Being in ministry is hard. I’m sure that can be true for everyone, but I speak from experience when I say that it can be VERY HARD for divorced single moms to be active leaders in ministry. There are judgements, limitations, rules and realities – some are valid and some are not; some are articulated and some are not; some are self-imposed, and some are not.
When those realities overwhelm me, it really helps that there’s a model in the Bible whom I can go back to, to be encouraged and to remember that God equips and uses us all.
See, there was this woman minding her business, going to get water on a hot day. She was totally aware of the judgements, limitations, rules and realities of her world. In fact, when Jesus speaks to her, the very first thing she does is reminds him of the rules! She is a Samaritan AND a woman… either one was reason enough for Jesus NOT to speak to her, but he does.
We know her life is hard. She’s collecting water in the heat of the day – she’s excluded, whether intentionally or circumstantially, from doing what the other women are doing when they are doing it. She is left doing this chore alone and at one of the worst possible times.
When Jesus talks to her, He lets her know that he knows exactly who she is, He knows what she’s done, and He chooses to connect with her anyway – knowing EVERYTHING – and He chooses to offer her the living water that will meet the needs of her heart.
His disciples are confused – they didn’t say anything, but the story makes a point to tell us that they were surprised to find him talking to “her.” Despite their confusion, and the undeniable realities of her life, her encounter with Jesus changed everything.
Jesus made her into an evangelist. An EVANGELIST. Her.
She left her water behind and went into the city to tell people about Jesus. And they believed. They believed HER. They believed and came to see Jesus because of her story. God used her. In the end, the people who came encountered Jesus and believed not only because of her story, but because of Jesus touching them too. But, don’t be mistaken. The Bible is very clear, that God brought them to himself using HER testimony.
He used her then, and on days when my life is especially hard or my stamina for ministry feels gone, God uses her to encourage me now.
This was one of those weeks, where in a random moment of ministry I suddenly got hit with a random but familiar feeling – like I was “less than” the others at the table and I somehow didn’t fit. I left processing again what it means to be a divorced woman in Christian leadership. Thankfully, God brought my mind quickly back to the well.
Here’s what I was reminded of:
· He sees me. He knows me and He chooses to speak to me anyway. To me. That’s crazy.
· Sometimes life leaves me going to the well at weird time – at hot times and hard times. I’m often doing things at different times and in different ways than my peers. I often miss out on social things, fellowship and community. I’m excluded – typically for reasons that are circumstantial not intentional. I need to provide for my family while a lot of women in ministry have a partner to share that load. I have more to fit into the same 24 hours – and I sometimes am lonely, tired and worn out.
· Graciously, He positions himself on my path and meets me at my place of need. He offers me the living water. I don’t have a single need He can’t meet. I just need to remember who I’m talking to!
· And, sometimes the disciples are STILL confused and surprised. Church leaders don’t always know what to do with me. I don’t fit the mold. Just like those original disciples, they usually don’t say anything, but can’t help but see Jesus at work. I can see the struggle though, and I need to do exactly the same thing my friend did at the well. She continued despite their confusion. She kept her focus on Jesus and did what He called her to do.
· My encounters with Jesus change everything for me too.
· I get the amazing joy and privilege of telling people about Jesus because of MY story. Mine. He made me an evangelist too. The “broken and weary single mom, carried by a savior” story is mine to share and it’s a story people need to hear. I pray that the ending will be the same too – that many will believe because of my story and come to see and encounter Jesus for themselves.
If you are struggling too or looking for encouragement on a rough day – I hope you’ll turn in your Bibles to John 4. And, I hope that both my friends at the well will be an encouragement to you too.