by Kristin Aull
I love conversations that move quickly out of small talk and into deep waters. For me, that almost inevitably leads into spiritual topics. But in professional settings and with our polarized culture, it can feel impossible to get to a real exchange of ideas. The fear that I might push someone farther from God has felt unsurmountable at times, and yet I long for those around me to know Jesus, the one who sought me out and has walked with me, giving me life.
The story of the woman at the well in John 4 shows us how Jesus navigated these charged waters and has given me insight in how to introduce our savior to the people around us in an uncomplicated, natural way.
Jesus knew there was a woman suffering, one who desperately needed to know that she was beloved by God. He goes into forbidden territory (Samaria) to meet her. Settling in at the well, he waits. When she arrives, he establishes a connection with a question for help: “Can you give me a drink?”
She is shocked to be spoken to! Jesus treats her as a valuable person, despite the cultural views of her life circumstances and gender. As he sips his water, he opens the door to spiritual conversation.
“If you knew how generous God is, you would ask me for living water!”
Jesus brings up the topic of “God”. He’s breaking the ice first, signaling he is open to conversation about spirituality. He doesn’t use “religious” words, that would have no meaning to her but rather relates spiritual emptiness to thirst. In essence, He’s asking a quiet question, “Are you (spiritually) thirsty?.”
I love that Jesus doesn’t give her a sales spiel, or a sermon, but offers instead an open, back-and-forth conversation. She asks questions, gives her thoughts. Jesus takes time to listen and respond. focusing on the heart of her questions. Jesus wants her to know who he is and not get trapped in religious debate. He listens for the question behind the question: what kind of worship does God want? How would I go about that?
Jesus starts a conversation, but doesn’t do all the talking. He demonstrates a beautiful part of God’s character in the way he listens: he is El Shema - the God who hears.
Jesus clears the way to God for her by explaining who he is, “I AM the Messiah!” Getting to know Jesus has given her a taste of the “living water, springing up to eternal life”. She begins to understand the amazing love and restoration he offers, and Jesus makes sure she understands what it is that she is experiencing – She is meeting the Savior. He comes into focus, and she is excited!
The Samaritan woman’s ordinary workday becomes a life-changing encounter. Filled with joy, she breaks the barriers of shame and goes to the village, asking others to come and see! The living water she has received from Jesus, now flows to the whole dry town and “Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, ‘He told me everything I ever did!’”
The new life in Jesus inspires her to share what she has found! She is now the one who runs to make a connection with the people in her village, starting spiritual conversations by sharing what she’s experienced, and clearing the path to him.
I love how the story ends with the confession of many: “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Studying this story has cleared much of my anxiety about sharing my faith. I try to follow simply by being willing to set aside my agenda and really see the people that are in my day. I ask the Lord to help me see them, like he does and imagine the demands on their lives. I have recognized this is a process for most people and that my role today is just a part of God’s work in their lives. This has released the pressure and allowed me to just be present to the person in front of me. I am more likely to share a bit of my thoughts on faith or Jesus in conversation and just see if there is interest in more discussion. And I try, without prejudgment or defense, to clear people’s understanding of who I know Jesus to be.
Connection, Conversation, Clear Path and then trust Jesus to do what he does – offer the gift of living water, fresh, bubbling spirit giving eternal life!
Kristin Aull is a pastor, speaker, and writer. She and her husband of 31 years serve on the leadership team for Pursuit Friends Network of House Churches. She lives in Ohio and is working on a Master’s at Denver Seminary. Find her podcast at Joy and Java.