And did you get what you wanted from this life even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved; to feel myself
Beloved on the earth.
Last Sunday we celebrated our Mother Daughter Eucharist here at school. This is always a time to reflect not only on the beautiful relationship of love between mothers, daughters, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and indeed all significant women in our lives, but indeed to reflect on love itself. On the screen I had these beautiful words by Raymond Carver. I always find them moving and deeply personal for, when all is said and done, we all long to be loved, to be known, in a way that only loving and being loved can bring. This is a reflection on being loved and a woman who came to know it.
There is a song written by Noel Coward and first performed in The Third Little Show in New York in June 1931 by Beatrice Lillie. The song is especially known for the line, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” with which most verses begin and end. Well, as it happens, not only mad dogs and Englishmen! There was a woman long ago who went out in the midday sun and her story is told in John’s Gospel (John 4: 1-30). In the relentless heat of the Middle Eastern midday that was indeed crazy! Why did she do that?
This woman, whose name we do not know, used to go out in the middle of the day to fetch water from a well just outside the city. The well was known as Jacob’s Well which at that time was near the city of Sychar in Samaria. Today it lies within the West Bank. In those days it was a woman’s job to fetch water for her family each day. The women used to go out early in the morning while it was still cool. No one went out at midday, it was far too hot. The women used to make a social occasion of this daily chore. They would catch up and talk at the well and we can imagine them chatting about the everyday things that formed part of their lives, sharing their frustrations, complaints, perhaps passing on the latest gossip, reminiscing, dreaming and laughing together. But the woman in our story used to go at midday because she knew that none of the other women would be at the well then. She went then so that she wouldn’t be seen. What drove her to this? Why this desire to avoid the others? Well, she was divorced and had had five husbands. Because of this she was a social outcast and was looked down upon. She was a sinner and her sin was known to everyone. She would be humiliated and uncomfortable as the other women would surely fall silent at her approach. It was a lonely life. A life of shame. She was not beloved. She did not feel herself beloved on this earth.
But one day she had an experience, an encounter, at the well when she went out alone to fetch her water, and that encounter changed her life.
Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator