing something abnormal felt wrong or weak. Because of this I hated looking in mirrors, I didn’t like the person who was looking back at me.
So let me ask this question. What do you see when you look in a mirror? Do you see…
failure, pride, guilt, shame, anxious, ugly, unloveable, freak, lazy, depressed, not enough, too much, alone, fat, mistake, pain, loser, bad, worthless, lost, dumb, hopeless, addict, prisoner.
John 4:1-9 Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). So he left Judea and returned to Galilee. He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually, he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
So here we see Jesus traveling from Judea to Galilee and as he is passing through Samaria that is when He encounters this woman at the well. Quick little back story and we just read it, Jews and Samaritans did not like each other. It says Jews refused to have anything to do with Samaritans. Not long after Jesus arrived at the well the samaritan women walked up. Remember this was in the middle of the day, like the hottest part, typically no one would go gather water when it was that hot because it made the task so much harder. So why was the women there? One could say her past and the fact she had been rejected by her own community; she had to gather water when no one else would be there.
If she were to look in a mirror what do you think she would see? Would she see shame, guilt, hear the words that people had said about her, the ridicule? Or would she become overwhelmed with images of her past flooding over her, the past 5 husbands she had, or the fact the man she was living with at the time wasn’t her husband? The fact that she was gathering water in the heat of the day explains to me that her shame and guilt, her past, was holding her back.
Just like the women our past will hold us back If we allow ourselves to be stuck in our past. The only way to get unstuck is to own your past. You have to realize your past can’t be changed, but YOU can change. Even the consequences of your past choices can be used for the glory of God when you ask Him to transform your heart and mind.
So we see Jesus walking up to this woman who is at the well and he asks for a drink of water. She was taken back because remember, it was counter-cultural for a Jew to be speaking to a Samaritan. I imagine she probably looked around to see if he was talking to anyone else. But they were the only two people there. So she responded with “why are you asking me for a drink?”
This is how Jesus replies.
John 4:10-15 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”
Wouldn’t you want that? Jesus was offering to get rid of her guilt and shame and she would never have to go back to the well again. So, of course, the woman asks Jesus for this water that he was speaking of and that’s where things take a turn. In verse 16 Jesus says go and get your husband. Filled with the guilt and shame that had been placed on her she responded with “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband for you have had 5 husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke truth.” I want you to catch this, Jesus knew her past before he even spoke a word to her.
A little while back I started talking to a counselor. I knew I needed to talk to someone that I trusted because I had been telling others they need to go talk to a counselor, but I wasn’t doing it myself. You know how when I said growing up I just thought there was something wrong with me? Well, honestly, I thought that God messed up when he made me. I could only see those words written on the mirror that I mentioned earlier.
When I shared this with my counselor, he handed me an index card with something written on it. It said, “what do you see when you look in a mirror?” That was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. He told me to stand in front of a full-length mirror and write down what I saw. I’m a rule follower and I couldn’t show up next week with nothing so reluctantly that’s what I did.
The next week I came back and we talked about what I had written down and why. I’m glad I only had to write down 3 things on that card because my list could have been super long. As we finished talking he handed me another index card, this time it said what does God see when he looks at you. Whew…. You see I grew up in church my whole life. I knew the right things to say or the correct answers, but that is not what he was asking me to write on that card. So I took my time and truly wrote down what I felt.
When I came back the next week everything that was written on that index card was positive. A lot different from the way I saw myself in the mirror. That was the moment that started to shift my mindset. A few weeks later as I was standing in front of the mirror taking my makeup off; I looked up. For the first time in my 33 years of life, I saw something I’ve never seen before, a positive reflection. My mirror was wiped clean. I started to truly see myself the way God see’s me. When I looked up I said out loud, “I’m proud of the person I’m becoming”
Now that phrase tells me a few things. First, that was me owning my past and who I was and accepting that I can’t change what’s in the past. Second, that was a huge step in releasing the shame and guilt that had consumed me for so long. Saying I’m proud was not a boastful statement it was saying “don’t ever forget how much you’ve fought to be here.” Lastly, It gave me hope for the future, you see becoming doesn’t mean you have achieved all you set out to be and this life is a journey with its ups and downs and just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean you have it all together.
What I’ve learned is we have to recognize that this life, we can’t do it on our own. And despite how I felt about myself or despite my past, God loves me.
If you’re reading this thinking, you don’t know my past, you don’t know what I’ve done, you don’t know the people I’ve hurt.
I want to challenge you to read the rest of the story. Remember Jesus knew the samaritan’s women’s past before he even said a word to her, but he still loved her and he revealed himself as the Messiah to her. Not only did he reveal that he was the Messiah but she was the first person He revealed that to. I love this part after, Jesus tells this woman that he is the Messiah and he is offering her the living water, you know what she does, she drops everything, the rope, and bucket, but she doesn’t only drop physical items. She also drops the shame and guilt, her past, and leaves everything behind. Then she runs back to the village telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Messiah” Her life was completely changed because of her encounter with Jesus. She had hope in her life again.
When she encounters Jesus she finds acceptance, forgiveness, grace, and a new beginning. Jesus did not define her by her past but instead, in the image of God, the way God see’s her in the mirror. Do you know what this tells me? It tells me that our past doesn’t determine our future, God always offers the chance for a new life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” I want you to hear that this is not just a one-time experience. It is a daily choice to live in that new life with Christ.
I have exciting news for you, Jesus is still offering this living water today! He is offering you a chance for a new life. Is today the day that you break away from the past that has been holding you back? If you have found and accepted that living water that Jesus was speaking of, I want to challenge you to be like the samaritan women and go back to your village, the people around you, and share your story of how Jesus found you and changed your life.
If you need someone to talk to I am always available, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Talk to you soon!