I went to church yesterday, and it was the Sunday of the Samaritan woman. This is a very significant day because it was on this very Sunday one year ago today, that Father Leo gave me the sacrament of Chrismation into the Holy Orthodox church.
I love the Samaritan woman. She was smart, manipulative, had too many men, and was easily slayed by the brown eyed carpenter whose love causes you to run away saying, I've met him! I've met the messiah!" If you are truly blessed, you run and tell everyone, "And he loves me!"
I think about how Jesus asked her to speak to her husband, and she said, "I don't have one." Jesus told her she was right! She had five, and the one she was laying up with like she lived in a flop house (my mother used to say that all the time) wasn't her husband.
I had a few who weren't my husband. Okay, more than a few! I could relate.
One of those men showed up at more door later on the same sunday: him.
I've told you about him. No, not that one. The other one. Not the one of "I loved a boy" fame. The one of "The Naked Pregnant Woman in the Yard" fame. Just showed up without any warning he was coming.
I've seen him over the years. He and I have two children together. I'm not afraid of him anymore. I'd just spoken of him a few nights before, remembering the day I left him. I was pregnant. I was alone. I couldn't take my two babies with me because he'd terrorized me into believing that if I left with them he'd hunt us down and kill us. He'd tried to kill me several times. I didn't want him to hurt the babies. He said if he couldn't find us, he'd kill my mother, or my best friend. I believed him.
I sat at the door, on the steps the day I left, locked inside the house waiting for him to return. I had the single minded goal of staying alive. He'd had the house set up so that I couldn't even get out the door without him. Lord, have mercy. My mother told me to leave, without the kids, before I told her he'd ever raised a hand to me. She knew. Mother's don't tell you to leave your babies if the odds of your survival are good. She said I'd get them back, but he was like the devil. I didn't believe I would. I stayed four years because of that.
When he opened the door that day some twelve years ago I stood and told him I was leaving. He frisked me. All he found in my pocket was my drivers license and social security card. I had no purse. The only money I had was less than twenty dollars I'd rolled up in plastic and inserted in my body like a tampon. He didn't do a cavity search, thank God. He is the type that would have tried if he'd thought I was smart enough to hide something there.
I started my life over with those resources: Dress and sandals I had on. Secret stash of less than a twenty spot. License. Social security card. And unknown to me, the grace of God.
Now, he's sitting on my porch wanting to talk.
I look at him. His hair has gone so gray that it shocks me. Thick, bongo dreadlocks fall carelessly down his back, matted gray and brown ropes. Patches of bald dot the landscape of his head. He is turning into an old man before my eyes. But his body is strong and young. He's still good looking.
He shoos the kids away, and I wonder why he needs to speak so privately. I'm not afraid of him at all.
We sit down, and he asked how I'm doing. I'm tired, but I feel soft and beautiful. I'd worn my hair in long cornrows for the last month, but I'd taken them down, and my own hair, much shorter, is crinkled into soft curls. I'm wearing all my favorite jewelry. I feel pretty as a bud today. He notices.
"I just want to thank you for our children." Those children are almost fifteen and seventeen years old now! A little late, yes? But I just nod. "You know," he says, "You gave me so much."
He had that right. "You were a soldier." Got the war wounds to prove it! "You raised the standard for every woman that came after you." Poor things.
He looked sad and full of regrets. I didn't have any regrets. I loved him with all I had, and lost everything. I came back home on a bus I didn't have the money to buy the ticket for. I borrowed clothes. My mother breasts exploded with milk from missing my nursing child, and I lost the baby I carried. My mother was right. I did get the kids back, only to have him take our boy a year later. I didn't get my son back for ten years. I met an imperfect man who loved me the best way he could, and he gave me three more children and a life with him in which I didn't have to worry about my death every day at his hands. I wrote stuff on the internet that turned into publishing contracts. I made good friends I can be authentic with. I got fat, but I look gooooooood! Jesus loves me.
I asked him how he was, and he told me. I felt so sorry for him. He used to call me twice a year, every year, and tell me I was the love of his life and that he'd never find another woman like me. He'd cry. He'd tell me he was deeply sorry. I told him if he didn't change the way he treats people he'd end up a very lonely old man. And now, he practically is.
My children swirled around me on brand new bikes, running in their new Nike's and K-Swiss. They look good. He never had more children, but wanted to. I'd been to church, celebrated the Eucharist, and celebrated my spiritual annivesary. My happiness wrapped around me like a quilt. God had been good to me. Nobody threw me out of my house naked and pregnant.
I thought about the well I'd met Jesus at twelve years ago when I had to leave him. So thirsty. Living with a man who wasn't my husband. I think of the big swig of life Jesus offered me. Never thirst again, Jesus said.
I took a sip.
I thirsted again, many times, but that wasn't Jesus' fault, it was mine for not diving right in and not only drinking my fill, but swimming in that clear, refreshing, river of life. But Jesus promised something to us ragamuffins. He said if we hunger and thirst for righteousness we'd be filled. So I go back to the well. Often. Jesus is still there. He still doesn't have a bucket. He asks me to partake of Him.
Never thirst again.
I go, mouth wide, trying to drink Him in. I can still only take Him in small doses. But I try.
God knows I try.
And He fills.