We have spent the last two weeks exploring Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well (John 4) and celebrating our very personal God. We cannot step into His blessings and promises without knowing Him. Yet our God repeatedly intervenes along life’s paths to make Himself known, watching to see if we will respond in faith to the encounter. Today, Juliet Sharrow shares her story of pain and God’s intervening love. May her story move you to trust and follow the One who gives life.
A Thirsty Soul by Juliet Sharrow
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13
I have been the woman at the well. I’d wager you have too. We’ve all had times, whether we want to admit it or not, when we’ve felt like her . . . unworthy, like an outcast, wearing our shame and guilt like a scarlet letter. In those times we try to avoid people, carefully evading their judgment and “knowing glances”. Yet all the while we’re dying inside, our parched souls crying out for satisfaction but finding none.
My quest to satisfy my thirsty soul began at a young age. My Grandparents wanted my mother to have an abortion. I was an unplanned child to an 18-year-old unwed mother. And my young father was not ready for the responsibilities of a wife and child. From these beginnings came a little girl who felt unloved and rejected from as far back as she can remember.
I grew up without my father; I never even knew his name. I was raised by a wounded mother who was unable to love and a stepfather who was cold and abusive. The words “I love you” were never spoken in our home and hugs were rare. My stepfather only spoke to me when I did something wrong. I was not praised or told I did anything right, and I was never told I was beautiful, like every girl dreams of hearing from her daddy.
I was an only child, so everything that happened was somehow my fault. With no one else to blame, my stepfather took all his frustrations out on me. And my mother was too weak, too broken herself, to protect me. I learned at an early age that love has to be earned and that love can be taken back at a moment’s notice. This left me hurting and searching. Searching for love anywhere I could get it. And so began my unquenchable thirst.
My childhood environment taught me this: I was not good enough, was not accepted, and was not loved. I knew there must be something wrong with me that no one wanted me and no one loved me. I believed I was ugly and unlovable, that no one could EVER love me.
From a young age I went to church with anyone who would take me, mostly to get out of the house and away from my parents. And when I was old enough to understand about hell, I decided I didn’t want to go there, so I prayed the sinner’s prayer.
But I didn’t understand what accepting Jesus as my Savior really meant. Once again, I saw rules that had to be followed, and punishment for those that sinned. I thought God was waiting to punish me every time I did something wrong. I never felt love from God and I certainly never understood how to love Him back. He was too distant, and I was too afraid of failing Him along with everyone else. It never occurred to me that this God might be able to satisfy my thirst.
I thought if He really loved me He would have given me different parents, or He would have sent my real dad in to rescue me. Have you ever wished you could live someone else’s life? But my real father never came, and things at home only got worse. I just knew there was no way this perfect God could really love me. I was unlovable. And so my insatiable thirst only grew.
Nothing I did filled the void inside, nothing made me feel loved and accepted. I hated myself so much, and my relationship with my stepfather had gotten so bad, that as a teenager, every day I wished I was dead. I would sit on my bed and tell my mom how much I wanted to die. It consumed my thoughts. I saw myself as a failure and thought my life was not worth living, but I never got up the nerve to commit suicide.
Not until I was 21. By this time, my life had spiraled into such a deep pit, I saw no way out.
At first my spiral downward had been exciting, even intoxicating. I tried to satisfy my thirsty soul with all manner of evils, but the more I gave myself away, the thirstier I got, and I died a little more inside each day. I couldn’t live with the shame and guilt I was carrying around, couldn’t live with the horrible choices I had made. I could not live with myself.
I knew in my heart that no one would miss me. I believed I was doing everyone a favor, and this would finally make the pain go away. So I took a bunch of pills and went to sleep knowing it was finally over.
But God had other plans for me. He sent paramedics to break down my door and save me from myself. As I lay there in and out of consciousness, I heard singing! Just one voice, a man, so tender and sweet, singing, “I will always love you, I will always love you, I will always love you, yes I will!”
I experienced the blessing of Zephaniah 3:17 that day,
“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
God wasn’t so distant after all. In fact, I discovered He goes out of His way to meet us where we are. Just like Jesus went to Samaria to rescue a woman at a well, He pursues each one of us. And He came to me in my darkest hour. As I lay dying, He sang His love over me and carried me back to the land of the living.
I should have died that day. The doctors did not understand how I made it, but I did. A loving God had intersected my path to show me that I was worth loving. Unfortunately, I wasn’t yet ready to believe Him.
Visit us next week to read the rest of Juliet’s story!