How To Keep Giving When You Are Empty

Dry as driftwood in a sea of people, she wraps her hands to warm around the coffee, the hour’s chosen, unresponsive friend. The church lobby hums like a hive, people’s conversations and footsteps sounding a rhythm. “Hello’s,” “how are you’s” reverberating against glass walls, concrete floors. At a teetering table, she chews a Cliff bar methodically as she wishes time and herself away. A small-lipped smile quivers at her mouth’s edges when someone passes. Anyone.


Photo courtesy of DMedina @

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.

The coffee cools and she cries silently. Emptiness pressurizes her like a leaky garden hose, ebbing the grief in clear plops, straight and salty into the cup. She might unhinge the faucet itself, right there in the church lobby. She has been singing praises to God with little kids, but she can’t, won’t do it again.

How can you give high fives and wave your hands in praise when your soul is bone dry? How can you give when you are needing so much yourself? A kind word, a touch, more than a handful of moments of someone, anyone seeing your pain, your hurt, your need to be known and understood. Engaged.

She is grieving and she knows it finally, for everything that is just out of reach, her many years of friendships, of people asking questions, interested always, and challenging. She moved away from home. Now she is the new person, the outsider. She looks up and sees other people, standing alone, some feeling ethnically or economically or spiritually or relationally less than she guesses. On the fringe. Like her. Surrounded and alone.




Photo courtesy of hotblack @

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.) 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.)

She wants so badly to pick herself up out of her mess and give something away. She knows that could be the start. She is so empty she can’t see how to say hello one more time or extend her hand again without someone really seeing her.

She retreats to the bookstore and hides for an hour, from her expectations of the world, from herself. Then the unsettling knowing comes: bitterness and anger sprouts from her selfish soul. She wants everyone to see her wounds and heal them, instead of the One who heals every heartache.

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.” (John 4:4-10 MSG)

Someone says hello, someone she knows. We all want to know someone, if nothing but to recognize a face in a crowd. She is snatched, startled out of her hole next to the Marriage books. She will see it as she tells us the story, even if blindness bathes her now: the drink-bearer, the caring coming in the name of Christ. They speak briefly. How are the kids and what did you do this weekend. Nothing really to the approaching friend, everything to her.

Because when you are a deck of cards folding in on yourself, you cannot see past your pain until someone else picks up the deck and holds you, unfolds you.

When she finally exits the bookstore, to move on and be in the world again, she sees the fringe people who had stood alone, every single one of them. She sees them as they are, as we are all meant to be. The shining smile of a tall lanky man opens wide and laughs bright and throws his head back like a Mentos commercial. It is enough to carry her back into the fray of kids and hand motions and words she can’t remember.

Join me in finding the fringe people, the lonely, the breaking. We live and serve in a vast sea of people. Don’t we all just want to be seen in this moment?. If you know Jesus, remember how He brought you into the light. Bolster your confidence, because it is not about them, or us. The pressure is off, I promise. It is about Him. Only Him. The Healer, the Provider. Abba. Father.

Linger and look them in the eye. Hello is just code for “I am thirsty too.”



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November 8, 2014