Jacob’s Well Revisited

by Ericka and Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Each Monday evening this fall, we have been a part of the “Intelligent Love,” learning cohort, exploring issues of prostitution, trafficking and institutionalized violence against women in the city of Vancouver.

This cohort was assembled by Michelle Miller, Executive Director of REED (www.embracedignity.org) and has featured a variety of guest teachers including abolitionists, activists and formerly exploited women.

What follows is a theological reflection based on some of the (real life) stories we’ve heard, and their resonance with the the gospel of Jesus Christ.

First listen to the song, and enter into the story below.

I wake up with the pound of a fist in my gut, the smell of half-smoked cigarettes and stale beer. Adele on the stereo. The room blurry, fades in and out of focus.

Close enough to start a war
All that I have is on the floor.

Broken, bent, discarded. Ripped and tattered and torn.

Close enough to start a war.
All that I have is on the floor.

Beaten and bruised, and you’re not even amused by the thought of me, here, naked, before you. Naked, empty, and yours.

You’re the one who called me. Called me up, called me countless names, calling me again and again.

Calling me, telling me everything I have ever done. Ever been. Goddamned whore, stupid piece of fucking shit. Good for nothing bitch.


Nothing I can say, nothing I can do.

God only knows what we’re fighting for.
All that I say, you always say more.
I can’t keep up with your turning tables.
Under your thumb I can’t breathe.

Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe.

Gotta get out.

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

A drink? I just bet that’s all he wants. A fucking drink.

I won’t let you close enough to hurt me
No, I won’t rescue you to just desert me

What does he want, what the hell does he want? What does he want from me? Same thing they all want. All the same. All the fucking same.

Alone at the well with no-one left in sight. What is it this time?

Let me guess…. A failed marriage? Girlfriend won’t put out? Maybe he’s one of the ones who keeps a list of the ones he’s fucked.

Whoever he is, I know he’s going to give me two choices: one quick trick or suck his dick.

Always the same. Why else would he be here? Why else would he be here now?

I can’t give you the heart you think you gave me
It’s time to say goodbye to turning tables

I can’t do it. Won’t do it again. I won’t be reminded of everyone I’ve been, everything I’ve done. Won’t be reminded by another prick of everywhere I’ve been and all that I’ve seen.

Under haunted skies I see you
Where love is lost your ghost is found
I braved a hundred storms to leave you
As hard as you try, no, I will never be knocked down.

It hurts just to think about it. Thinking is all I do…I close my eyes and the images come. Flashbacks of the coldest,
the darkest,
……the rainiest,
………the longest nights.

God only knows what we’re fighting for.
All that I say, you always say more.

Fat, sweaty bastards. My head knocking against the goddamned kid’s seat. Then a few bills shoved at me when it’s all over. The stares of disdain on the side of the road. And knowing I have to hook another…and another…and another. For you.

Eventually I’ll return home. If you can call that hell-hole a home.

I can’t keep up with your turning tables
Under your thumb I can’t breathe

Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’

Living water? Sounds like bullshit to me.

Doesn’t make sense. The story doesn’t add up. He makes me feel…I don’t know…not afraid, but uneasy.

What’s his deal, what’s he on? Living water? Living water?? Is that some new drug? Just what I need. Just what we all need.

I won’t let you close enough to hurt me,
No, I won’t rescue you to just desert me

He’s still there. Still looking at me. Why?

I won’t let you close enough to hurt me,
No, I won’t rescue you to just desert me

The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?

No bucket. Well, that answers that question. There’s no water without a bucket, and nothing left to do. Nothing left to say.

Time to get out, get away.

Nothing left to say, nothing left to give. Empty promises each and every time. A thousand empty promises.

Time to get away.

I can’t give you the heart you think you gave me
It’s time to say goodbye to turning tables

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’

What…what did he just say? How did he know? How does he know to say these things?

It’s like he sees right through me. Or maybe he just sees me.

Sees ME. The real ME.

Doesn’t see me for who I could be, for who I should be. For all those things I’m not. Somehow, somehow he sees me for who I am.
Beyond the lies and facades.

The made up names. The names they all want to call me. The words they all want to hear. The fulfilment of some perverted little fantasy.

Oh yes, he calls me. But the name he calls me is Beautiful.

Beyond the scars and shattered images, beyond the darkness, the mist and the rain, beyond the clothes, he sees me.

He calls me Child of God.
He sees me for all I’ve done, and he calls me Redeemed.

He sees me, and he doesn’t spit, or look away, or walk away. He doesn’t take advantage, doesn’t run.
He sees what I do not see, what I cannot see in myself.

Next time I’ll be braver
I’ll be my own saviour

When the thunder calls for me
Next time I’ll be braver
I’ll be my own saviour
Standing on my own two feet

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!

Everything I have ever done. Before him I was naked, empty.

Empty and Naked. But also,
Broken, but also

He told me everything I have ever done.
And all of it, all of me, made new.

So I won’t let you close enough to hurt me,
No, I won’t rescue you to just desert me
I can’t give you the heart you think you gave me
It’s time to say goodbye to turning tables

Andrew Stephens-Rennie on FacebookAndrew Stephens-Rennie on Twitter
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at www.empireremixed.com, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

5 Responses to “Jacob’s Well Revisited”

  1. Deborah

    You keep ripping off the dusty wrapping on stories, and making them about people, about us, now. Thank you.

  2. Keith Shields

    Well done! REED does great work. Thank you for highlighting this learning cohort.

  3. B. Walsh

    Blow me away! Holy shit, that was an amazing story. Thanks Andrew and Ericka.

  4. andrew

    It’s really an incredible group of people doing some deep thinking on where our faith might intersect with the systems of oppression that lead to prostitution and trafficking in the first place. I’m grateful for the chance to learn alongside, and from this cohort.

    I’m blown away time and again by the ways in which the gospel jumps off the page and into real life situations.

  5. JL

    Beautiful. A friend just passed this onto me, thank you for being part of the fabric of tension in addressing how faith intersects with prostitution and human trafficking.


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