Things as they are in this world are not how they are supposed to be.
Our hearts are not the way they are meant to be. The world has come undone through sin. Our hearts have come undone. So it makes sense that we say, “I’m fine,” because in a world that has come undone, sometimes the best we can hope for is merely to cope. “I am dealing with it” is all we can muster.
But sometimes a deeper assumption lurks beneath all this. Perhaps deep down we think that “fine,” “OK,” and “getting by” are as much as anyone can hope for. This is as good as it gets. Just cobble together something that seems good enough to get you by. Do your best to forget the past, ignore the present, and not think too deeply about the future.
In the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-42), we see someone doing exactly that: getting by, trying to make the best of a difficult life by cobbling together the broken pieces. John is very intentional about every detail he includes in this story. Though it is lengthy, no word is wasted.
The turning point in the conversation comes when Jesus says, “Go call your husband” (John 4:16). Up until this point, there have been some rich exchanges, but nothing penetrates the surface. And all of a sudden, it’s as if the air gets quiet and everything freezes. This is the moment it gets real.
“I do not have a husband,” the woman says, and Jesus says, “You are right. . . . You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband” (John 4:17, 18). The woman can no longer pretend she is fine. In that one sentence of Jesus, her dreams are revealed, as well as the fact that they’ve all come undone.
The woman at the well, by trying to forget her past, ignore her present, and not think about the future, tries hard to portray “I’m fine, I’m okay, no problem.” But Jesus names it: “Go call your husband” (John 4:16). In that moment she must come face-to-face with what she has always known but never admitted: she is not fine.
Every one of us is not fine.
How often do we avoid silence? How often do we simply run to the next thing: the next podcast, the next video, the next movie, the next whatever it is that can distract us from acknowledging the truth? We try to forget our past, ignore our present, and not think about the future.
We are undone, but Jesus came to fight for us! This is what Jesus revealed to the woman at the well: that her sin and her past were not obstacles to Jesus’ ability to love her.
But her past could be the obstacle to her loving him. Isn’t this true for all of us?
Jesus has to bring up the wound so that we can realize we’re not fine. When you believe that you’re fine—pretending that this brokenness is as good as it gets, that things are as they are meant to be—then you’re going to cobble together something far less than what Jesus wants for you. He came to fight for you. He died for you.
Your sin—your past that you try to forget, your present that you try to ignore—is not an obstacle to his love! But it can be an obstacle to your loving him back if you ignore it and pretend you’re fine.
This is one of the reasons why I love Confession. We can come face-to-face with Jesus and acknowledge, I’m not fine, and I don’t have to be. I’m not going to forget my past or ignore my present. Because Jesus comes into our wounds to undo the undoing.
This week you are invited to do two things. First identify a wound that needs healing or a lie you are tempted to believe, and bring it to Jesus in prayer. If you bring a lie to Jesus, ask him what he has to say about it. If it is a wound, ask Jesus for the grace to trust in his love for you, to forgive anyone who has hurt you, and to continually receive healing and wholeness in him. After spending some time in prayer and reflection on this, close with the prayer below or one of your own.
Second, go to Confession as soon as you are able. Remember that this is a sacrament of healing and mercy, which not only assures you of God’s forgiveness in Christ but also bestows grace for growing in victory over the lies and sins that weigh you down. If you need a refresher or any assistance on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, go to the US Bishops website (www.usccb.org), and navigate to “Prayer & Worship” > “Sacraments” > “Penance and Reconciliation.” There you will find several helps and guides, such as “How to Go to Confession,” examinations of conscience, and some brief articles on the sacrament.
Jesus, you know me better than I know myself.
You know my hurts, my fears, my doubts, my sins.
Without you, Lord, I am not fine.
But with you in my life, I don’t need to forget my past, ignore my present, or fear the future.
With confidence in your great love for me,
I run to you for help and healing.
I need you today and always, Jesus.
You alone can undo what has come undone in me.
This is a selection from A World Undone, by Fr. Mike Schmitz (The Word Among Us Press, 2020), available from www.wau.org/books.