By Lynn Barwell
Surprising but true, some of my most nourishing conversations have taken place while filling my water bottle at the fountain of my local gym. There is something about people exercising together that fosters exchanges which tend to be mutually encouraging and enriching. These conversations usually go far beyond the desire to improve our physical bodies; they are often about how we are seeking to grow and lead more fulfilling lives in general. You would be surprised by how many spiritual conversations abound in the gym—not to mention others I have experienced at the water cooler in a variety of workplaces and parks as well. I have developed several friendships initiated at the water cooler.
Whether it is gathering at the water fountain, praying for rain to fall on parched land, or enjoying a swim on a hot, sunny day, water calls people together at the level of our most basic human needs. When Jesus took a noonday break by a well in Samaria, it was inevitable that someone would come by to draw water. He also knew that anyone braving the blazing sun to draw water at such an inopportune time of day was probably a good candidate to engage in spiritual conversation. When a Samaritan woman shows up at the well, she enters a most unexpected and unconventional dialogue with a Jewish man, a stranger with whom she was culturally discouraged from associating. Little did she know that this chance encounter with Jesus will turn her life around.
Do we not sometimes feel like stagnant, bottled water, trapped by past circumstances and inner voices that seem to diminish our potential for the future?
When Jesus offers God’s living water to the Samaritan woman, she immediately knows in her heart that a dry and parched thirst is being quenched. As Jesus recounts her story, she senses that this man, whom she later comes to know as the Messiah, sees her not in relation to her present life circumstances and past relationships; his vision awakens the vital life force within her. If the human body is made up of about 60% water, we could say that Jesus has enabled this woman to access the wellspring within from which she can draw her deepest, loving God-given identity. Her response? To return to town and tell people. Through this remarkable spiritual experience, the woman becomes a source for others to taste the same living water.
Do we not sometimes feel like stagnant, bottled water, trapped by past circumstances and inner voices that seem to diminish our potential for the future? Perhaps this is how the Samaritan woman felt before she met Jesus in her daily humdrum existence and then sensed a release through her being seen and valued by him, perhaps for the first time in her life. How can we cultivate a culture of transformative encounters in our own lives?
Drawing from Jesus as a model, a spiritual accompanier is someone who listens and responds with reverence to help others uncover glimpses of the extraordinary at work in the ordinary fabric of their lives.
One possibility is to seek spiritual accompaniment. Drawing from Jesus as a model, a spiritual accompanier is someone who listens and responds with reverence to help others uncover glimpses of the extraordinary at work in the ordinary fabric of their lives. If spiritual accompaniment is not an option, we can also strive to turn every encounter into an opportunity to go beyond our personal biases and preconceived ideas in order to engage in genuine conversations with others. And, while we may not meet Jesus at the well, we can imagine ourselves as the Samaritan woman, attuning our ears to an inner voice that speaks as lovingly as Jesus would, enabling us to draw from the deeper truth within us. May every sip of water remind us how we have been created with the innate and infinite capacity to live loving, joyous, and meaningful lives.