Marilyn Friesen

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Desperate Straits

No one could tell by the tilt of  Aliyah's shoulders or her walk as she sashayed gracefully down the deserted main street that she was in despair.
Aliyah pretended not to know that behind many a mud-bricked abode people were staring at her and whispering around their cupped hands. She held her head high but couldn't keep the tears from brimming in her eyes. It had been like this every day for years and Aliyah saw the future rolling out bleak and unremittingly dismal for how long, only the HaShem knew for sure. She forced herself to keep up her quick even pace although the day was sweltering hot. She must not allow anyone to see how deeply she was wounded inside because of their cruel stares and snide remarks.
           A stranger's child had once asked, "Why does she draw water at noonday? Why doesn't she fetch it in the early morning when it is cool? All the other women do."

         The visitor's mother had shushed her as she bent down to respond, but that hadn't kept Aliyah's cheeks from growing hot with shame. Did she tell her little girl how unwelcome I am made to feel by the others? Aliyah touched the pottery vessel balancing on her head to make sure it was steady as she quickened her pace.
      Ten years ago I was as happy and radiant a bride as this years crop, but so much has changed since then. What is that in the distance? Is it a mirage? She hurried closer. Was she imagining things? It looks a man is sitting on the rim of Jacob's well in all this heat. Does He think anyone would come to draw water in the middle of the day to help him? Why was He alone? Why he is wearing a Jewish prayer shawl! What is He doing all alone so near to our Samaritan village? Did He know I would be coming?
       Aliyah was wary at first as she drew nearer. She had a very low regard for men, even though she flirted with them constantly. What shall I do if he tries to overpower me? I'll take my water pot and hurl it at Him, that's what I will do. I will throw it and flee for my life. She lowered it sooner than normal and braced it in front of her like a shield.
      "What do you want?" she blurted.
     "Could you give me a drink, please?"
    She moved back a step.
       "Why in the world would you ask me to give You a drink. The Jews think they are so much better than us!" She knew she was being sarcastic.
    Aliyah was touched when he responded so gently, so lovingly. She knew she had been staring defiantly at Him when He said something about the gift of God, but her head lowered when He suggested that she should be asking Him for the living water. Something within her leaped in response, not at His words, which sounded strange, but at His heart. It seemed so kind. Aliyah was unused to kindness and she struggled hard to cover her vulnerability with bluster. She arrogantly demanded how He expected to draw water without a vessel from such a deep well, and sounded sassy even to her own ears when she asked if He was greater than their father Jacob who had built the well. Her attitude never perturbed Him, however. He seemed to see right through her shell to the broken woman within.
        But she still pretended to be tough, to draw up her armor of defense, even though she knew anyone else would have been offended at the sarcastic edge in her voice.""Sir, give me this water, then. That would be a fine thing to never be thirsty again, especially in this hot weather, and never have to come way out here for water."

       Then for the first time, he locked eyes with her. "Go call your husband, and come back."
    Oh, He doesn't understand me as much as I thought He did! "I have no husband!" she shot back.

"That is very true," he agreed. "You have had five husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband."
        Right then and there Aliyah wanted to collapse to her knees and cling to His feet but she couldn't, not yet, she wanted to be sure He would not let her down, so rambled on about insignificant differences between how they served God and how the Israelite nation worshiped Him.
     When she saw a group of men coming closer, she knew instinctively that they must be His disciples and quailed at the thought. Oh, dear, I have spent too much time quibbling over little things, and I'm sure He could have helped me. Perhaps now it is too late.
  But as she backed away from the men and returned to the city she thought long and hard about His words. He called Himself the Messiah. He knows me more thoroughly than even my scornful neighbours do but doesn't condemn me. Maybe there is hope for me. Maybe, just maybe I can be redeemed...be freed from the shame and guilt---the bondage of my past.
      Her steps grew slower as she neared the city gate where the men loved to congregate. One or two threw out a teasing, bantering remark when they saw her, but when she didn't respond in like manner, they fell silent. This was someone different from the course, hardened, Aliyah who so brazenly used to flirt with them. She was changed. She was quiet and subdued. She reached out her hand towards them.
"Come,  see a man who knows all about me. Do you think He might be our Saviour?"
And they went.

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