*Humor me for a moment and let’s listen to the stories of a thousand women, (mine included), being told in one. In the gospel of John chapter 4, we are given so little detail about the Woman at the Well’s past. What happened in her childhood? What were her parents like? What implicit messages did she receive from her church? What really happened inside all six relationships and how did they end? There are theories and speculation but no one really knows her story….except Jesus. He knew the details and he didn’t walk away. No –– he came FOR the “likes of her”, in the heat of the mid-day sun when all the other villagers would have already drawn water in the cool of morning. He didn’t point, he didn’t prescribe, and he didn’t sneer. And, I imagine, he only mentioned the very few details he did during their conversation, not because the details of her life were irrelevant, but because he wanted her to know he was coming straight for her shame –– the pinnacle parts that keep her imprisoned –– so he could bind them up for good, cut the shame-strings that kept her head tied toward the ground, and allow her to finally step into the LIFE God created her to live.
“He told me all I ever did”, was a celebration cry! The shame that kept her bound, isolated, traumatized and walking to the well by herself in the heat of the day, was NO MORE!
My name is Well Woman. Well Woman I‘m she, You follow, laugh, and mock about me. You jeer, criticize, assuming you know, The details are endless, some never show. The scar on my heart, matches one on my thigh, Wrist scars tell secrets of me begging to die. Dying I wish for, most days I just hide, Shame killed my soul long ago, time, I just bide. You couldn’t have known the grown man who came, On 6-year-old me, he placed a shame-stain. You couldn’t have known I wasn’t believed, He kept on walking, to wrongs I then cleaved. Anger and shame, henceforth I lived, Innocence gone, oh what I’d give. To be normal like she, a spotless, pure lamb, Pleasing to God. Pleasing to man. You couldn’t have known my home life was hard, Generational curses had us all barred. You couldn’t have known, they smiled so wide, To the Temple we go, the trauma we’ll hide. Little girls poked through with holes wide a ‘gaping, Grow up to be women, the holes still shaping, The way we handle every thought, every word, The decisions you scoff at, and think are absurd. Now you have context, enough anyway, To understand further what I’m ‘bout to say. Lean in real close, I’ll tell you a story, ‘Bout worn scarlet letters that turn into glory. § My name is Well Woman. Well Woman I’m she. The first one was violent; he’d punch and strike me. Could never try hard enough, do enough to please, All night spent in service, shoved down on worn knees. The second was tender and loving at first, Then drink took him over, laid him in a hearse. What to do, what to do, I had no real hope, For a widow, hope laid, at the end of a rope. The third went looking, for a real-damn-good time, But I was still bleeding, still pleading for mine. “A good time, what’s that?” I asked those ahead, They said, “persevere through”, it’s what the good book said. Well, I just couldn’t do it, not long anyway, But it mattered not, good times led him astray. I tried to stay single, recover alone, But starvation forced me in number four’s home. The fourth was so harsh, degrading and mean, Didn’t hit like the first but loved making me scream. He was after my tears, he knew I’d comply, “No one wants you Well Woman, you’re mine till you die”. The fifth seemed so charming successful and groomed, Things weren’t as they seemed; disease soon struck his mood. The ground we’d gained, took hold of his skin, His body fell quickly, despair fell within. By the sixth I was DONE, yet he was gentile, “To what shall I do with him?” since safe wasn’t real. Some said, “Get married, so to hell you won’t sink!” Others said, “Run! He’s worse than you think!” But hell didn’t scare me, I’d already been, “To where shall I run? Did you secure me an inn?” Of course, they did not! All they said was, “Just pray”, While my heart and knees bled, they went on with their day. You see, being Well Woman and a widow to boot, Left me ragged, vulnerable, susceptible to loot. One day I was sleeping, after walking the hills, Bad people connived, then stole all my meals. What to do? What to do? I have no food left, Lying hungry, I cried, bereaved and bereft. The others, they have, no framework for this, I fit not in their box, so my pain, they dismiss. Six offered me groceries, I offered him a roof, Though his past was shaky, like mine full of proof. Proof of devastation, dysfunction and harm, Full of unnamed traumas, full of unnamed arms. Six soothed my physical, showed me so much love, He quieted my mental, could he be from above? “Sinful, sub-optimal, cohabitation” they said, But they didn’t know, he’s why I’m not dead. As good as six was, something still lacked inside, Though