A Slut in the Seminary

I am by no means technologically ignorant. The horizon of techo-idiocy, however, is somewhat visible from where I stand. This is to say, my relationship with technology is. . . . complicated. The more I know, the more I see how much there is to know.

IMG_0037
I mean, I have good tutors at home.

But when I want to know something about buying tech, I go to one of two places: Fry’s, or the Apple Store. You know why? Because the salespeople there do not treat me like a techno idiot. They explain everything very well, using tech language, and then if I choose to say, “please put that in terms that do not sound like Congolese to me,” they will do so. What they have never done is take one look at me, think “middle-aged woman,” and condescend. We have intelligent conversations, and I purchase what I need.

I like that in a salesperson. I go back.

You know the opposite feeling. It happened the last time you went to the doctor and he said, “Well honey, it’s probably just stress.” Or the car mechanic said, “Huh. That sound doesn’t happen to me. Have you checked the oil?” Or you even said yourself, “I’m just a mom. What do I know about theology?”

There are still a lot of places where you and I, ladies, are treated dumb. Or worse, we play dumb, because that’s what we’ve learned to get by, and now we believe it.

Ever since I was the five-year-old who told Santa, “I don’t want a stupid little kid coloring book—I want to do dot-to-dot” most of my acquaintances have been well aware—I do not do condescension well. (I need to work on that. It does not usually precede my best shining-Jesus moments.)

IMG_2842That’s why I love today’s Jesus encounter—one of the last we’ll see in this series. He comes across a woman most people discount, ignore, or shun, and He SEES her. He acknowledges her. He takes her seriously. There is not a hint of condescension in any of Jesus’ encounters with women, and this is one of the best.

Eventually he (Jesus) came to the Samaritan village of Sychar. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her,“Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” (John 4.4-10)

For many, this is a familiar story. This woman, whom any Jewish man would steer clear of on account of a: she is a woman, b: she is a Samaritan (scary wrong-believing foreigner), and c: she is in an immoral relationship (we find later on), is the one Jesus strikes up a lunchtime convo with.

Odd enough.

They go on to discuss some weighty things—worship, the Messiah, comparative religion, and theological questions worthy of a grad student.

Still odder. No woman dared bring up such topics with a Rabbi. What was she thinking?

For most of my life, I have heard this discussion interpreted as the woman’s attempt to smokescreen Jesus from getting around to her questionable personal life and morals. But you know what I think? I think the interpreters have been a little afraid of actually wrangling with an intelligent woman. Malala isn’t the first person to realize that some people are intimidated by “a girl with a book.”

IMG_5020Somehow, between multiple husbands and the hardships of being an outcast and all that entails (things like having to go for water in the hottest part of the day because the other women don’t want you around the well), this woman has manged to study some theology in between making beds and fetching water and having dinner ready for whichever man was there. Somehow, the raging waves of her life have not completely drown out the curiosity of her soul. Somehow, despite all the hard edges of her life, this woman has been hungry. She has needed to know.

And Jesus does not look down on her attempts. Not for a second.

He engages her, takes her questions seriously, talks on the same level he does his with disciples, and gets to the heart of the matter.

So what does this have to do with you or me?

A lot.

When is the last time you felt unseen? Like the things you know you know, the things closest to your heart and burning within you, went unheard? Or worse, you got a virtual little pat on the head and a, “How sweet is that? Look how cute she is when she’s serious!”

Oh honey, put it away for a while until you’re older/smarter/less emotional and then, well, we’ll see.

Pulling Weeds: Being Thankful for Real Community

Jesus doesn’t do that junk. Not to her. Not to me. Not to you.

No, remarkably, Jesus deals with the thing holding her back (her wrong relationships) and then sets her free to go tell the entire neighborhood what she’s learned. His disciples come back to find out he’s having a seminary session with the neighborhood slut, get a tad confused by that, and then watch Jesus turn her into a more dynamic evangelist than they’ve been in, like, ever.

Seriously, Jesus?

Seriously.

He takes her seriously. And beautiful things happen in her soul.

You’ve been told you can’t do something. I don’t know what it is, but you’ve been told you can’t do it. Because of your age, your gender, or your stage in life, you’ve been disqualified from something your heart told you was for you. You’ve asked your questions, and crickets. Or half-smiles. And somewhere along the line, you began to accept that, to believe you were, in fact, incapable of that thing. You began to say things like,

“I could never understand that.”

“I have to leave that to someone else.”

“I think that’s too hard for me.”

“I can’t do that and be a mom, too.”

“I’ll think about that later when I’m smarter/older/married/whatever.”

IMG_8765Jesus stands at the well and says to you: You are not stupid. You are not foolish. You have questions—I want to hear them. You have dreams–I want to see them. You have thoughts—I want you to set them free. Some people will shoot you down. Some will give you side eyes. I won’t. Ever.

Usually when we read this encounter, we focus on the amazing fact that Jesus talked to her at all. But what they talked about—how amazing is that? We rarely see that for what it is—Jesus taking us seriously, in all our flawed, frightened, messy hopes and dreams and doubts. And then making something incredible out of it.

Is this a Jesus we can love?

7 thoughts on “A Slut in the Seminary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s