by Coleen York
When something is wrong I have the tendency to keep to myself. I hole up in my room, close the door, and create my very own personal pain closet. Whether it’s an argument, an emotional day, or a shameful feeling, my instinct is to ferret away and shack up in my room like the Unabomber.
Not only do I not trust that I won’t give away the state of my emotions, but I also do not trust that other people won’t judge me for having said emotions. Or, for making the terrible decisions that lead to said emotions. When I was little my mom used to send me to my room. Now I send myself.
The point I’m trying to make is that usually when we know we’ve been, say, less than perfect, our first response is not to announce it over the loudspeaker at Wal-Mart. We tend to keep those things to ourselves as much as possible. Until that ONE person (you know who I mean), asks you that ONE question you dread being asked… So you lie. You say you’re fine. You cover it up. Sugar-coat it. Bat your eyes and throw on a fake smile that not even an infant would believe.
Anything to keep yourself from feeling exposed.
The Samaritan woman in John 4 wasn’t really a societal charmer either. She had had a bunch of husbands and had been currently shacking up with a dude who she wasn’t even married to when Jesus came across her. So basically, by the standards of that time period, she was a little better than the town leper.
But she still had to go to the well. Every. Single. Blessed. Day. As a woman it was her job to draw water for her household and for all of its animals. As much as she didn’t want to, she had to. It was busy, it was hot, it was in the middle of town…
She probably often wished she didn’t have to go to the center of town every day to draw water and make herself conspicuous. Everyone knew her past. Everyone judged her when they saw her. It would have been so much more comfortable for her to go to the well in the middle of the night. Or not to have gone at all… She hated the stares, the feeling of being laid bare in front of people she didn’t know and didn’t trust. So instead, she opted to go during the hottest point of the day just to cut back on some of the traffic… Just to avoid some of the gossip.
If she had never gone, if she had never EXPOSED herself, she would have never met Jesus at the well. The Samaritan woman met Jesus for the first time in the center of it all: in the center of town, in the center of the day, in the center of her sin and shame.
If she had never gone, if she would have given into the temptation to hide, then she would have never met the Messiah, her Savior. Jesus exposed her, all of her sin and shame, but loved her through it and pointed her to the truth. Because the Samaritan woman did not retreat, but opened herself up, Jesus was able to MEET her there, even amidst her pain. Because she allowed herself to be exposed, Jesus was able to shine His light into her situation so that change and healing could begin.
We’re all tempted to hide at some point. Whether it’s from God or from others, the temptation is often strong. Although we think we are protecting ourselves from being hurt further, what we often do is prevent true healing from taking place. Every physical wound needs to be in the air at some point to truly heal… the same is true of emotional wounds.
I’m not saying that you need to air your dirty laundry on all of your neighbors’ lawns. I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t be careful who you trust. I am, however, encouraging you to expose yourself before Jesus. Healing is a process, but as the Samaritan woman discovered, it’s a process that often begins with openness.
And you know what? After the Samaritan woman met with Jesus she went and told everyone in her town about the hope she had found, even the ones who used to judge her. She found that Jesus’ life and freedom was now greater than her fear of being judged by others.
Your story doesn’t have to end in the pain closet. Start by meeting with Jesus.