my physical was better, inside I still cried. “Why is this?” I wondered, number six I adore, Something whispered, “He’s great! But Well Woman, there’s more…” This whisper was foreign, it sounded so kind, Unlike those voices, inside my mind. When traumas stay lodged, and grief is so real, Safety you seek but unsafe you still feel. § One day I grew thirsty, thirst I couldn’t quench, So I ran toward the well, the voices I couldn’t clinch. “Lynch yourself from the nearest tree; damaged, defective, you’ll always be,” “The worst kind of woman, you’ll never be well,” “Doesn’t matter what ails you, you’re going to hell.” “What’s the point?” said they, “you’ll fall all the way”, All the way to the well, I did fall that day. Stumbling, tripping, blurred vision to boot, “You’re hopeless,” said they, “rotten straight from the root.” As I approached the side of the well-wall to drink, A man was sitting atop of the brink. His look was different, I felt in my heart His face, so kind, I could not depart. “Oh no he’s a Jew!”, The voices said run! But I stood there still, becoming undone. “He’s worse than them all, run as fast as you can!” But I kept on peering, at this new, Jew man. “Well, woman,” he said, “Nice to see you today”, “Well Woman I’m she, you’d better stay away”. “Well, woman,” he replied, I simply can’t go, “Why?” insisted I, “I’m Samaritan you know.” “Well, woman,” said he,” I know who you are, I know all you’ve done; I know every scar. I know there’s a scar on your heart and your thigh, I saw your wrist bleeding, when you tried to die.” “I know you’ve had five, number six isn’t yours, I know you’ve been hurt, been trampled by scores. I know people sneered because they didn’t know, No framework for that, they only saw show.” “The show that is outward, skin simply laid bare, But I see your heart, the real story lies there. You look for a drink but true drink you won’t find, Until you drink me, water of a new kind.” “You’re looking for drink to satisfy your thirst, I’m looking for you, to remove your curse. I’m a living drink that satisfies, and seeps into your scars, A living drink that reaches the root, the begging of your bars.” “The law it is no good here, worry not woman you are safe”, “How can this be true?” I asked of this Jew, “The law, it’s not meant to break.” “Well, woman it’s not broken, I never said it’d be, Blood and Body came to fill it, the Messiah, I am he.” “You mean I’m forgiven? Not dirty no more? You mean people like me; you came to restore? You’re not going to shame me or tell me to go? You’re not going to point or find stones to throw?” “You mean to tell me, that you see my heart? You mean to tell me I get a new start? But Jew man you know, they’ll never forgive, But Jew man they hate me, wish I didn’t live.” “Well, woman it’s sad but you must know the truth, Some of those people will never see proof. Their hearts are too hard to hear what you say, But no matter what, you tell anyway.” “Well, woman, it’s time, for your return home, Go tell the sixth and the others you’ve known. That you’re not to the same woman, because you’ve met me, That I’m found at the well, if proof they must see.” § I ran as fast as torn knees could carry, down to the city, to the heart of the merry, To the ones whose checklists were perfect, unmarred, to the ones like me, living hopeless and scarred. “Well Woman,” I shouted, “I’m no longer she! But WELL, I am now, I’m healed and I’m free! Free of hopelessness, blemish and shame, Free of the guilt and free of the stain!” “What is this?” said they, “you must be possessed,” “He knew all my past and said go tell the rest! He did not condemn me or shame me like you, He did not call me dirty, he said I was new!” “He did not say leave him, he did not say marry, He simply said, ‘Go now, my name must you carry’. ‘Carry to six and to those all around, Who mock you and gawk you and talk around town.’” He did not say, “clean up, get up off the floor.” He did not say, “bow down, repent filthy whore.” He did not say, “fix it, the mess that you’re in”, He simply said, “Go now, I’ve taken your sin.” He did not say, “One chance is all you now get.” He did not say, “Told you, now go pay your debt.” He did not say, “Listen you’re lucky this time.” He simply said, “Go now and tell them you’re mine.” He said, “Tell them I’m here, that Well Woman met me, And henceforth, WELL, she’ll now always be. Tell them I’ve wrapped you in blankets of snow, White is the color, marks no longer show.” “Tell them I’m here now, to offer them rest, To tell all they’ve done, hear all they confess. Tell them I realize there’s no going back, That they can press onward, trusting me with their lack.” “Tell them I’ll heal them and make them well too, Tell them I’ll save them and make their hearts new. Tell them to come, living water is free, Jew nor Samaritan, they’ll no longer be.” “A child of God will be their new name, Living water transforms, they won’t be the same. A new