Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Samaritan Woman, Loneliness, and the Living Water

Samaritan woman.jpg
On the combox of my post, “Don’t Go to a Hardware Store for Tomatoes,” Beyond Blue reader Anne Costa wrote:

Reminds me of the woman at the well. She went looking for the counterfeit, second rate kind of living water and found the real thing… I’ve come to discover the well is within me and I have, with God’s help and grace, found a way to love myself by receiving His love?. I am the bakery, He is the Bread of my life.


I thought that was really beautiful, and ironic, too, because I had just written the following reflection on the Samaritan woman for a Lenten compilation of writings. Since tomorrow is the first day of Lent, I thought I’d share it on Beyond Blue …

The Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel is what we could safely label a “slow learner.” She’s gone through five husbands (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and the man with whom she presently lives might become number six if she doesn’t wake up to her less-than-healthy patterns of behavior. If we define the term insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results,” then we can call her a little insane, as well. 
And lonely. 
Like so many of us, she thinks a new person, place, or thing can fill the painful void inside of her that has her feeling inadequate and unhappy. Although husbands number one through five have failed to “complete” her, like that nauseating line from the 1996 flick, “Jerry Maguire,” she tries the same pony trick again and again because that’s really the only thing she knows. Back to the well she walks, figuratively speaking, looking for the thing that will truly sustain her. 
She’s horribly unsuccessful until Jesus appears. 
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,” Jesus tells her. “But whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 
Now she becomes brave. 
She could have easily responded to Jesus, “Yeah, whatever, I don’t believe you can really fill me in the way you say.” Or she could have said, “You know, I sort of like perpetually dating.” But she doesn’t. She acknowledges her loneliness, and makes it available for God’s healing and grace.

She does just as spiritual author Henri Nouwen suggests in his bestseller, The Inner Voice of Love:



It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for God’s healing. God does not want your loneliness; God wants to touch you in a way that permanently fulfills your deepest need.

That’s what we are called to do in Lent: to face our innate loneliness … the restlessness within that drives us away from God’s peace; the yearning for a better job, house, or roommate; the constant jockeying from yearning to yearning that leaves little room in our days for serenity and gratitude. We are called to be still, and to ask Jesus for a cup of his living water, the only thing that can truly sustain us in the way we so desire.



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  • Renata

    This was a beautiful posting. Thank you so much.

  • Elizabeth


  • Shelley

    Thank you, Tracy, this gives all of us slow learners beautiful hope of better things.

  • Donna

    love this!! beautifully written.

  • Female hair loss

    beautifully written… since my father was killed i felt like i had so much in my plate, and forgotten that my mother, sister and i were sharing the same plate… this made me realize a few things, things that i need to let go… thank you…

  • Mary

    Everything you say is quite true, especially in our time, but I have to speak in defense of the Samaritan woman. Her story is so often interpreted as if she were a contemporary woman, not a woman of her time. I read a very different interpretation from a Jewish teacher. Women in her day did not have the right to divorce their husbands; only husbands had the right of divorce. Although husbands could divorce their wives with little reason, they would lose standing in the community if they divorced, with one exception. Because children were highly valued to carry on the family line, a husband could divorce a barren wife without any loss of standing. It is likely that the Samaritan woman had tried to restart her life (possibly in a new place) several times and was put away 5 times because she was childless, and she had sunk to the level of living with someone for lack of any other way to support herself in her time. If this is the case, she was a woman who, through no fault of her own, was treated repeatedly as if she had little value as a woman or a person. Jesus showed great honor to her by speaking to her as if she did matter, and he reinforced that by letting her know that he knew her story, and he still valued her and invited her into the kingdom. It’s one of those reasons I love Jesus – he companied with the lowly, with someone who was a pariah in her community.

  • Sheryl

    Finally the spring of my soul is coming again! The winter is ending! I almost feel good!! Hallelujah! Thank you for this wonderful devotion

  • Christina W

    Once again I receive an email from Beyond Blue that is uncanny in its message for me…thank you..once again..

  • Skylark

    Thanks be to God, your inspiration Therese, for yet another fine piece of writing. And Mary, thanks for sharing your view of the Samaritan woman of another time and era who lived with little respect for her person or position in society. No matter the time, the place or the circumstances of our lives, Jesus is there waiting at the well for us all. I too Sheryl feel your excitement as Lent begins still in the cold and darkness of Winter…but the promise of light and warmth with the coming of Spring…and Easter Sunday! There is much to be hopeful about if we have faith. And if we have both of these, faith and hope, love will overflow in our lives and around us!

  • cassa

    I agree with what Mary said. From a sermon preached by a friend of mine:
    Back then, women didn’t have the freedom to end one marriage, – and start another. She lived at a time and place where women were more down-trodden – and didn’t have equal rights. Divorce at that time was the prerogative of the man, – and it was easy for him to obtain, – with little consequences, – like legal fees and alimony. Apparently, it had become so easy for a man to divorce his wife that all he had to do was publicly declare: “I divorce you.”
    Maybe her first husband divorced her because she didn’t bear any sons. Then, maybe her second husband divorced her because he had met someone prettier than she, and wanted be with her instead. Maybe the next husband decided she was too old, – and he’d look for a younger woman. Then there was the 4th and 5th times, – for who knows why. One can almost understand her reluctance to go through the marriage process again with the current man in her life. She had been rejected and abandoned by men, – time and again.

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