THE BURDENS WE CARRY
We don’t come to Jesus empty.
That’s what we learned on Sunday. When we come to Jesus, our metaphorical water buckets are overburdened with stones of shame, brokenness, sin and a variety of other thoughts and feelings. When we invite Jesus to become the author and protector of our lives, we give him permission to pour His living water into our buckets instead.
The only problem is our buckets are already full.
In John 4, we get to experience a beautiful moment shared between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. The story takes place at Jacob’s well, where the woman has come to collect water. She is a social pariah, judged and shamed for her past. She came at this particular time of day in order to avoid seeing other people. Jesus speaks to her, and offers her this living water, “The water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). When she asks for it, he gives her a directive to call her husband. You see, this woman had no husband. In fact, she had had five husbands, and was currently living with a man who she wasn’t married to. This is why society shunned her. This is why she was alone.
What springs forth from here is a peculiar conversation. Jesus calls attention to her sin, he names everything she’d ever done. She feels less worthy of worshiping God as a Samaritan. He explains how soon, anyone will be able to worship wherever they please in spirit and in truth. He reveals himself as the Christ for the very first time. She goes and tells everyone what happened.
The reason this moment is so incredibly beautiful to me, is not because he knew her shame. It’s not because she left shouting to the hills about meeting the messiah, and it’s not even because he’d chosen a woman with brokenness and pain to be the one to bear the news of who He truly was to the people. No, this moment is beautiful to me because she was seen.
When Jesus met her, He looked her in the eye and told her everything she’d ever done. Every sin she’d ever committed. Every transgression. And in the same breath He offered her living water, comforting her with the news that in spite of her shame and her heritage, He had come to be the bridge between her and God. I think this is such a wonderful example of what Jesus does to our buckets when we accept His living water.
Living water. It’s an odd metaphor, isn’t it? Because something that is living must have movement. When I picture living water in my head, I see water that flows and babbles. It evolves. It changes the shape and the texture of whatever it touches. Now imagine Jesus pouring his living water into your already full bucket. What does water do when it is poured into a container that is filled with stones?
It fills in the gaps.
Initially, he cannot inhabit the entire bucket, but he will fill in every open space. Some of the smaller, less heavy stones may even float to the surface. They may be pushed up and over the edges as the water flows in. Because it is living, the water is constantly flowing, shifting the stones about within your bucket. Making you more aware of them.
Imagine Jesus standing over your bucket, pouring living water with one hand and removing the stones within one by one with his other hand. Sometimes you might swat his hand away when he reaches for one of the stones you’re particularly attached to. Sometimes he’ll grab one that you hadn’t even known was there. And sometimes you’ll add more in because you think you need them. They’re comfortable. You think they make you who you are. As he plucks each one, you can talk about them together. Heal from them. Call them by their name. And even though you may not be ready to let go of some, your awareness of their weight makes them feel less heavy. It makes you feel like you might be strong enough to carry them.
Imagine how much better you could feel if you just let those stones go!
When Jesus tells the Samaritan woman everything she’d ever done, he was calling attention to each of the stones in her bucket. He was shining light on them, giving them a name. And see how much lighter she was once He had!
“The woman went back to the town, leaving her water pot behind. She stopped men and women on the streets and told them about what had happened. ‘I met a stranger who knew everything about me. Come and see for yourselves; can He be the anointed one?’ …because one woman shared with her neighbors how Jesus exposed her past and present, the village of Sychar was transformed – many Samaritans heard and believed.” (John 4: 28-29;39 The Voice)
Jesus made the choice to meet this woman at the well. He chose her because she was burdened. Instead of ignoring her existence like so many others, He chose to truly see her. Every sin, every heartache, every struggle. In spite of everything she had ever done, He chose her.
And He chooses you too.
Imagine how different your life and your faith would be if you would allow Him to shine the light on the stones you’re carrying. Imagine how much lighter you would feel without the burden of shame weighing you down and stunting your growth. Each time He removes a stone, it allows more space for Him to fill.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)
I encourage you today, if you haven’t already, to ask Jesus to come and fill your bucket with living water until you are positively overflowing. And if you have invited Him to do so already, I challenge you to let him call attention to the stones you are carrying.
You’ll feel so much better once you do.