LIFE IS FILLED with unexpected surprises and sometimes those surprises make a deep and abiding impact on our lives. One of my close friends often tells of how he got involved in our high school youth group when we were teenagers. He stopped by to deliver a message to the Sister in charge of the group and she quickly hooked him into being a part of the group. His involvement grew and that experience of Christian Life Communities played an important role in his vocation to the priesthood. All because he simply delivered a message.
The Gospel this weekend in many Christian churches tells a story of a Samaritan woman who went to a well to fetch her water for the day, but God had an unexpected surprise for her. She arrived at the well just in time to meet Jesus and during their conversation she encountered God in the person and place she least likely expected. A simple visit to the well became an unexpected surprise for her.
This story of the Samaritan woman coming to faith at Jacob’s well may be a bit of an unexpected surprise for us as well because it leaves conventional customs behind. The story begins with Jesus asking the woman for a drink of water and she quickly responds that he, a Jew, should not be asking her, a woman and a Samaritan, for a drink. Jesus often broke down the barriers of his day to bring God’s love and message to everyone and he does just that in this situation as he invites this woman to a deeper relationship with God.
Jesus’ method of invitation was surprising in that he let her know that he was aware of some personal details of her life. This woman had had a difficult life with relationships and had made some bad choices; yet she was still a person of faith who longed to see the Messiah. In her conversation with Jesus, she revealed that she was waiting for the Christ who would make known all things to her and her people. Seeing her sincerity, Jesus revealed that he was, in fact, the Messiah for which she longed. He was her unexpected surprise.
Scripture records that this Samaritan woman became an important evangelist in her town. She returned home after her encounter with Jesus and told everyone that she had seen the Messiah. Her unexpected surprise became a gift for the whole community. Many of the town folks came to believe in Jesus, first through her testimony and later through their own experience.
Among the things we can gain from reflecting on the story of the Samaritan woman at the well is a sense of the unexpected surprises God places in our lives and how they can serve to draw us deeper into our relationship with him and one another. I love to hear couples tell stories of how they unexpectedly fell in love through chance encounters. Friends of mine tell the story of how, though they grew up in the same area here in Pennsylvania, they never knew each other until they met at a college party in New York State. They’ve been married for nearly 20 years since that unexpected surprise.
I think that when we look at our lives through the eyes of faith we will see that God often works in our lives through unexpected surprises. They may not always be as dramatic as falling in love, but they are more than coincidences. They are often moments of faith that invite us deeper into our relationship with God.