Confronted by Stigma

“‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)”

John 4:9

In my life right now, I’m reading through the Gospel of St. John–slowly and prayerfully. Tonight, I read John 4:1-18, and found myself in the story of the Samaritan Woman. When I say I found my self IN the story, I mean it; and God confronted my heart immediately. This story is pretty much a petty conversation with racial undertones between a Samaritan woman, and Jesus (a Jew). Jesus is asking for a drink of water while the woman is drawing water for herself at the well, and she is not trying to have this conversation. She replies with sarcasm to everything Jesus says: “You, a Jew, are asking ME for a drink?” “Do you think you’re better than my ancestors?” This woman is so caught up in the racial division–her perception of the type of person Jesus is–that she fails to see God standing right in front of her. And then, it hit me…

There are so many people that I come into contact with whom I pre-judge based on the type of person I think they are. I automatically disassociate myself from them and label them as other–male, aggressive, uneducated, trashy, ignorant. I do this to my detriment. While, according to my own stupid, egotistical, self-absorbed standards these things may be true of them, I’m the asshole in the situation. And you know what? I’m so consumed by this that I can’t even see God’s presence in that person, right in front of me. How many times do we walk away from these situations without listening for the word of God in another’s voice, or without recognizing that this beautifully imperfect human being–who’s usually being more authentic than I am at the moment–is reflecting a particular piece of God’s image? I think God appears more often as “these people” in our lives than we would like to think.

Tonight, I prayed that I would be able to work on this, because that’s not the type of person that I want to be, and that’s not the kind of person I want to inspire others to be. But, I, too, am a perfectly broken human being. I need forgiveness more than I can explain, and I’m sure you feel that way too. Life is a beautiful exercise in learning, growing, and slowly becoming more holy each day. We mess up, we fall, we do shameful things–but Jesus says get back up. Because you know what? After this conversation, Jesus revealed himself to this woman, and she rejoiced. I hope we can find a way to do that too.


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