I read this post yesterday; or maybe the day before? Jet lag is still very real.
I really liked his insight and application of the woman at the well. And what I really, really appreciated was this:
I’ve always wanted to believe that after the Samaritan woman met Jesus, she was instantaneously emotionally neat and clean—she would bear none of the emotional and spiritual scars of the life she had lived up to that point. I find no evidence in psychology textbooks or the Bible to support this case. She was messy when Jesus met her, and likely only somewhat less messy as he left. When we truly engage her, we commit to unconditional love.
Every once in a while, I come across something like this that keeps me going in what we do. Most of the people we encounter day after day, the relationships we are building day after day: the visible changes are minimal. We are holding on to the hope that we might have the impact of a piano teacher or that things might be just a little bit less messy.
Sometimes even that feels like a ridiculous thing to hope for, let alone significant spiritual, emotional, or physical change.
Either way, this ricocheted through my head last night, as I washed blood out of my neighbor’s hair.
It was another domestic dispute; well, we’re pretty sure it was. We were told to tell the doctors that a roof beam had fallen and hit her, but the room strewn with money and beer cans, the blood smeared on the wall, the husband sitting outside with his head in his hands, and her bruises tell another story.
Either way, we took her to the clinic and they put four stitches into her head while the husband drank another beer outside and spilled it on Stephen.
I don’t actually want to paint him as a villain. He looked genuinely apologetic and saddened; he looked overwhelmed. Perhaps drinking another beer was the only way he knew how to cope with the situation he now found himself in.
As we left the clinic, she still had blood all over her arm, neck, hair, and forehead. She had a patch of hair missing and clotted blood clumped in what remained. Her shirt was blood-stained. I didn’t feel like we could let her go home like this. She just deserved more.
So we brought her inside, and with a little convincing, I got her to put on a sarong and let me help her wash. I watched as warm water and blood ran over her shoulders and down her back; I shampooed her hair and tried to explain conditioner. She was going to need something to untangle the mess that had been left behind.
As she combed, more clumps of cut hair fell out. I overheard Stephen talking to the husband, holding their 3-month-old little girl, and showing him pictures of our family.
I re-bandaged her head, gave her a clean sarong and shirt, and tried to tell her she was always, always welcome to come here with her baby if she felt threatened.
She walked out of our house in too-big clothes with a plastic bag of wet, bloody clothing in her hand.
I cleaned the blood and hair out of the bathroom and comb; washed the sarong and towels we had used.
Watching blood mix with water is moving to me. It reminds me of the cross; blood washing away sin and being made clean. I used bleach, which doesn’t really fit in to the gospel story as easily, but made me feel better.
And really, she was only a little less messy as she left.
She left with her husband and baby to return to a home with blood inside; it might never come off the walls and floor. Her story is still very, very messy.
But isn’t that true of me?
I’ve encountered Jesus, and we’re encountering him day after day. He’s challenging our norms and our expectations. He is showing himself new each day.
And yet I am only a little less messy.