Bucket at the well

I’m at a retreat, and the theme of it is the story of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. This is found here –

John 4:4-10 (the Message translation)
4-6 To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
7-8 A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
9 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

In the retreat, we were asked to put ourselves in the scene. Pick a person or an object, and see things from its perspective. The words we were given were the town, the field, the well, the disciples, the Samaritan woman, bucket, and living water.

The word that stuck out when I was reading that list was “bucket.” What a funny word! Who would ever think of the bucket? It isn’t a character, certainly. But it is. Everything matters. So even though it seemed silly, I worked with it.

We were to think about how we need to nourish ourselves too, and refill from the well that is Jesus.

I’m the bucket by the well. The water is on me, soaking into my wood, slowly rusting my iron bands. I’m glad that the cooper made me so well that I don’t spill a drop.

I’m constantly giving out water, and I’m never drinking it myself.

I love it when I get forgotten. I love it when I’m at the bottom of the well and I’m resting in the water. I love the safety of the rope, ready to pull me up to the bright sunlight again.

Yet I can’t stay in that water too long. My wood will swell. The iron bands that hold me together will corrode past a point of ignoring. In short, I’ll stop being a bucket. I’ll start being something other than useful, something other than needed.

Is that a problem?

What if I go too far, soaking up the water that is God?

I’d love to live in this world. I’d love to stop wading in the ocean that is God and just jump right in.

Well I say that and then I remember that I don’t swim very well. If I was confronted with a hypothetical lake I’d pray for an actual boat to cross it.

I forget that babies breathe liquid. They are liquid. The percentage of water in the human body is the same as the percentage of water on Earth.

There has to be a way to be a mystic in the world. If I retreat fully from the world my husband would have to take on the responsibility of the house all by himself. That isn’t fair.

Jesus didn’t call us to escape from the world. He called us to live in it, to be healers, teachers, repairers. Now, he spent a lot of time alone too. Maybe that is the secret. Do both. Schedule time away, to listen, to replenish, to revive.

How can you constantly give if you aren’t also constantly receiving? You’ll run dry.

In Jewish tradition, water is seen as Torah. Every time water is mentioned it really means Torah. Water is life.

Then I remember my favorite animal is a salamander. It was born in water, but lives on land. It has to stay near water to live. This symbol means more and more now. In order for me to be who I am, I have to stay close to the Water that is Jesus. I have to replenish my soul. Yet to immerse myself fully in that world isn’t healthy either. Salamanders drown. I’d drown.

Balance is key. Return to the well regularly. Remember my roots. Don’t fall in. I’m a little bit of both worlds, all mixed up. Accepting my difference is a good start. I can’t define myself by normal rules.

(Started on retreat, 1-17-14, around 8 p.m. Finished 1-20-14)

Salamander art

I said that I wanted to draw every day and that is not happening. I’m not making time for it on a regular basis, and when I do make the time (not enough, but something) I feel that I’m not doing my best. I make up color tests, rather than sketching something that is there. Or I do the praying-in-color thing, where I doodle and pray at the same time. It helps me realize something or get something out. It is something, but not what I wanted. It isn’t my best work. It is something. Currently I’m reassessing my drawing. There is only so much time in the day, and I wonder when I can shoehorn everything in.
Life is about choices. And it is about deciding what you are going to focus on. And it is also about admitting defeat or trudging on.
I’m glad I got over the objection that I wanted unlimited time to do this. I have a clock in my craft room that I look at, and I’ve not run late yet. I’d rather be able to spend as much time as I want, but I’ve learned that if I don’t have a time limit, I tend to not even get started. It makes no sense, but it is that way it is.
Praying or crafting is a little like swimming. I stop being part of time, of the “real” world, and I connect with the endless. I leave the known of the dry land and I enter another world, where the normal rules don’t apply. It is hard to want to come back, and it is hard to make that switch when I must come back because I have to go to work. Sometimes I resent having to go to work, because of the time it takes out of my week. I like my job – I’m grateful to have a job that I can do well, and it has health insurance and a pension. It is hard to be an adult sometimes.
Then I remember the salamander again. It is dual natured. It needs water to survive. It has to be near water. It was born in water, breathing it. It evolves, and then it can breathe air, but never fully is able to leave the water. It can’t breathe water again after a certain point, but it needs to be near water – it needs to feel the water on its skin on a regular basis or it will shrivel up and die.
I’ve heard that the Torah is the same as water. The Word of God is water. Jesus tells us that he is living water.
Funny how I got that salamander tattoo a long time ago, and it is my touchstone now. It is pulling me back to myself.
It is a reminder of then, and a reminder of a promise, and it is a way-marker and a milestone. It shows then and future at the same time. Like all good messengers from God, it has many layers of meaning, and it is always true. I just can’t interpret it all yet. But it helps. It helps me remember, and pull myself back in.
Funny how this tattoo, this symbol of a salamander, refers to opposites – to fire and to water. Funny how it is a tiny creature, yet has such a mythology around it.
I’m learning how to be creative and have a full-time job at the same time. I’m learning how to be the salamander – to be in and with and near and part of art and work, at the same time. I’m learning to not separate the parts of who I am into pieces, but integrate them into a whole.

(updated 1-18-18)