Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her,
“Please give me a drink.”
One of my favorite women in the Bible is the Samaritan woman at the well from John 4:1-42. It feels like our stories are similar and that makes her my soul sister. If the woman at the well story feels like yours, too, then we are sisters as well.
The woman at the well and I are similar in avoiding telling our secrets and carrying our shame. She hid by going out to draw water when no one else would see her. I spent over four decades hiding a shame secret hoping no one would ever know. She was skeptical about who Jesus was and doubted His gift of grace. Because of my shame, I questioned whether God could love me, and I rejected His grace time after time.
She doubted God could love her. Me, too.
Do you have shame secrets, things you have never told anyone or only a few people, that hinder you from knowing and living in God’s love and grace?
The woman at the well represents many of us with a past and those of us who have secrets covered in shame and regret. Our history holds us captive, and like the Samaritan woman, we hide our shame and hope no one uncovers the truth.
But Jesus wants to set us free. He wants us to live free of shame and regret.
Jesus could have stayed silent that day at the well. He was a Jewish man; she a Samaritan woman. Complete opposites, and in that day, silence was expected. However, Jesus is not like everyone else. He spoke to the Samaritan woman and she was rescued from her shame, set free from secrets and regret. As for me, Jesus prevailed as well, saving me from my past. One moment I was living in the time before Jesus pulled me from the pit, and in the next moment, I was living free and drinking living water.
There was before Jesus, and then there was after.
Before the woman at the well encountered Jesus, she knew of him but not about him. Before she accepted his offer of living water, she believed she had to do something, be somebody different, to receive forgiveness and grace. The whole time Jesus was talking, she was probably thinking, “if He only knew the whole story.” I’ve felt that. Wondering if God knew the whole story would he persist? Could He love me if he knew what was done to me and by me?
He knows our stories from beginning to end, and He loves us anyway. Because He loves us so much, he has given us women with stories of shame a story of redemption. Jesus heals our stories of pain and gives us freedom. He means us too. We don’t have to change our past or clean up our act. Like the woman at the well, He meets us where we are today, in this moment.
So, if you are reading this and you have a past that you are hoping no one knows, I understand. Like the woman at the well, I have a before and after Jesus story too.
Before and After
When you have a before, you always have an after. Our lives are a timeline scattered with before and afters. Before you were born, and after you were born. Before you became a mother or father, and after your children are born. We remember life before we were married and life after the wedding and honeymoon. We lived one way before salvation and another after Jesus. There is one before right after another followed at varying distances of time by an after.
There is always before and after.
The moments, the split-seconds sometimes, between the before and after occasionally, cannot be stopped. Sometimes these divergent times are thrust upon us, and other times our afters are the result of choices, one path taken and another abandoned. Jobs, relationships, lifestyles are choices made in increments that guide our paths toward an after.
Uninvited turning points in the before and after are not knit together by our choices. These are the watershed moments we guard against, hoping it will never happen. We exercise regularly and eat healthy, hoping never to receive a life-threatening diagnosis. When our children take the seat behind the steering wheel of their first car, we warn them lovingly to buckle up and be safe, but our warnings do not guard against the random drunk driver or texting teenager. Some moments can be stopped, and sometimes the enemy is stronger, and it just happens. Things happen. One moment you are living in the before and the next you are living in the after.
The watershed moment in my life came one hot July day when I was eleven. A neighbor boy, just five or six years older, lured me into his house and sexually assaulted me. My innocence was gone. My life would be utterly different from that moment forward. I would struggle with making sense of what happened and carry the shame that was not mine. With a broken state of mind, I would throw myself into a lifetime of wrong choices, leaving a trail of destruction.
Decades passed before I found freedom, which started with me telling my shame secret to one person, then another, then another. Revealing the secret has been one of the keys to healing.
It’s not easy or comfortable to share my shame secret. I kept it hidden for so many years, over four decades. And believe me, I wouldn’t start giving you the inside scoop unless it was necessary.
God gave me this story, and He has led me to share it because you may need to read it. Maybe you have a similar story, and you need to know that healing, restoration, and redemption happen. Healing sometimes starts when we hear and read stories of other women breaking free of shame and guilt and regret that was never theirs to carry. Sharing our broken stories helps others find healing.
Jesus Heals the Broken
The story of the woman at the well was not arbitrarily included in scripture. It is necessary in scripture to remind us that Jesus heals our brokenness, Jesus sees our hurt, Jesus knows we want to be free of shame. This passage in scripture is an encounter with a loving God extending grace and forgiveness to a woman living in shame.
She was hiding her shame by coming to the well in the middle of the day, probably living two lives—one on the outside that people saw and one in her heart and head where she longed for freedom from shame. She lived day in and day out shackled to her past with no freedom in sight—until Jesus asked her for a drink of water.
Then, after that encounter with Jesus, she was free. Free of shame, regret, guilt, and free to tell her story. It held no power over her, as my story has no power over me. It didn’t matter what others thought of her, only that she knew Jesus.
Her story led many to know Christ.
Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” John 4:39 NLT
Thank you for letting me share my before and after story. Every time I tell how God led me from the before through the after and into freedom, I am still amazed at His power and grace. This story could have gone so many other ways, not good ways either. Even the worst things have God’s glory in them.
There is so much more to share with you about what I have learned since telling my shame secret. Things like dealing with setbacks to crossing finish lines, how and when to tell others, and learning to live in the “after” of freedom. Keep reading, there’s more to come.
Do you have a before and after story? If so, have you shared it with others? What does it feel like to know your story could help others? If you need to share your story or even just say, “I have never told anyone,” and that’s all, please email me at livingoneword.com. I promise confidentiality and will treat your story like the treasure it is. I know from experience how the first step to healing is telling. I’ll listen.
Can I pray for you, sister?
Father, thank you for our stories. Some of them are hard and ugly and painful, but you use all things for the good of those who love you. I know there are women reading this that have shame secrets hidden in their hearts and they are hurting. Father comfort, encourage, strengthen and help them to tell their story. Meet them where they are. Show them the shame is not theirs to carry. Show them caring loving people who will listen. Thank you for your love and grace.
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