God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
The Serenity Prayer, attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr
One of the most challenging aspects of the life of faith (or life in general) is discerning when we are called to make a change—swimming against the tide if need be—and when we must accept or abide the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
The encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well in Samaria sheds a bit of light on this tension. A woman, appearing to be ostracized on account of social stigma, comes to draw water in the heat of the day. She has accepted the lot inflicted upon her, visiting the well during hours when she can avoid the prying eyes and unsolicited comments of her neighbors.
Of course, on this particular day, the well is not unoccupied. But instead of finding a local gossip, she finds a foreigner (and a man, at that) who dares (deigns?) to speak with her. After requesting water for his own sustenance, he in turn offers her “living water,” which seems to transcend both material need and the traditions they each come from. While there are many ways to interpret their conversation, it is clear that at least a part of Jesus’s message to her is, “you deserve better.”
Interestingly, the “better” that awaits her does not mean turning her back on the ones who’d rejected her. The story tells us that she returns to the city, to her own people, sharing the good news she had received, and calling others to receive it for themselves. The called-for change was not to uproot, but to grow healthily where planted.
This prayer, written by Rev. We Hyun Chang—current UM district superintendent and my former pastor—captures well the interplay between yearning and dwelling that the woman from Samaria and so many others since have found upon drawing living water. I invite us to pray it throughout the week as we prepare to hear her story on Sunday:
Create in us thirst, O God.
Thirst for that which will make our soul smile.
Thirst for that which will lead our feet on your path.
Thirst for that which will transform all neighborhoods into your beloved communities.
Become in us a well, O God.
A well that waters our faith to grow toward justice.
A well that cleanses our sufferings into hope.
A well from which your compassion never dries up.
With thirst and peace,