“Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.”
Much have I learned from the laundry pile of my life! There are tasks, circumstances and sometimes people that simply wear us out. At times they pile up around us like a huge mound of laundry begging to be tended and tamed. They are the circumstances that call to be sorted, to be mended, to be refreshed and pressed until they shine like new. The thing about laundry (and about so much of what we do in a life) is that it is NEVER done, NEVER complete and NEVER all there is to do.
Jesus must have known a laundry moment on that day when he found himself at Jacob’s well. He was tired. Tired from his journey and perhaps tired from his work. He had just come from the Judean countryside where his disciples and John the Baptist had been teaching and baptizing. The gospel writer tells us that Jesus had figured out that the Pharisees were keeping score! They had a running tally of John’s baptisms and those of Jesus’s disciples. They had pitted Jesus and John as rivals and were placing Jesus ahead in the race.
In the midst of preaching and teaching about the newness of life in God and being born again into wholeness, there are those that press Jesus back into the old molds. Jesus finds his work being misinterpreted, weighed against that of another, burying the newness at the bottom of a laundry pile of tension and invented rivalry.
Laundry moments in life sometimes call us to a complete change of venue! They call us to leave Judea for Galilee and take a moment to catch our breath, to recalibrate our vision, to recharge our physical and spiritual reserves. Funny though, the recharge doesn’t always look like what we expect.
Jesus sits down for a breather and instead of rest, he is pulled into an encounter with another. He meets a fellow traveler and a most unlikely kindred spirit in the woman at Jacob’s well and shares a deep moment of connection with her. He recognizes her not as one whose shortcomings have caused her difficulties, but as a woman (often misinterpreted and misunderstood) who has moved from one difficult circumstance to another. He recognizes in her a weary traveler longing to be renewed.
In the encounter, both Jesus and the woman find themselves transformed. The woman leaves telling others how she has been changed. Jesus stays. He finds himself fed, strengthened and sustained by the serendipitous work God has provided and perhaps in the company he found along the way.
May our laundry moments call us to step away for a moment until we know the bubbling gurgle of living water rising up inside. May they call us to see in the other and in ourselves, the weary traveler longing for renewal. May they pull us from the stuck and stagnant places into the living, moving waters of God’s work in the world. May we find ourselves sustained, renewed and transformed. Amen.
Stacey Buford is a chaplain by trade and a mother by the miracle of adoption. She earned her BA in Religious Education from Samford University and her MDiv at Columbia Theological Seminary. Call has been a driving force leading her down hospital halls, into local pulpits and through doors of non-profit organizations into the broader community. Her husband is Jon Buford and together they are the parents of LeighAnne, Savannah and Will. The Bufords live in middle Tennessee