When I moved to San Antonio in July of 2009 it was dry; we were in the midst of a long drought. I drove through neighborhoods searching for a house to buy and saw only brittle, brown grass and trees distressed and dying. Quite frankly, the area was unattractive. And the weather beaten yards and gardens made the 100 degree temperature each day seem even hotter.
Then one day in early September it rained hard all through the night. The next morning deep puddles lay in the streets, although before long the sun had dried them up. A day later, however, I saw an astonishing sight - huge swaths of little flowers everywhere, standing tall on their green stems, displaying pretty white and pink blossoms. Texas Rain Lilies. Overnight they had come to life -- strewn across yards and vacant lots, their faces turned toward the sun. Every evening they would close up until the next morning when they bloomed again. After the months of barrenness those lilies were joyous signs of new life.
Little and delicate, Texas Rain Lilies only bloom briefly. As their name implies, they pop up after a good rain, but within days they are gone again. And they're unpredicitable. Sometimes they appear and other times they don't. Up close a Texas Rain Lily is truly lovely - one of my favorite flowers; it has a trumpet shaped blossom of pure white with a blush of pink in the center. They are resilient, too, lying dormant for months, maybe years, and then suddenly brought to life after a strong rain. How fascinating that water can give life so quickly to what had been hidden or dying.
On a hot day in Samaria Jesus sat down by a well to rest. He'd been walking since early morning, from near Jerusalem headed to Capernaum, some 60 miles away. It was noon and a woman came to draw water for the days' use back home. "Give me a drink," Jesus said. He was thirsty. The woman was puzzled; they were not from the same ethnic or social background. His people and her people didn't mix. She told him she couldn't believe he was asking her for a drink, regardless how thirsty he was.
She was thirsty, too. But her thirst wasn't as obvious or as clear-cut as a dry throat. She had been married and "dismissed" five times. In those days women did not live on their own; women belonged to men - either a father or a husband or a son. If a woman had none of those to lean on she had no where to live, no means for supporting herself. Five times this woman had been turned out of her home by a husband (women had no right to divorce, only men could divorce); she now lived with a man, but who knows how long that would last. What was her thirst? Maybe for a genuine home, or to be known and honored, or that her neighbors would accept rather than shun her.
Jesus explained the water he had to offer - a water that gives true and lasting life. Once received, this water could restore the forsaken, the embittered, the dying. Curious she asked him where he got that water and Jesus told her about God. He said that proper worship of God did not depend upon a certain place or religious structure. Soon, he said, people everywhere would worship God in Spirit and in truth. The woman began to get excited; she felt hope stirring within her, the sense that many things were possible. "I want some of this water," she said. Jesus smiled, for she was already sprouting and blossoming from that water's influence.
How long had it been since someone had bothered to have a conversation with that woman? Had anyone ever discussed God, faith, the purpose of life with her like she were worthy such deep subjects? At some point it dawned on her that this man she was talking to just might be the one she and her people had awaited - God embodied, the Son of God within reach, touchable, full of grace and compassion. No wonder she left her water jars there and raced into town to tell what she what had seen and heard.
Water. It nourishes the ground and all living things, making us grow and blossom. Jesus is the living water, a spring that gushes forth with eternal life. Drink deeply, let the water cool your fevered brow and fill you with peace. Come to the well and meet the one who knows you already, who loves you and offers you real life - life with purpose and dignity, now and for eternity.