child of God is what they’ll now be, their traumas and core wounds will be told to flee.” § My name is WELL Woman. WELL Woman I’m she, I’m no longer sick, since he set me free. Free from the sadness and free from the stain, Free from the voices and free from the pain. My life was in shambles, I had nothing left, Till the rock of all ages, took me under his cleft. To safety he brought me, connection restored, No longer rejected, no longer ignored. Free from the traumas and free from the wounds, Free from the things others wrongly assumed. From this day forward, there’s things you won’t see, When you walk my direction, you won’t see me flee. You won’t see me hiding, avoiding in shame, I will not respond to my former name. In the heat of the day, you won’t see me there, I’ll be walking with you, in the cool morning air. I’ll soak up each sunrise, and watch the sunset, I’ll smile when you pass, so you won’t soon forget, That I’m a WELL woman, my past is no more, Gone as far as the east is from the west shore. Some of you won’t look, you’ll keep walking away, To your own degradation, you’ll keep walking all day. Some of you will peer through the veil on your face, Some of you’ll still hate me because of my race. But some of you will smile, you’ll see me like he, Some of you will want to get to know me. Some of you will value the message I tell, Some of you will swear I’m still going to hell. Some of you will ask me to tell you my story, About worn scarlet letters that turned into glory. Regardless of stance, I’m happy to say, On the well-wall I left, my scarlet letter that day. I have a new name, he now calls me glory, (What God word could you put here?) I’m no longer Well Woman; he now calls me Lori. (Put your name here and in the last sentence below.) My name is Lori, Lori I’m she, For WELL I am now and will ALWAYS be.
Psalm 103 –– “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
In honor of ALL the Women who have stood and are still standing at the Wells throughout space, time and history, including present day. May you never again feel ostracized because of your past. May you never again cry yourself to sleep because of hopelessness, despair and shame. And may you never again feel the soul-crushing weight that shame wants to bury you underneath.
4 thoughts on “Well Woman”
Amazing. Just amazing. You’re so gifted. Thanks for sharing the WellWoman story that’s all of our stories in a passionate and powerful way. Love you!
Yes it is my dear friend. I continue to become both fascinated and saddened the more I learn and understand about childhood development, primary attachments and how trauma literally lodges itself inside our bodies, effecting/changing everything we think, do and say, including how our nervous systems respond and propel us through life. So many bible stories for which we have no details and I wonder what was going on at the roots in some of those stories? I’m fascinated because the more neuropsychology that comes out, the more it aligns with what Jesus said all along. Saddened because I see even more clearly just how much shame/guilt has been levied over women (and men) coming out of traumatic circumstances especially. The explicit messages they’re told is, ” Grace, Grace, Grace! Jesus loves, Jesus forgives and Jesus saves.” However, the implicit messages they receive are “if your life and your life choices don’t look like ours, we have nothing for you and we’ll walk away.” There are so many who become excellent finger-pointers but have little knowledge about what happened to the person they are pointing at. Such as seems to be the case with the woman in John 4. There is no Jesus in that. There is no compassion in that. I’m so thankful for compassionate people like you, Heather. You’re loyal and hang in there with people even on their messiest days. You have no idea what that communicates to someone with a past chalk-full of trauma and abuse.
Beautiful translation, or interpretation, of the story of the Well Woman. Well done Lori. Our Lord has blessed you with a gift of writing and sharing it with others. May others come to know our Lord through your writings.
Thank you for these words, Bill. The writing life was described by someone once like this, ” Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit down and slice a vein…” Ha! A writer bleeds the very essence of their self out for the world to see. It’s not an exact science and there really is no magic formula. It’s as if you just sit down and hemorrhage out your inner world in written format. I’m learning as I go but I’m showing up, being obedient and enjoying the moments of creativity amidst the craziness of life. As for the story, she (the well woman) has so much to teach us all. The details matter and those who refuse to listen or consider those things which drive a person to make the choices they make, aren’t people you want in your life. I imagine Jesus will tell us so much more on this subject one day!