It’s a hard life to live with your secrets. And it’s a hard life to live if you are dishonest with yourself about your secrets. When we hide who we really are we live inside a prison of our own making.
Researcher and Storyteller Brene Brown has written:
If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.
Telling the truth about yourself—to yourself and others—might just set you free.
It did the woman at the well. She trudged outside her village at noon to get water. This is when the lowest rung of the societal ladder would go. The outcasts. And as a woman she was the oucastiest outcast.
She was used to the whispers. The stares. The glares. So she would walk over half a mile to the well at high noon in the heat of the day to avoid people. It was easier to hide that way.
Problem was when she got there a man was sitting at the well. He wasn’t supposed to be there. Next problem was he spoke to her. He wasn’t supposed to look at her, much less speak to her. Male Jews did not converse with Samaritans. Especially not a Samaritan woman. But Jesus did.
He did because he was Jesus. And Jesus has always cared more about the person than political correctness or prevailing public protocol.
He engaged her in a discussion that moved from well water that refreshes a person physically to living water that refreshes the soul. His conversational skills were so superb he had her asking for the living water in no time.
And then he had to take it too far. “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
Why did he have to go and do that?! For a few moments she had forgotten her secrets. The door to her personal prison was opening. She was letting her deepest desires be known. And with one question all her anxieties came bubbling up inside her again.
Jesus brought her to a transformational moment for her life. She could either be authentic or she could hide. Want to know what she chose?
Authenticity. “I have no husband.”
Jesus responded with grace and truth. There was no condemnation in his words. “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.”
Think about that the next time you want to bury your mistakes. She had gone through five marriages and had finally given up on lasting love. She was living with a man with little hope of commitment. It might make you feel less alone in your humanity.
But the next words from Jesus are the most important. “What you have said is true.” She gathered up all the courage she could muster and she spoke the truth about herself. I can see Jesus smiling as he said the words.
She probably thought her world would crumble right in front of her eyes. Maybe she thought Jesus would pick up the first stone and start pelting her into oblivion. But he didn’t. He commended her for being truthful about herself.
“True” is an important word in this conversation. It shows up again in a widely quoted verse. Jesus later tells her: “…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Four times a form of this word is used. And it’s interesting that once the woman was honest about herself and Jesus told her she had answered in truth, the discussion moved to worship. Jesus says the ones the Father is looking for to worship him are those that can do so in truth.
I don’t think “truth” has to do with the form of worship. Jesus had already told her worship wasn’t about where it happened. He is saying worshiping in truth is about being honest about who you are. No more hiding. (And didn’t Adam and Eve teach us you can’t hide from God anyway?)
The result of her truthfulness is freedom. She left her water jar. She went back to her town and told the people there she had found a man who “…told me all that I ever did” and she was excited about that. Think about that for a moment. Do you want to bump into someone who can tell you all that you ever did?
But something about this encounter had transformed her. She had come alive. She had courageously told the truth about herself and someone still loved her as she was. That love in the face of her truth-telling transformed her. Enough so that “many Samaritans from that town believed in him” also.
If you are stuck in life you are likely hiding your authentic self. Carrying around that “water jar” of secrets is what is wearing you down.
Let me let you in on some good news: you can leave it behind. Dare to tell the truth about yourself. Not to everyone. But to one or a few that you can trust. You might think they will turn on you. And maybe someone will. Truth telling requires courage.
But it’s my experience and that of this woman that when you are vulnerable they will be drawn to you. And then you can help them draw from a well you have discovered.
Question: Is there something you know about yourself that if you could share it would free you? Do you know someone you trust enough to share it with?