Baking Bread:The Woman at the Well

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An old woman stood at her daughter’s table and sprinkled flour on the smooth stone.  Lifting the cloth off of the bowl she saw the dough had risen nicely in the afternoon heat. She rubbed some of the flour on her hands, punched the dough down, and pulled it out onto the stone.

She was an old woman now, and her hands were stiff as she divided and shaped the dough. It’s smell was always loaded with memories, and she sat for a moment missing her husband with an ache that was now a familiar sweetness with the passing years.

Her daughter walked in and found her sitting motionless at the table. Watching her, she knew her mother’s thoughts. She drew beside her and softly placed her hands on her shoulders. Bending to kiss her cheek she said, “I miss Papa too. Every day.”

The old woman smiled up at her daughter. She poured water from a stone pitcher into a bowl,  and washed her hands in the water. Her daughter handed her a towel and sat down across from her. She smiled at her mother and, reaching across the table, took her hands.

“How father loved your bread.”

The old woman nodded and smiled again, breathing in the dough, remembering.

The Lord had been so good! She felt His closeness as they sat together at the table. She Wiped her hands with the cloth, and started be to get up, but her daughter’s hand reached hers.

She settled back down and looked into her eyes. “The Lord has been so good.”

They sat quietly remembering.

“It was a day like this that He came, wasn’t it Mama?”

She knew her daughter wanted her to tell her story again. In her mind it was like a scroll that was worn soft from use. She felt the Lord’s presence stronger.

Her daughter squeezed her hands for a moment. “I feel Him too Mama. I think He loves it when you tell your story”

She reached across the table and pressed her daughter’s hand. “Holy Spirit draws near whenever we speak of Jesus like this daughter. He loves to hear the stories He’s in!”

She sat for a moment in the peace, remembering.

“ I went to the well that day at noon, like I always did. It was the one time I could go and draw water without seeing the other women. They were not so kind back then! And I cannot say I blame them.”  Even after so many years she paused to look at her daughter shyly when she said this.

“ I saw Him coming. He came right to the well and sat beside it as if He were expecting someone. I glanced quickly and He caught my eyes with His.”

He spoke. “Give me a drink.”

“I knew He was a Jew. I thought, What is this?  Why is this man speaking to me?”

“Sir,” I said. ‘How is that you, being a Jew, are asking me, a woman from Samaria, for a drink of water?’ He looked at me. Those eyes! It felt like He was looking straight into me! I felt like dropping my pot and running!”

The sound of the children outside stopped her for a moment. She was quiet, and sat looking at her folded hands.. When she looked up her eyes were shining.

Her daughter smiled. She had listened to this story so many times. “Keep going Mama”.

The old woman looked out the window. “But I could not run. I felt myself wanting to hear Him speak again, but I had to look away from those eyes! He spoke again “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would be asking Me for a drink of living water!”

“When He said this, I turned and saw kindness in His eyes. I suddenly felt bold!
“Sir. You have no pot to lower into the water. Are you somehow greater than our father Jacob? This is his well you know. It’s ours now because he gave it to us. It is very deep. And just where is this living water?”

She laughed, remembering, shaking her head. “Can you believe I had my hands on my hips, acting like I owned that well?” Her daughter laughed too.

“Jesus said to me, “Those who drink from this well here are still thirsty later. But the water I have becomes a well of water that springs up giving eternal life to those who drink of it.”

He smiled like He knew a secret. “And they are never thirsty again.”

“When I heard those words I felt so thirsty! It was deep, deep inside. O daughter it was a thirst I had always known somehow,  but then, suddenly, it was all I knew. ‘Sir’, I said, ‘please show me where to get this water!’”

“Go home and get your husband first.”

“Those words cut me. I looked away from Him and I wanted to run again. But He quietly waited while I stared at the ground. Finally I said, ‘I have no husband’”.

“You have spoken well.” His voice was quieter now, kind. “You have had five husbands and the man you are with now is not your husband.”

I felt the breath go out of me. I felt like a little girl who had been caught misbehaving and my father was speaking. What is this? I felt dizzy. Who is this? I felt myself tremble.
When I could speak I said “Sir it seems you are a prophet.” I was afraid to look up.

The old woman studied the flour on the stone for a moment. “Even now, I can still see the dust on the ground and my shadow there under the brightness of the Sun.

I said, “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but your people say we must worship in Jerusalem.”

“Woman, the hour is coming when people won’t have to go to the mountain nor Jerusalem to worship the Father. You Samaritans worship what you do not know, we Jews know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. The hour is coming, and even now is come, when those who are true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. He is looking for worshippers like that! God is a Spirit, and those who really worship Him will do so in spirit and in truth.”

I had never heard a man speak like He did.

“I have been told a Messiah is coming, and He will be called the Christ, and He will tell us all things.”

There was joy in His eyes. “I am He. I am the one you speak of.”

I felt something inside of me leap. I was listening so carefully to everything He said I never noticed the other men coming up to speak to Him. Their voices cut me. “Why is He talking to her?” they asked.
I felt my cheeks grow hot. I looked at Him again once more, then ran towards town. I left behind my only water pot!”

She turned towards the window. A gentle breeze moved her daughters curtain. She could hear her grandchildren playing outside.

“And when I got to town?” She smiled in wonder as she remembered. “I ran right to where the men were gathered in the shade of the old almond tree!”

“I was breathing hard. They looked at me amazed. I had always hid from these men. But I could not contain myself.”

“Come! Quickly, all of you! There is a man at Jacob’s Well who just told me everything about my life. He is more then a prophet sent from God, He is the Messiah. I know He is! Come and see!”

“And they did, didn’t they Mama?”

The old woman laughed with joy over her daughter’s delight. She felt he Lord’s pleasure. Deep inside, like a spring bubbling up.

“Daughter they did. They believed me. They believed Him.”

“The men talked with Him at the well a long time. Simeon, the eldest in the group begged Him to come and stay with us in our town. Later, when our Lord came to town, a seat was given to Him under the fig tree.”

“And Papa?”

She smiled. “The Lord looked at your father and said ‘Judah, I will be your guest tonight!”

“Your father was standing off to the side when our Lord spoke. I watched a look of wonder come over his face. At that moment, something broke inside of me and my heart was knit to his again.
His eyes met mine and I saw he felt it too.”

Tears filled her eyes, and she grabbed her daughter’s hands again.  “And then I remembered you. O my daughter, I remembered you! And I knew I could never be away from you again”

They sat in silence. The smell of bread rising  filled the air. She laughed, “This bread will be very light!”

“Jesus stayed with your father for two whole days. I went back to him then and begged his forgiveness, but he had already forgiven me. How he embraced me! You were only 4 years old. I wept and wept, but there was sweetness in those tears. And you?”
She smiled again at her daughter.”You would not let me out of your sight!”

“I remember Jesus too, Mama.”

“Child, you never left His lap. You would fall asleep there.”

“He would whisper in my ear and tell me about His Father. I remember.”

The two women sat basking in the Lord’s nearness. They could hear the children coming in. They would be hungry soon.

The old woman smiled. “Come. Let’s put this bread in the oven.”

She stood and lifted the pot. “Do you think the coals are still hot?”

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