"...Jesus speaks the sad and shameful trust of her life [the Samaritan woman] without the least disgust, condescension, or condemnation. There is no reproach in his town. There will be neither gossip nor silence from him. So what could sound like judgment (if someone else were speaking) instead sounds like mercy: hard truth met by incredible grace. Grace upon grace, in fact" (Steagald, 74).
Scripture: John 4:13-18 (CEB)
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!” Jesus said to her, “Go, get your husband, and come back here.” The woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.” “You are right to say, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus answered. “You’ve had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the truth.”
I learned pretty quickly in my young adult like not to make assumptions. Especially about those things we're kind of expected to assume. I was going out with a guy, or at least that's what I thought. We went out to dinner and the movies a few times. We spent our free time together. We talked on the phone when we weren't together. We kissed. I found out later from a mutual friend that he claimed we were never dating. My bad. From then on, I made sure not to make such assumptions.
What is it about us that we like to fill in the empty spaces of our knowledge with bits of information and details we can't possibly know? Do we want to get it out there so that in the off chance we end up being right we can have the satisfaction of saying, "I knew it" or "I told you so"?
With this story of the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus by the well, the majority of interpretations make her out to be one of the worst sinners. But I think we do her, and Jesus, a disservice when we make such assumptions. Clearly, with her history of multiple marriages, she could very well be a sinner. But she could also be a victim of some pretty poor excuses for husbands.
I get it, though. I really do. The woman's experience of grace is magnified when there's shame and brokenness connected with her story. It's a story that brings hope to all of us, no matter how we come at the story. It reminds us that God's love and grace offered through Jesus is pretty amazing and far reaching. That's not an assumption. That's a fact. And I am grateful for that.