Unraveled Shame

“You Ask of Me?” by Hannah Garrity  | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org

Weekly Bible Devotional
“Unraveled Shame ”
August 15, 2020

This week’s story is about someone who was victimized based on her ethnicity, gender, and religion. From the beginning of the story, we are told about the things that make this person unworthy of Jesus’ time and attention: “A Samaritan Woman.” She already had three strikes against her. In “normal” circumstances, Jesus should have had nothing to do with her. Yet, Jesus had compassion for her because he saw the image of God in her and not all the degrading labels of society. He offered her the gift of the living water and she in turn went back to her community and offered that gift of life to others.

I pray that the reflections from “A Sanctified Art” will help you discover or remember your own worth in God’s eyes so that you may let go of any shame you are carrying and thus be able to see others through the eyes of grace.

Scripture for This Week: John 4:1-29

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

Theme Connections:
Her life has certainly not gone as planned –five husbands, societal shame, isolation. No one plans for that. And then Jesus finds her in the most unlikely of places –at the well at high noon –and invites her into a new world. The shame she’d known unravels. The isolation she lived unravels. Grace surprises her and offers her good news to proclaim.

What Has Unraveled and/or Is Unraveling?

  • The woman’s societal shame and isolation.
  • The woman’s notions of religion, God, and worship.
  • The disciples’ expectations about the kind of people Jesus chooses to encounter and welcome.

Guiding Questions: 
• What barriers exist between Jesus and the Samaritan woman? How are these barriers broken down in their encounter?
Regional and racial: Samaria (currently known as part of the West Bank) was a region between Judea and Galilee. Samaritans were an ethnoreligious group descended from those who remained in the Land of Israel during and after the Babylonian Exile.
Gender and power: The text implies unjust treatment of Samaritan women by Jewish men (John 4:9). By cultural standards, a woman was not to encounter a man alone, and it was considered indecent for a man to speak to a woman in public places.
Religious: Samaritans adhered to Samaritanism, closely related to but different from Judaism. The Hebrew prophets frequently condemned Samaritans for their practices of worship. Long-standing animosity existed between Jews and Samaritans, particularly concerning the true and right places to worship: Mt. Gerizim (Samaria) or the temple in Jerusalem.
• What do you imagine is the woman’s story?
– Why has she had five husbands? Was she seen as a harlot, as traditional interpretations insist? Or was she repeatedly divorced due to perceived infertility or volatile husbands? Or had she been frequently widowed and passed along to marry elderly relatives?
– Why is the man she is living with not her husband? Is this man a family member or the best candidate to become her next husband? Or is she living as a servant in a man’s household in order to survive?
– Why is the woman retrieving water at noon, in the heat of the day? Has she been ostracized by other women and not allowed to join them when they go together at times of day when it is cooler? Or does she avoid interactions with anyone, finding isolation safer than shame- inducing encounters with others?
• What shame (both self-inflicted and/or placed upon you by societal and cultural expectations) do you carry? What might it look like for your shame to unravel?

Quote for Inspiration:
“I remember that in the first-century world a man could get a divorce simply by declaring his intention. Hillel, perhaps the most noted interpreter of Jewish law at the beginning of the first century, allowed that a man could seek divorce if his wife spoiled a dish of food, or if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s family in his hearing, or if she spoke loudly enough to be heard in the next house—which is to say, almost any reason sufficed. Perhaps the woman of Samaria was not able to conceive; in a world where children were a kind of measure of immortality and where it was assumed women were at fault if conception didn’t occur, it’s altogether possible that this woman was repeatedly divorced because of presumed infertility. . . . In any event, I’m disposed to look at her five divorces and her live-in arrangement with compassion: the divorces, because they weren’t necessarily her fault—particularly if infertility was the issue—and her living in an unmarried state because there were virtually no means of lawful employment for a woman in a typical first-century village. To live with a man unmarried was at least preferable to becoming a woman of the street.”

—J. Ellsworth Kalas.

From the Artist // Hannah Garrity:
Why are you asking me? As a woman in a patriarchal society, I have been faced with subordination throughout my life. I mostly do not feel it. I have learned self-control from a young age and I have been taught to appreciate what I have. These skills are the reasons that I have the extensive happiness and comfort that I enjoy on a daily basis. However, the patriarchy still exists. Along with the external blocks, the glass ceilings, I am finding that I stand in my own way, too. Despite the tireless efforts of my parents to teach us of a world of equality and opportunity, I have still imbibed the societal belief that I, as a woman, am lesser; that my skills do not measure up, that my salary should not be equal or more, that I work too much, that I spend too little time with my children, or that I will not succeed at the next challenge. None of these things are true, and yet I throw the roadblocks of patriarchy before myself anyway. The woman at the well had multiple levels of societal oppression standing like a wall between Jesus and her. She was not of the same race or gender as he, and she was unwed, unprotected. I can understand why she questioned God’s call for water. Why would he address her as an equal? Are you asking me? Are you sure you meant to do that? Are you sure that I measure up?

Take a few moments to gaze upon the artwork. Breathe deeply in quiet meditation as you observe the visual qualities of what you see: color, line, texture, movement, shape, form.
Now take a deeper look. What parts of the image are your eyes most drawn to? What parts of the image did you overlook?
Now engage your imagination. What story do you imagine for the figure?

What has unraveled and/or is unraveling in this story? – What racial, cultural, gender, and religious barriers exist between Jesus and the Samaritan woman? How are these barriers broken down in their encounter? – What do you imagine is the woman’s story? What layers of shame does she carry and why?

Researcher and storyteller, Brené Brown, says, “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” In the space below, name and release any feelings of shame you carry.

Unravel my shame, O God, with the promises that I am always loved and forever worthy. Amen.


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