Do You Know The Woman At The Well?
I’m a walking stereotype: sorority girl, in love with glitter, (unnaturally) blonde hair, half of my
paycheck goes to Starbucks, my favorite color is pink. Must I go on? I guess if we follow that
stereotype further we could add dumb blonde, superficial, and more concerned with parties
than schoolwork. That first list is definitely me. The second list, not so much. But in media and
public opinion, those two lists can become one and morph into an identity placed upon myself
and a lot of other women.
My favorite Bible stories include Jesus talking to people who have been given an identity based
on community attitude. The sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes are all people who lived in
shame because their lists of titles became their identity.
Do you know the woman at the well? You’ve likely heard the story of Jesus and the Samaritan
woman at Jacob’s well, but if you are unfamiliar, take a minute to read…
“A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, ‘Would you give me a drink of water?’
(His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.) The Samaritan woman, taken
aback, asked, ‘How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’ (Jews in
those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.) Jesus answered, “If you knew the
generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you
fresh, living water.’” John 4:9-10 MSG
Ring a bell? I recently read Lisa Bevere’s Without Rival. In it, Lisa teaches this story and talks
about this Samaritan woman’s life. Let’s unpack the beginning of this story, and we’ll talk about
her in a minute.
This woman knew that her identity as a Samaritan tarnished her in the eyes of the Jews.
Despite this, Jesus looked her in the eye and promised to give her fulfillment from within that
would sustain her forever. Jesus threw away the boxes the world had put each of them in and
saw her for who she was – a daughter of the Lord.
A few verses later, we find out that this woman had more labels than just Samaritan. She had
several sons by several different men and had been married and divorced five times. The label
of divorce at the time brought with it deep shame and seclusion from others who didn’t share
This Samaritan woman went out of her way to draw water at strange times of day in order to
avoid the stares of her neighbors, which is why she and Jesus are alone at the well. Isn’t it
beautiful that Jesus chose this moment to meet her? Jesus knew this was a moment of
vulnerability and poured love into her when He knew she needed it most.
This woman lived her life confined by labels. She took the words people spoke about her life
and clothed herself in an identity of shame.
Maybe since you started college you’ve created a new identity that isn’t truly who you are.
Maybe the words people now use to describe you aren’t words that inspire confidence in you.
By putting things and people into categories, we create some sense of organization in the chaos
of life. This isn’t necessarily negative, but every description can become a dangerously
ingrained part of our identity if we let it. Do you have a label in your life that causes people to
view you differently?
More importantly, do others have labels that cause you to view them differently? Labels of
race, religion, political affiliation, Greek affiliation, and identity in any form are labels just like
Samaritan and divorced were for this woman. Jesus knew and continues to remind us through
His actions that a label is nothing but a word.
A label changes nothing about a person’s right to be loved, cherished, treated with dignity, and
promised the hope of salvation.
I’d like to give you another label for this woman: Photina. That’s her name. She, her sons, and
her five sisters travelled all over the world sharing God’s love in places where love was scarce.
She dedicated every fiber of her being to letting go of the labels she had ingrained in her
identity. She gave herself new, fulfilling labels: disciple, mother, sister, communicator of God’s
love, and daughter of Christ.
Now that you know Photina, do you recognize her story in other women? Is there a woman in
your life who has let her past labels become her identity? Maybe that woman is you!
Remember every day promises a clean slate and the opportunity to create a new list of labels
for ourselves. The Lord never tells us to listen to society’s opinions and build our lives adhering
to that perspective. The labels and the lies that the enemy has placed into this world mean
nothing to Jesus. Zero. Nada. Never. Our worth was set the moment God breathed life into us.
Believe that truth and share it with those around you.
No matter what your past looks like, nothing can ever weaken your worth. You are worthy of
love. You are worthy of joy. You are worthy of the deep, unfaltering promise that the water of
life will wash clean every blemish that has darkened your heart. You are worthy of the same
water promised to a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
Stop letting the world define you, and start deciding for yourself what labels will stick. Let the
Lord redeem every hurt the world has thrown at you the same way He did for Photina.
Christina Graffagna // @cgraffagna
Hi! I’m Christina, and I’m currently 22 years old living in Chicago. I grew up right outside of Chicago, but recently graduated from the University of Alabama (Roll Tide), where I’ve been for the past four years. I am undeniably ill-equipped to be back in the snow after experiencing southern winters! While attempting not to turn into a popsicle, I’ll be working on my master’s degree in community counseling at Loyola University. My current plan is to become a Licensed Professional Counselor and work with adolescents in private therapy. I love connecting with people, learning their stories, and using the knowledge I have about human behavior coupled with the knowledge I have of Scripture to advise others and love them well.