listen to this essay
He sat down by the well. Exhausted from the trip. The noon sun was beating down hard on him as he stared out blankly into the distance.
A woman walked briskly down the sandy path from behind him, swinging her bucket side to side. As she got close, the man turned around. Their eyes met.
She was a local. And he wasn’t.
So, he grinned and turned back around, his eyes locked again at something in the distance. He mumbled loud enough for her to hear him.
“Could I get some water?”
The woman stopped abruptly at the well and turned to look at the stranger who had the guts to ask such a bold question.
“We shouldn’t be talking,” she responded, the cadence in her voice apparent as she continued. “You’re a Jew and I’m a Samaritan. You should know better than to ask me something like that.”
Without missing a beat, He turned and looked at her. A confidence exuding from Him. His grin more pronounced. His eyes met hers squarely.
“If only you knew who I was.”
A lot of Christians live life ineffectively.
There’s one camp that shows up on Sunday and cowers in the corner, overwhelmed by the weight of shame and guilt they’ve accumulated over the past week. They’ll pray and sing and lift their hands like they’re supposed to. And they’ll walk out and live the rest of the week too afraid to live like they’re Christian.
Because regret cripples them.
There’s the other camp that shows up on Sunday and is the loudest, most vibrant, most exuberant. They’re overwhelmed by the same weight of shame and guilt like the other camp, but they overcompensate and make sure that everybody that sees them on Sunday knows that things are fine. They’re doing great. They’ve got no impediments during the week. And, if there are any impediments, Sunday morning erases all of their regret. And they’ll walk out and live the rest of the week still stuck in their ways, tripping over themselves, and bumbling like they have no idea they’re saved.
On Sunday, they overcompensate for their regret.
Most of us fall into one of these two camps. There are those of us that react to our regret by cowering in a corner and hiding. There are those of us that react to our regret by doing more than we should just to let everybody know things are going as well as they should.
We live in regret.
Our witness is effectively ineffective. The world never gets to see us at full strength, doing the things we should do, saying the things we should say, encouraging them when all hope seems lost… because we show up on Sunday and live out our regret in the comforts of those four walls.
Maybe we just need a reminder.
Because here’s the truth.
Living in regret and living out redemption are mutually exclusive.
What is redemption? Christ’s clearing our debts.
That’s powerful. How can we forget that? But we do. Often.
“If only you KNEW who I was,” says Christ, reminding us with calm, cool, collected confidence in who He is and what He’s already done for us.
If only we KNEW.
The story in John 4 of the Samaritan woman at the well is fascinating for several reasons.
But I want to focus on one.
We are all that Samaritan woman.
We come face-to-face with Christ, give Him reason after reason and excuse after excuse for why we aren’t good enough for His time. And even as He tries to remind us that He loves us in spite of ourselves, we are too busy basking in our regret to actually hear what He’s got to say.
We can’t talk, Jesus. You and I are in radically different places. You’re perfect, and I’m beyond repair.
Stay away, Jesus. I’ve got 5 husbands I don’t want to talk about. I’ve got baggage I don’t feel comfortable opening up about. I’ve got years of headaches and scars and bruises I don’t really want You to reprimand me about.
I know You’re a big deal, Jesus. But the way I do church and the way I witness might not be exactly what You’ve got in mind. I just don’t want to do things any different.
We are all that Samaritan woman.
We’ve all got our hidden sins, our debilitating struggles, the things that hold us back from being effective… we’ve got our regrets.
And we live in regret instead of living out redemption.
If only we KNEW who He was.
But, like a boxer who sizes up his opponent with an arm outstretched, we want to keep Christ at an arm’s length. Like the Samaritan woman.
But the most incredible thing happens when she finally realizes who Christ is.
In verses 39 through 42, we’re told that her testimony alone changes the lives of many in her town. And if that story ended there, it’d be amazing enough.
But John adds that the townspeople were so excited about this Christ fellow that they invited Him to spend a few days with them. Even more came to Christ, letting the Samaritan woman know that they no longer needed to just trust her stories to believe in Him; they believed in Him because they heard Him themselves and they had no reason not to trust Him anymore.
When she KNEW who Christ was and it exuded from her, the ripple effect in her town was unstoppable.
Why shouldn’t we be unstoppable?
Why shouldn’t every moment of our day and every interaction and every correspondence we engage in change the trajectory of the world we live in?
If only we KNEW.
If only we realized that instead of pushing Him away, we could absolutely rely on Him to save us from ourselves, fix our messes, and pick us up from our rockbottoms.
If only we KNEW.
Forget towns. We’d shake the entire world.
All hell breaks loose at a bank when somebody wants to make a withdrawal of at least $10,000.
The customer will walk up to the teller. He’ll present his withdrawal form or check. The teller will buzz the manager or supervisor to clear this large transaction. The manager or supervisor will take out a form for the customer to fill out. He or she will walk it over to the teller. There will be a quick talk with the customer to explain the Bank Secrecy Act. The customer’s transactions for the day will be flagged and monitored to ensure there’s nothing surreptitious taking place.
