A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Last night as I tucked my son into bed, I picked up Max Lucado’s You Are Special. As I read the book to Will, I was drawn into the world of wooden people called Wemmicks, all carved by the same woodworker, Eli. Every day the Wemmicks move about their village sticking black dots and gold stars upon one another. The black dots are marks of shame, of not measuring up to the standard. The gold stars are badges of beauty, talent, and success. The blatant meritocracy was jarring for me. I would rather pretend that we’re not constantly comparing and competing. My heart hurt for Punchinello, the Wemmick who would only ever get black dots. But then he sees Lucia. She doesn’t have any dots or stars, and he wonders why. It’s not that the people don’t try to put dots and stars on her; they just don’t stick. Lucia tells Punchinello to visit Eli the woodcarver and figure out why that’s the case. To his shock, Punchinello learns that nothing sticks to Lucia because she believes that what Eli thinks about her is more important than what the other Wemmicks think. Eli invites Punchinello to return to the woodshop every day so that he can remember who he is.
At the end, I asked my son, “Will, do you understand what the story is saying?”
“No, I just want to go to sleep.”
One day it will make sense to Will. But last night, the message was for me: The more we trust the story of God’s love for us, the less we care about what the world thinks. The stickers only stick if we let them. When we don’t spend time with our Creator and Savior, we forget the Story, and other stories start to define us.
Imagine for a moment: What if the woman at the well never encountered Jesus? She wouldn’t know His initiating love, the love that seeks her out and calls her to worship Him. She wouldn’t know that Jesus is greater—greater than Jacob and his well; greater than the men to whom she had given her life. She wouldn’t have a true awareness of her sin, the desperation that makes the good news truly good. She wouldn’t know the salvation that turns her life upside down and gives her a holy purpose to share that story with everyone around her. If she never met Jesus, she would live the rest of her life defined by the wrong story, by the dots that stick to her.
What would happen if we “neglected meeting together, as is the habit of some” (Hebrews 10:25)? What if, because of busyness or sports or travel or a pandemic or a sluggish heart, we drifted away from corporate worship? We would plug ourselves into another story, and that story would shape us into the image of whatever counterfeit god it exalts. The dots and stars would stick, and we would let them stick. Do we see the power of story to shape us? What if Frodo never left the Shire? What if Lucy never went through the wardrobe? What if we drifted away from worshiping together as the people of God?
Brothers and sisters, do you understand what the story is saying?
In this season particularly, I pray that we won’t say, “No, I just want to go to sleep.”
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
not neglecting to meet together,
as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another,
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.