How often do we go to church or work or school, and when asked, “How are you?” We smile politely and say, “I’m fine” or “doing ok.” Are we really ok? Do people know how hard things have been recently? Probably not. I think it’s safe to say that we’re not fans of revealing our weaknesses to one another. It’s cringe-worthy to many of us to speak honestly about how things really are. In some ways it is easier to put a brave face on and keep going on with life… stiff upper lip, right?
I know, because I am one of those people who wears the “things are great!” mask, trying to be cheerful around others, when inside, I know that I am not. The truth is I naturally hide from others, myself and God when things are challenging or when I’m hurting.
When we hide behind our “masks” we are often trying to self preserve and avoid rejection. What if people really knew what was going on? What would they think of me? Can I trust people with the truth? Those questions have definitely rolled around my head many times before. But things are starting to change for me…
Theres a story in John 4 where Jesus was traveling through a little town in Samaria and stopped at a well to rest. A woman came in the heat of the day to draw water. Jesus strikes up a conversation by asking for a drink. The woman was surprised as Jews and Samaritans were bitter rivals. In the midst of their conversation Jesus asks the woman to bring her husband. She is confronted with an uncomfortable question, and responds, “I don’t have a husband.” A half truth. Jesus goes around her avoidance of the question and presents the truth about her life: “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (v 17-18)
Bombshell! I imagine there to have been a pause at this point. Maybe she is squirming inside. She manages to gather her composure and changes the subject, but Jesus has a way of bringing her back to the real matter at hand. Eventually she retorts, “I know that when the Messiah comes, he will explain all things to us,” hoping this will finally bring the conversation to an end.
But then Jesus says to her, “I am He.”
She suddenly realises who Jesus was, and urgently ran to tell the other villagers. These are the words that she said to them: “Come meet the man who told me all I ever did! Could this be the Messiah?”
To be honest, I look at her response with bewilderment. This is how she encourages people to come meet Jesus? Surely, six different broken relationships would leave anyone seriously damaged. She might have felt used. The reason she was going to draw water in the heat of the day was because she was aware of her social standing. She was probably ostracised by her community and avoided them out of fear that her shame would be rubbed in her face. She was hurting inside and the desire to stay hidden would be great. So, why on earth would she be so open and willing to share this?
Jesus, in his kindness, confronted the things she was hiding. He didn’t do it to shame her, but rather, to free her from the power of her shame. Jesus didn’t condemn her in her sin and brokenness. He knew ALL, and still loved her. He treated her with dignity and respect. He covered her with grace. She found there was an acceptance unlike anything she had experienced before. This gave her the courage to be honest about herself.
She was free, and she wanted others to meet this amazing man. Perhaps the villagers greeted her with a degree of suspicion? After all, she was “that” woman. How could they take her word for it? But maybe they saw that something was very different about her, and it was pure curiosity that drew them towards Jesus. She became a bearer of the good news that God had come. God used her to change her whole town! They came and saw Him, and Jesus ended up staying for two more days teaching the people. They said to her afterwards, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world” (v42).
Easter is fast approaching and this story is a wonderful reminder of why Jesus came, why He died on the cross for us and most importantly, why He rose.
He rose to give us new life and freedom in Himself. Freedom in Christ includes being honest and vulnerable about where we are, even if it means exposing those parts of us that we’d rather not. Freedom means we live with confidence in who we are created by God to be, even when we do not have everything all together or perfect. He invites you to take the mask off because only then can the authentic, true self be seen. God can use you the way he used the Samaritan woman. She was freed from the terrible burden of her sin. It no longer restricted her, and it doesn’t have to restrict you either. When we bravely open ourselves to God “in spirit and in truth” (v23), we experience safety and healing that brings freedom to our whole selves. It becomes within us “a fresh, bubbling spring, giving (us) eternal life” (v14), and we want others to experience the same.
Jesus is speaking truthfully and tenderly to me, helping me find freedom from my past and hurts. I think I am starting to understand how the Samaritan Woman must have felt. As someone who has worn the mask and felt the burden since I was little, it feels exhilarating to be free, even if I still have quite a long way to go. I feel less pressure to make myself perfect. I can be more honest with myself and with others. I can look at myself in the mirror and not see the shame or disgust.The fear of being “found out” is gone because I am learning that I have true belonging as His child. I am giving myself permission to be me, the way He made me. This might all seem like elementary faith, and in some ways it is. But elementary faith can often get stuck in our heads without reaching all the way down to our hearts.
This freedom is starting to well up within me, and like the Samaritan Woman, I want to say to people around me, even in ALL my mess, “Come and see the Man who told me all I ever did. He is Jesus. He is the Risen God, the Messiah.”
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Thoughts, experiences, and encouragement from the ladies of Falkirk Vineyard.