Woman at the Well

March 28, 2011 | 15 comments

Based on the story in John 4 …

You know me as the outcast with parched lips, parched soul.

I came thirsty that day, at high noon, with water jugs in hand.

Most women fetched water from the well in the morning, returning at dusk. Not me.

I went just once a day, at high noon when the wind would whip the sand into a gritty storm and the sun would lay hot against your back like a heavy sack. I took the well-worn trail to the well in the swelter of day. Because I wanted to be alone.

I mean, everyone in the village knew my reputation. They knew about my five failed marriages and the fact that I was “shacking up” again. I could hear their accusations when they ran ahead of me with their water jugs. They jabbed pointed fingers behind them, like knuckled arrows fixed on my sin.

So I came to Jacob’s well every day at noon – exchanging the heat of accusation for the sun’s scorch. An easy trade.


But that all changed when, one day, I found a man at my well. I was walking up the path, with a jug in my hand, and I could see him there. Panic rose up from my ankles, draining the color from my cheeks.

I expected to find no one here – certainly not a man. And not just any man, but a Jewish man – right here in Samaria. The Jewish people hate us – they really HATE us. They would travel miles out of their way to avoid us, the half-breeds.

But there he sat, tired and thirsty. I pursued my lips, diverted my eyes. I would fetch my water, and go. Fast.

His words splintered the silence. “Will you give me a drink?”

My mind spun. It was one simple request, but I knew the consequences of conversation. My mind screamed: RUN! My feet disobeyed orders. And so did my mouth. I spoke.

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan. How can you ask me for a drink?”

He said if I had any sense at all about who God really is, that I would be asking him for water. It sounded like crazy-talk to me.

So I said, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get water?”

And he said words I will never forget. Never.

He stood up, brushing dust from his lap. He pointed to the well and said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.” He said the water He gives will become like a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.

I wanted that kind of magic water. I lifted my fingers to touch my cracked lips. To never thirst? To never have to come to this well again, in the scorch of day?

He interrupted my thoughts. “Go call your husband and come back.”

But you see, I didn’t have a husband, and I told him so. The man looked me straight in the eye and said: “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands. And the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband.”

My knees went weak. Even the Jews knew my sin? I wanted to crawl under the nearest rock. But I couldn’t move. I tried to change the subject, lobbing a few theological questions at him and then one final, bold assertion: “I know the Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

But before I could leave, he threw a bombshell that rocked my world. He told me I didn’t have to wait any longer for the long-expected Messiah. He told me I didn’t have to look any further.

“I who speak to you am he.”

This time, I couldn’t form any retorts or questions. No words. Just … no words.

I dropped my water jug on the path and ran back to the village. All the way, I felt shame fall, like I was shedding my skin. Then I – the outcast with noonday sweat beading down her back – shouted through the streets: “Come see a man who knew all about the things I ever did, a man who knows me inside and out.”

And they listened to me. To me!

They went to see him – Jesus Christ, Savior of the World.

I wasn’t looking for Jesus that day. He was the farthest thing from my mind. But apparently He had come looking for me – sinful, broken me. He knew everything I’d ever done and spoke into my soul: “Come as you are, but I promise to never leave you that way.”

I went for water from a well. I found Living Water instead.

Submitted as part of Michelle DeRusha’s series “Hear it on Sunday” series. We heard the story from the pulpit yesterday. Today, I submit my first-person interpretation, which I have presented as a dramatic monologue.

by | March 28, 2011 | 15 comments


  1. Jen

    I love the last line about coming as you are but never leaving that way. It makes my soul just cry out, "Change me, O God!"

  2. Nancy

    Well done. It's so appropriate to re-write these in the first person, isn't it? They are all my stories. I wrote recently about arguing with God on the banks of the Red Sea. Cause I'm pretty certain I would have.

  3. Michelle DeRusha@Graceful

    This is incredible, Jennifer — you have breathed such life into this story for me…I was riveted as I read through your interpretation. I think I need to read the entire Bible this way: The Bible as interpreted by Jennifer!

    Thank you, truly, for linking this up today!

  4. Lyla Lindquist

    Based on the story in John 4, but really, based on the story in each one of us, don't you think? We all have our reasons for drawing water in the heat of the day, for questioning the madness of His speaking to us, for tearing off for the village to tell of the One who knows us inside, outside, upside down.

    (You end with the others coming to see Him — does that not say it all right there? The way He changed her in that brief encounter was enough to persuade the hometown crowd to see Who she met…)

    Does a heart good to crawl inside the heart of some of these folks who met Jesus face to face. And you've done so beautifully here.

  5. Amy Sullivan

    Oh, what a great retelling! Powerful.

  6. David Rupert

    I love this first person perspective…

  7. Thoughts for the day

    I love this drama~ as it unfolded I felt her fear and uncertainty~ I could also feel 'HIS EYES' of love~ Showing her 'the heart she hides'. The writing was very powerful~ thank you

  8. St. Michael's Wife

    I taught on this story, myself, just two weeks ago . . . but, oh, how it touched my soul this morning. Thank you, sister.


  9. Shirl


  10. mom2six

    I could picture her touching her hand to her dry lips, longing for the peace the magic water would bring. Your description is so vivid.

    I read recently another twist on this story I found interesting. He writes, "One scholar suggests it is unlikely she is a prostitute, but more likely that she is barren—she cannot have children. This may explain why she has been married so many times. She gets married, cannot bear children and the husband divorces her." He ponders further here… http://www.thejourneysproject.com/CollectionDetails.aspx?id=86

    Perhaps it just seemed easier to shack up than be cast out, rejected, again. Either way, she needed healing from Jesus living water. Either way – we all do.

  11. Faith Imagined

    I love this Bible story and your dramatic interpretation brings it to new life!

  12. Sandra Heska King

    Powerful retelling. Jesus came looking for her. Her shedding shame. Can you imagine what it would have been like?

    Kind of freaks me out that we both wrote about Living Water from different perspectives.

  13. Deidra

    I'm with Michelle. We need a Getting Down With Jesus version of the Bible!


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