Enter the other’s life.
Yesterday, I jumped right to the heart of the “Woman at the well” story, but if we look at the beginning of that episode, we can see something perhaps more remarkable than what Jesus told the woman there.
Think about Jesus, a man in His thirties, traipsing around Galilee and Judea (and Samaria in this case) trying to teach a bunch of people the truth about God. How frustrating must that have been?
In verse 6, we learn that Jesus was tired. Do you think, in His eternity of existence in heaven, He had ever been tired? A couple of verses later, Jesus asks the woman for a drink. Why? Presumably He was thirsty. I’m pretty sure that when you’re a part of the Godhead and dwelling in heaven, you don’t get thirsty. Where were the disciples? They had gone into town to buy food, because, unlike in heaven, people on earth get hungry.
What else did Jesus not have to put up with in heaven? He didn’t encounter sinful people there. He didn’t discover people who hated Him for his ethnicity–like the Samaritans–or for His teaching–like the Pharisees.
What kind of fool leaves all of that to come dwell among humans, knowing that He’d end up murdered horribly? What kind of fool? A loving fool. A loving person, a person who wants to create a relationship, enters into the life of the other.
Honestly, any sacrifice we make to enter the life of someone else on earth is absurdly tiny compared with the sacrifice Jesus made by that entry.
- Do you have relationships in which you refuse to enter into the life of the other person? How does that work for you?
- What limits are there to how we should enter into the lives of others? Does Jesus’ life offer insight there?
- Pray that God will show you steps you need to take to become a meaningful part of the life of some meaningful person.
Maintain Relationship #1.
Not all relationships are created equal. As I write this, I’m in my office at school, a room that I’ve occupied for more than twenty years. Just recently, I’ve learned that my two best friends on this hall will most likely be moving elsewhere on campus in the near future. That bothers a bit, but I have other relationships that are more important. For example, if the college were to decide to move away from me–or move me away from them–then I’d be very troubled. No matter how happy I am with my employment, I wouldn’t be very settled if I had serious problems with family relationships. And family relationships I can manage so long as my primary human relationship, with my wife, remains healthy.
At Jacob’s well, Jesus tried to teach a woman who had given great effort to establishing a human relationship. That woman had been married five times and now lived with man number six (at least). The reality that Jesus tried to convey through his water metaphor was that human connection and worldly concerns will provide, at best, temporary salves to our hurts and needs. But when we drink from the living water, when we establish that relationship with Jesus, then we never thirst again.
Human relationships are hard, but they can be immensely less hard if we keep our relationship with Christ in good order.
- What is the hierarchy of your relationships? Do you put anything above God? What comes next? Are they in the right order?
- What maintenance does your relationship with God, through Jesus, need? Are you willing to put in the work to make those repairs?
- Bring the needs of your relationship with God to Him in prayer each day this week. Make sure that two of you are talking meaningfully and regularly.
We’re not made to be alone.
Back in my college years, I worked at a One-Hour Photo store. One of my co-workers, Tammy, could be described like this: Everybody found her wonderful so long as she never had to be around anyone. If you read that sentence carefully, you’ll see that she didn’t bother other people so much with her presence as other people bothered her with theirs.
Customers almost always annoyed Tammy. She didn’t so much mind the regulars who came in and gave us a couple of rolls of film to process. It was the others, the people who had three Christmases on one disposable camera or who wondered why we didn’t think they should blow up to poster size their underexposed shots on the smallest size film available. Those people made Tammy nuts.
I’ll admit that when I started at the store, I made Tammy nuts, but we eventually became friends, provided I didn’t ask too many questions.
One day, I suggested that her dream job would be working in a basement lab under one of those old parking lot photo booths. People would drop their film into a chute, and she’d never have to talk to them. She smiled. It sounded good.
But really, Tammy wasn’t that much of a recluse. Very few people really want constant solitude. Those who say they want it will wind up talking to a volleyball if they get it. God made us to have relationships. We will have relationships. The only question is how healthy those relationships will be.
- Take an inventory of the relationships in your life. Which ones are healthy? Which ones need some fixing up?
- Are the problem relationships in your life the result of choosing the wrong person with whom to relate or relating in the wrong manner?
- Pick an important relationship in your life that you can pray over each day for the next week. Then actually do it!
Rethink death–yours and others.
I can’t say much for his political or military loyalties, but the bravery, genius, and Christian faith of Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson can’t be doubted. It is said that Jackson, in battle, demonstrated absolutely no fear, riding about on his horse, bullets whizzing past him. When asked about that apparent death-defying behavior, Jackson is reputed to have said that if God intended him to die, then he would die, and if God intended him to live, then he would live.
It is appointed, we learn from Hebrews 9:27, for people to die once and then face the judgment. Everyone, it seems, will die and face the judgment. The best efforts of people of the past to live forever have failed. Despite the advances in modern medicine, people still die. As much as we want to pretend it won’t happen, it will–followed by the judgment.
When we don’t have to worry about that judgment, when we know how it will turn out, then can ride around in our lives like Stonewall Jackson. He was not fool. He didn’t want a piece of shrapnel tearing through his body, but he trusted in both the protection of God and the ultimate destination that his soul would reach.
If Christians spend their lives acting as if they have something to fear from this world, then they need to spend some time reflecting on the implications of their theology. As for me, I’d like to see myself riding bravely into whatever battle God stirs up.
- Do you worry about your death? What is the nature of that worry?
- How does your worry change your behavior? Or what does lack of worry enable you to achieve?
- Pray this week that God will help you develop a “Stonewall” attitude toward death.
Rethink your delays.
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard had a theory:
If you say, “I will quit gambling forever, but I’ll do it after going to the casino tonight,” then you will never quit gambling. On the other hand, if you say, “I may not be able to quit gambling, but for today, I will not go to the casino,” then you may have hope.
I find a lot of truth in that, although I’ve never struggled with gambling. The same can be said for losing wait or exercising or reading the Bible or tithing or getting involved in missions or establishing a home budget or anything. How often do we think that one of these days we’ll either stop that negative behavior or start the good one but that we’ll make that change after indulging in the old behavior one more time. “Just one more episode of The Great British Baking Show and then I’m really going to start doing the laundry!”
When we believe in Jesus and all that He means to our lives, then there shouldn’t be any delay in our reaction to Him. Martha said that she believed that Jesus could still receive anything He asked of God, so why didn’t she go ahead and ask Him?
The reality, of course, is that our belief is almost always limited by our unbelief, our faith is tempered by our doubt. That doesn’t make us bad Christians; it makes us normal Christians.
Jesus, however, did not call us to be normal, and one path to super-normal Christianity is to rethink those delays that turn into denials.
- What behaviors of obedience do you find yourself putting off until tomorrow or “some day”?
- What lies at the root of your delays? Is it addiction to self or a lack of confidence in Christ?
- Pray today that God will make you more immediately obedient to His call and commission.