Our all girls’ high school camp of the summer started with the movie Hidden Figures on the back of a barn. If you haven’t seen it, we’d highly recommend it. It’s a true story about the African American women who, against a great deal of opposition, changed the NASA program forever. One specific statement, from the movie, set our week in motion:
“Karl Zielinski: Mary, a person with an engineer's mind should be an engineer. You can't be a computer the rest of your life.
Mary Jackson: Mr. Zielinski, I'm a negro woman. I'm not gonna entertain the impossible.
Karl Zielinski: And I'm a Polish Jew whose parents died in a Nazi prison camp. Now I'm standing beneath a spaceship that's going to carry an astronaut to the stars. I think we can say we are living the impossible. Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?
Mary Jackson: I wouldn't have to. I'd already be one.”
Mary and Karl both said statements starting with “I’m a __________.” We all have similar statements. I’m a __________. All of us have one way or another we fill in that blank. It’s an obstacle. It’s something we allow to keep us from entertaining the impossible…or even from allowing Jesus to do the impossible with us. This past week at Hopetown, however, was about something different.
We moved from Mary Jackson to another woman, the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of John. She went to draw water from the well, only to find Jesus sitting there in John 4.
Jesus asked her for a drink of water. He asked her…a woman, which was unheard of in itself, but also a woman from a region that was seen as undesirable to the Israelites at that time.
“The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, ‘How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’ (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
Jesus answered, ‘If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.’”
“Jesus said, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.’” John 4:9-10, 13-14, MSG
This conversation is the longest theological discussion Jesus has in Scripture…with a Samaritan woman. And being a Samaritan and a woman were not her only obstacles. He goes on to speak to her about her five previous husbands and the man she was living with at the time. She was, needless to say, shocked. But he did so with a kindness and compassion that was maybe even more astounding to her.
The girls at camp, one by one, named their obstacles. They talked about feeling unworthy, selfish, too quiet, too broken, weak, too much, too alone. They each bravely named an obstacle they believed kept them from being used by God.
The next night, after worship, each girl was given her own bucket, as a symbol. That bucket represented her…her obstacles, her sin, her story, and even her strengths. Each girl had an opportunity to leave her bucket…in essence, to give that bucket to God in trust. “He has something much better for you, much bigger than the obstacles and much better than even the encouragement you’ve heard this week at camp,” Melissa told the girls. “God wants you to have living water…his living water that will never run dry. He can do the impossible in and through you.” And, one by one, the girls left their buckets and went outside to pray with a counselor.
The woman at the well left her bucket, too. She left her bucket as soon as her conversation with Jesus was over. She left known, and knowing the truth of who Jesus was…the Messiah. She left her bucket to run and tell the others about him, a man who “knew her inside and out.” Her bucket didn’t matter in light of a God who both knew her and forgave her with equal measure. And even more love.
The next morning, the girls awoke to new buckets, and a reminder of Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV). “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
“It’s not about trying harder,” Melissa told them. “It’s that Jesus is making you new. You’ll have to come back to the well, just like the Samaritan woman did. She still needed well water to drink. You have to go back to school. You have to step into hard places in relationships. You’ll feel sad and alone, at times. You’ll have more obstacles. But this bucket is a reminder of his new mercies. You get a new bucket every day through Christ. Every minute. He is making you new. And He wants you to be free to be simply and honestly yourself. He can do the impossible. In and through you. He is the living water that will never run dry. You can drink deeply from his mercy as He frees you to be exactly who He’s made you to be.”
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. John 4:23-24, MSG