A Broken Woman

 Photo by   Duke Lenoir

Photo by Duke Lenoir

Broken (adjective)—Separated into parts or pieces by being hit, damaged, etc.; not working properly; not kept or honored.

Chew on that for a minute. Does that definition resonate with you? There are nights I am brought to a place of crying myself to sleep, days sinking farther into depression, and weeks of loneliness. I am brought to a day in which I thought all of my friends were finished with me, a time when my mistakes were beyond repair. I think of the lifeless baby in the ultrasound. I think of betrayal and rejection by those I loved. I think of the tears shed on a casket.

Where does this word bring you?

Throughout Scripture, broken women are not hard to find. Barrenness, rape, slavery, chronic physical ailments, and loss are interwoven into stories of these women. The Samaritan woman found in John 4 is no exception. She is an unnamed, marginalized woman who encounters Jesus and leaves completely changed. If you have time now, read her story in John 4:1–42. Let’s look at her story.

A Divine Appointment

At the beginning of this story, we see that Jesus and the disciples are on the way to Galilee. Verse 4 says, “And he had to pass through Samaria.” Normally on this journey, Jews would actually go around Samaria because they did not even associate with Samaritans (v. 9). Jesus had to go through Samaria? No he didn’t! He could have gone around it just like everyone else, but He knew He needed to meet with someone that day. He knew someone needed to know His love, His grace, and His restoration.

A Broken Woman

We meet her in verse 7. Most of the time women would gather together at the well and draw water, but this woman was alone. There are many speculations about the reason for this, but regardless, this woman must have been shunned from society because of her personal history.  As we keep reading, we learn that she had had 5 husbands and currently lived with a man that was not her husband (v. 16–18). Some believe that this was because she was barren. Bearing children was a primary purpose for women in those times, and if they were unable to do this, they were unwanted and shamed. These men were dropping her left and right, each time leaving her more hurt and alone. She finally got to the point of having nothing and believing that she was nothing. After years of not being able to fulfill her duties as a wife, she probably became desperate.

Therefore, she chose to live with a man who was not her husband just to have someone take care of her.

Then a man came right up to her in broad daylight and spoke to her. She looked up and noticed that this was not just a man, but a Jew. I wonder what was going through her mind in that moment. “Is he serious? Does he know who I am? Why would this Jewish man speak to me, a Samaritan woman who has become a disgrace to society?” Jesus did not seem to care about her background, ethnicity, gender, social standing, reputation, or imperfections. He went out of his way to offer this woman something much more than what she knew. He knew her story, and He knew she needed restoration and redemption. He came to offer her a relationship with Himself, the One who would not forsake her, who would satisfy her thirst for love and acceptance, who would fight for her and welcome her with open arms.

A Transformed Life

Once Jesus showed this woman that He could offer her new, meaningful life, she really began to listen to Him. She was honest with Him about who she was, and she was not afraid to ask Him some difficult questions (v.9, 11–12, 15, 17, 19–20). She knew that He was a safe person with whom she can be open and real. This woman immediately was changed by His pursuit and His grace, and went to tell others (the ones who shunned her by the way) about the Messiah (v.28–30). 

Jesus came to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1). Just as he sought out this particular woman to restore her broken heart and spirit, He does the same for each one of us. Our transformation starts with His pursuit and His grace, but we must be willing to be transparent before Him and let Him into those broken places so that He can restore. This is when change truly happens in our lives.