“The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have aid is quite true.” (John 4:18)
Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is not trying to shame, but to awaken. Awakening, however, is not a tidy process. In fact, it can be pretty messy. For in order to truly awaken someone, they must first be made aware of how they have been lulled to sleep. Their needy patterns and strategies must be exposed, recognized, and acknowledged before true awakening can take place.
But who in their right mind wants to be exposed? Only someone who realizes deep inside that their lives have taken a terribly wrong turn. Only someone who yearns and longs and hopes for a life that’s better than the one they are living. Only someone who is longing to experience a love that is deeper and wider and longer and higher than any love they have yet to experience.
That’s where we have to trust the heart of Jesus, that his intent is love and never shame. That he alone can love us with the depth and the passion and the intimacy we most deeply long for. That when he exposes us it is with the utmost gentleness and kindness and compassion, for it is his invitation to name what is wrong within us and return to what is good and true.
The heart of Jesus is to expose and awaken, to name and invite. Because, ultimately, he doesn’t want us to settle for less than the life and the love he created us for. He doesn’t want us to live at the mercy of others. He doesn’t want us to be dependent on the attention and affection of those around us, when it is only he who can give us the attention and affection we most deeply need. Helping us to realize that, and helping us to stop being the attention and affection whores that we are, is what spiritual awakening is really all about. It certainly was for the woman at the well.