And then, the teller’s gotta step out with a supervisor to the vault. They’ll go and count up the cash they need from in there. They’ll make sure the vault is balanced. They’ll walk back to the counter. The teller will count the unbundled cash. And, then, finally… after what seems like an eternity… they’ll hand the cash over to the customer.
ALL OF THAT happens when somebody wants to take out just $10,000 in cash. It involves a bunch of people at a bank. Takes forever. And the customer’s name gets flagged.
As the adage goes, all hell breaks loose.
But do you know just how much actual hell actually broke loose when Jesus saw His fate unfold right before His eyes and still decided to make the transaction for your eternity?
He saw the cross and said:
“You’re gonna push me away. Even when I really can help with your addictions. With your struggles. With your overwhelming sense of inadequacy. You’re gonna not want me around. But, you know what? Your life is worth the wait at the counter. It’s worth all the people at the bank staring at me. It’s worth my name getting flagged in a government database. It’s worth the 30-minute wait… It’s worth the whipping, the spitting, the falling, the beating, the nails driven right through my body, the spear through my side, the crown of thorns. You’re worth it all.”
If only we KNEW.
Hell broke loose. The heavens and the earth shook. The veil tore in half.
Because we were worth redeeming.
As fallible and brutish and weak as we were, we were still worth Christ’s transaction on the cross.
So why do we still push Him away?
A friend of mine was promoting an event last week where I would be speaking. In a Facebook group post, he listed a bunch of compliments and qualities that he believed I exhibited and was worth mentioning.
I could sing. I could write. I was creative. I was a forward thinker. I was unbiased in debates. I was a grammar Nazi. I was kind. I was caring.
And at the very end of the list, one thing struck me most. Because, as much as I cringed at all of those compliments, this one bothered me on some deeper level. Because it wasn’t true.
I was humble.
And here’s what shook me when I read that.
There’s a difference between having a bunch of skills and not talking about yourself because you’re genuinely humble… and having a bunch of skills and not talking about yourself… because you’re incredibly insecure about yourself.
And I’m the single most insecure person you’ll ever meet.
When you look at me and see a person that can get on stage, grab a mic, and own a song or sing his heart out… I am shaking inside. Because I’m scared of failing. Because I think I’m inadequate. Because I think literally anybody ought to be up there on the stage instead of me.
When you look at me and see somebody with an array of skills, I look at the mirror and see a zero staring back at me.
It eats me alive inside, because I genuinely think I’m wasting everybody’s time. ALL the time.
Because there are other people more capable.
The reason why I push young people to the forefront all the time is because of my deep-rooted feelings of just… being in their way. As if I’m keeping them from being fully utilized. As if I’m just a stopgap for people who are better equipped to be world changers.
And you may have never known this about me.
I came up as a worship leader with Binil Chacko and he probably assumed I was really humble.
I was with the UPAFTER for years and those guys probably just assumed I was really humble.
I was involved in a bunch of ministries and everybody probably just assumed I was really humble.
But the truth is that I don’t have a single humble bone in my body.
I don’t talk about myself, because I… don’t want to waste your time. Because I’m not worth it.
So, my prayers were always “God, use this other person” or “God, you have no idea how much time you’re wasting with me” or “God, this young kid at that church really deserves any skills you bothered giving me.”
You’d just never know it.
I’ve struggled for years with feelings of utter uselessness, doing what I can only when I’m asked to, and then still feeling completely and utterly inadequate.
I’ve lived with that shame and fear and regret for years. And I’ve been largely ineffective in my witness. Because I wasn’t fully comprehending just how much hell broke loose for me when Christ completed His transaction.
And over the last few months, when my life hit rockbottom at different instances, I realized that the sticker price Christ put on my life and my skills and my abilities tremendously outshines the meager price I’d put on myself.
And it’s dramatically changed the way I approach the world.
Christ thought I was worth it.
God saw something in me to give me random abilities so that I could impact the world.
So, it doesn’t matter that my track record of regret falls in line with the Samaritan woman’s. All that matters is that I finally KNOW who Christ is and just how much that transaction on the cross rewrote the trajectory of my life. Of my witness. Of my eternity.
I still struggle with bouts of insecurity, but over the last few months, I’ve realized the value that I have and my usefulness everywhere I happen to be plugged in.
For years, I was a living testimony of “If only we KNEW.”
Now, I’m exuding “I absolutely get it.”
No more just going through the motions, overwhelmed by fear and regret.
I understand redemption.
And I’m ready to impact my town.
Nothing is louder
We are all that Samaritan woman.
We think our struggles define us. We think our addictions label us. We think our secrets are loud reasons why we shouldn’t be impacting the world around us.
Where is God in the evil and the darkness?
But, trust me.
Nothing is louder than Christ’s screams of agony when He decided you were worth every second on a wooden cross.
Nothing is louder than that.
And, just like the Samaritan woman’s renewed witness transformed her town, we have every chance to be as effective.
We just need to realize just how much Christ values us despite what we think of ourselves.
What is redemption? It’s the total opposite of what living in regret tells us.
And when we finally stop pushing Him away, we’ll begin to realize that we’ve never mattered more. ■