We know about the woman who met Jesus at the well. She ran into town proclaiming Him the Messiah with the simple phrase, "Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did." (Or, as we know the story better, "everyone I ever did." John 4:29)
But that isn't the whole story.
This was a woman with a reputation. As any woman who has ever had a reputation can tell you, there are too many people who can tell you everything you ever did...and too many people willing to do just that. This is kind of why she was at the well at such an odd hour of the day. Where most of the women drew water together in the mornings, she couldn't handle the stares, the snickers, and the snide remarks any more. So she worked her entire day around not running into them.
Then one day, she meets a man who tells her everything she ever did. ...And she runs back into town to tell everyone.
They probably weren't immediately impressed. A few probably rolled their eyes. Maybe they muttered, "Well, of course. It's not like it's any secret, honey. (Because when women, even good churchy women, are talking about you and then have the chance to talk about you in front of you, they always call you 'honey.') I've told you everything you ever did. She told you everything you ever did. Her neighbor told you everything you ever did. Remind me again why this is news?"
On the surface, it probably didn't seem to be. Yet here was this woman who knew her truth, who had heard her truth, who already knew everything she ever did (and so did everyone else) and a strange man met her at the well and told her the very same things she'd scheduled her day to avoid hearing.
Yet, this woman is overjoyed.
We can't just read this story and think that this is the story. Because the truth about her truth was that everybody knew it and probably anyone could have told her. Then she hears it again and suddenly, the speaker must be the Prophet? That's quite a leap.
Maybe it was because he was an out-of-towner. He was a Jewish man, not a Samaritan, so he wasn't hearing the story every day like the rest of the town. But imagine for a minute that you're a ho. And imagine you spend the majority of your life trying to escape your reputation as such. Then imagine this out-of-towner walks in and pegs you as a ho and knows all of your previous activity. Is your first thought - This man is a prophet! - or is your first thought to let shame overtake you, bury your eyes in the ground, mumble something about how fast word gets around, then come to your senses and look up and do your best to deny it?
Maybe it was because he was a man that for a change, she didn't know. Maybe she knew he wasn't the type she'd met in the streets or nightclubs or whatever passed for such in those days. Maybe she thought this man was so unlike all of the other men she'd met (and known) that there had to be something special about him. He must be a prophet. Because "nice guys" just don't exist; there had to be something more. But don't you think if this was your story, you'd more quickly jump to assuming he's a con artist and just like every other man than to think he's super extraordinarily special?
As a woman with both a reputation and a story, let me tell you that it's not that Jesus tells you everything you've ever done. It's not that He comes and speaks truth into your life. It's the way He says it.
It's the way He lays it out there without the faintest tone of judgment but with the grace of mercy and forgiveness plastered all over it, and yet you don't feel - listening to Him - like He's adamant you require forgiveness. I mean, not like it's urgent. It would be easy to hear your truth put so gently and to assume you need a shower. NOW. But Jesus doesn't make you feel that way about it. He just kind of puts it out there with a tone and an attitude that says, "So this is your story. So ok. Can I have a drink?"
It's the way that something about the way He says it catches your heart mid-throat and for the first time, you kind of feel like you're swallowing your story instead of it blowing up all over you. It's the way that you hear it and your eyes don't lock to the ground, you're not buried in shame, you're not worried about who hears or how they know this or how this makes you look. Somehow, the way He says it makes it just truth and not stigma. Just part of the story you're living and not a story to live down.
It's the moment you start to be free.
Because it's this man, relaxing on a rock near a well, who knows everything about you and still wants to drink from your cup. He speaks your truth and you hear it - again - but in there, too, is the invitation: you still have something He wants. You still have something to offer. It changes your whole perspective on who you are, what you've done, what you've still got to give, and yes, what this man might be. A thirsty man who wants a drink and unlike the rest of the town, He doesn't care if you touch it. He's asking you to share your draw with Him; and He's offering to share His cup with you.
No matter who you are. No matter what you've done. (No matter who you've done, as this woman shows us.) You're more than your story or your reputation. There is something in you that Jesus wants.
That is the truth.