Rivers of Living Water

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.
John 7:37-38

These verses, engraved on my heart, may be the single most moving verses to me. I have longed for the living water Jesus offers—a promise to need nothing, and not be defined by my frailties. To the ears of a girl who never seemed to fit in, my spirit somehow always knew that this spoke to my heart’s longing to belong somewhere. It wasn’t until recently, though, that God sowed a deeper meaning into my heart, and caused my spiritual spine to stand tall.

Jesus first, and willingly, revealed Himself to an unnamed Samaritan woman at the well, a woman who came from a land known for its hatred of Jews. They were enemies, and yet Jesus took a few precious moments to reiterate what God had been trying to show throughout the Old Testament: He is a God of the outcast, a counter-cultural God. After all, He was speaking with a woman. I will never know this woman’s name, perhaps because God wanted me to find myself in her story; perhaps because what she represents is a curse broken, the kingdom come.

She was a Samaritan, a skeptic hungry for truth, who believed in the God of Jacob, and became a disciple of Jesus after leaving her water jar behind.

I’m the skeptic, hungry for truth, who found myself an outcast from two different church experiences by the age of 17. I was told I was no longer welcome. This rejection continued to haunt me and taint my relationships for the next 20 years. It had given me a greater discernment, but it had built enormous walls between me and other believers. While I was in pain, Jesus nudged me: “Do not run from me; it’s not me that has hurt you.”

I lingered alone in my faith, not sharing with anyone else my opinions or even myself, for fear of being an outcast once again.

Jesus’ words to her sing to me: “Rivers of living water will flow from within…”

I’ve kept those words as a promise of the life of God flourishing in my own life, to feed and water others. I was raised in a home that made me ignorant toward many denominations’ dogmatic standpoint against women preaching. The spiritual environment of the Bible Belt made this a known reality: women were not invited to the conversation unless they were partnering in submission to men.

A co-worker who thought he was giving me a compliment flirted, “You’d make a really great pastor’s wife.”

I fumed back, “What if I wanted to be the pastor?!”

His theology made backtrack difficult as he fumbled over the words, “Well, I mean, you and your husband together would be great in ministry.”

Women who used their voices were silenced or asked to leave. My sin was that I was passionate about Jesus, but my voice became a silent scream in a nightmare of not being heard, so I quieted myself and walked away with increasingly sagging posture. I wandered for years, trying to find myself, denying myself the pleasure of knowing who I was in Jesus, who was my greatest passion.

While I may not be able to lay claim to five husbands, I could relate to seeking to be understood by a partner. This is a human experience that began with the Fall.

The natural occurrence of a broken relationship with God in the garden meant women would desire their husbands. This wasn’t a curse as much as it was the natural result of Eve breaking covenant with God, who commanded her not to eat the fruit of one tree. My deep longing for human connection caused me to look past God as my source.

Jesus’ words healed my heart. After five husbands, the woman at the well understood the same soul-deep desire with which I struggled—to be acknowledged, validated, and appreciated. She knew that Jesus’ promise of overflowing, living water did not end with literal water. With this truth, Jesus redeems my deepest personal flaw—I no longer need to desire another because Jesus is that desire fulfilled. My longings and who I belong to no longer define me. Jesus defines me. The Samaritan woman knew her belonging in the truth of not being defined by her longings and mistakes, and forgot her jar of water at the well, running to tell everyone of “the man who has told me everything I’ve ever done.” This Samaritan evangelist’s story gives me permission to stand up and speak.

Amy Altstatt is a faith-driven writer, passionate about women finding their own voice in Scripture and seeing how God reveals His plan and character through women as active participants in the gospel of redemption, freedom, and hope. She is currently writing a book that reexamines how God tells His story through even the most subliminal female characters in scripture. Amy’s websites are: Amyaltstatt.com and https://www.patreon.com/Adrinkofwater?fan_landing=true.