“I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” JOHN 4:32
Have you ever had a moment in which you are reading a book and find yourself so immersed within the story that it becomes less about the character and more about you? A story so pro- found it reaches the darkened chambers of your inner being, revealing what you had always known or longed for, but never had the courage to put into words?
The Gospel of John, chapter 4, offered such a moment for me and continues to serve as an important mile-marker in my journey as a single mother. At first read, the story of the “Woman at the Well” simply appeared to be an account in which Jesus revealed Himself as the Messiah. And as usual, Jesus spoke in confounding metaphors, offering “living water” to the woman and telling His disciples He had “food” they knew nothing about. But how did that relate to me as a single mother in the twenty-first century? While the woman had been married five times and was living with a sixth man, it wasn’t clear if she was even a mother.
As I read through the pages of her story a second and third time, I came to a humbling realization. I was also a woman at the well, dipping my bucket into the deep earth, hoping to draw out something to quench my thirsty soul. And Jesus was waiting there to give me His living water. Oh, please, Lord, give me something to ease this thirst!
That is the brilliance and beauty of the Bible. The authors provide enough information to help us picture ourselves within God’s story, yet graciously omit details that may disqualify our connection. Her story, therefore, becomes my story. And yours.
Her story moves us beyond the world-based theology of condemnation and shame by teaching us two paradigm-shifting lessons:
- Jesus deals tenderly with women in difficult circumstances. Being fully God, nothing remains hidden from Jesus. She was a Samaritan woman, considered unclean and beyond God’s redemption—not only because of the race she was born into, but also in the sin that ostracized her from her community. Jesus knew the intimate details of her life, and yet He did not condemn her, nor did He shame or ridicule. Instead, He spoke gentle words of truth, revealing His full knowledge of her, and offered the gift of living water, a lasting refreshment for her soul.
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” JOHN 4:10
Even more remarkable was the fact Jesus chose this woman as the first to know His identity as the Messiah. Jesus could have revealed Himself as the Messiah to the religious teachers and political leaders of the land. He could have announced it from a mountaintop, garnering thousands of worshipers at His feet. Instead, He chose a woman of little significance.
Jesus not only knew her, but He also allowed Himself to be known. This is the same Jesus who prevented an adulterous woman from being stoned to death. The Jesus who allowed a sinful woman to wash His feet with tears and anoint Him with per- fume. He healed the woman with an issue of blood and an- other with a bent back. He spoke with fondness about the poor widow who gave all she had to the temple treasury, and He praised Mary, who willingly set aside the important work of the day to sit at His feet and learn from Him. And after Jesus rose from the grave, He appeared first to the grieving Mary Magdalene, a woman from whom He cast out seven demons. Yes, our Savior has a tender heart toward women in difficult circumstances.
If He knew the real me and all that I’ve done, surely He would reject me. If He knew the intensity of my anger and my irresponsibility with money. If He knew the abuse I endured and my inability to stop it. If He saw the difficulty I have raising my children on my own and the hopelessness and resentment I carry. If He really knew me . . . Rest assured, single mother. He knows you fully, even the doubts and cynicism you wrestle with in this moment. He waits for you at the well, not with condemnation, but with living water and the invitation to know Him.
- Jesus offers living water to quench our souls. As the woman walked to the well that morning, she never could have anticipated the remarkable event that was to take place. She intended to fill her vessel with water and left instead with a heart filled with grace and truth.
Like the woman at the well, we are thirsty women. We thirst not only for the basic necessities of this life, but also for companionship, love, security, and peace. We thirst for strength, healing, and significance. And when our thirst becomes unbearable, we walk to the wells of this world in hopes of filling our vessels with something that will support and sustain us.
Jesus made a stunning claim.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” JOHN 4:13–14
While Jesus understood the woman would return to the well for water to sustain her physical body, He offered living water to sustain her soul. I know what you may be thinking. Living water sounds great in theory, but I’m struggling to pay rent and put food on the table. I have to live in reality. Give me something practical.
I get it. Remember, I was that list-making single momma who ran into the open arms and empty promises of this world. I drank from the wells and stagnant cisterns, yet I remained thirsty. Eternally thirsty. While our bodies thirst for water, our souls thirst for what is eternal.
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
We live in a broken world, dear one. Being a Christian does not ensure a life free from suffering and pain, nor are we promised a life free from want. But through His living water, God empowers us to walk through difficult circumstances with courage, dignity, and grace. And for those of us who need to rebuild our homes, God’s Word shows the intrinsic connection between living water and restoration.
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
Did you see that? The Old Testament prophet Isaiah, the same man who prophesied Jesus’ birth, says we will be called “Repairer of Broken Walls” and “Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Through His living water, God strengthens us to raise up our foundations and repair our broken walls. What a comforting promise for those of us who define our homes as broken.
Michelle Lynn Senters has a message for single moms— one forged in her own journey and deepened through her years of ministry to single mothers. “You are not alone.” She is the Founder and Director of SEEN, a ministry designed to demonstrate the love of Christ to single mothers and equip churches to meet their spiritual needs. Michelle is a sought-after speaker at women’s events, Bible studies, and writer’s conferences. She is the author of The Unseen Companion-God with the Single Mother. Learn more at www.michellelynnsenters.com and www.seenministries.com.
* Excerpt and adapted from The Unseen Companion-God with the Single Mother, ©2017 by Michelle Lynn Senters. Used with permission of Moody Publishers.