The Samaritan Woman and Loneliness

On the combox of my post, “Struggle With, Not Victory Over,” Beyond Blue reader Ann asked me to reprint my blog about the Samaritan woman I wrote last March. Since the topic deals with loneliness and toxic relationships, I figured it was worth reposting.

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.

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.

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: 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.

Originally published on Beyond Blue at Beliefnet.com

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