Before you read this chapter, I would recommend you do the following:
Take three deep breaths to center yourself for the journey ahead. Take time to pray by saying, “God, help me understand what you have prepared for me today.”
Read the Scripture slowly. Read it using your imagination and creativity. Can you relate to the Samaritan woman? To what extent?
Scripture: John 4:5-15
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)[a] 10 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.’ 11 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ 13 Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 15 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
Are you a phono sapiens? It is a term used to describe a person who heavily relies on their smartphone for their daily lifestyle. The term was first introduced in an article titled "Planet of the Phones," published by The Economist in February 2015.* According to this article, since the first iPhone came out in January 2007, the smartphone has become the fastest-selling gadget in human history. By 2015, half of the adult population owned a smartphone, and this article predicted that it was going to be 80% in 2022. And yes, they were right. In 2023, the current number of smartphone users in the world is 6.92 billion, meaning 86.29% of the world's population owns a smartphone.** More and more people today are using a smartphone to navigate through their daily life journey, and it is becoming the number one device that people cannot live without.
Yes, I am a phono sapiens too. It wakes me up in the morning with the alarm. The first thing I see every morning is not the round face of my wife, but the rectangular face of my phone. It tells me about today's weather and reminds me of my schedule for the day. It entertains me when I am bored and assists me in not forgetting to get milk when I go grocery shopping. Thanks to the smartphone, I could see and speak to my family members in Korea. When I go to bed, there is always a smartphone in my hand. Sometimes, when I have a hard time falling asleep, it plays my favorite music or white noise to aid my sleep.
A smartphone helps greatly with my work as a pastor as well. Especially during the pandemic, I don't know if I could continue to be a pastor without my smartphone. Through the phone, I was able to connect with those who were quarantined. It was an essential device to record my sermon and praise & worship videos so that I could share them with the congregation. As I have a pretty bad sense of direction, whenever I visit our church members, it functions as a navigator to guide me to unfamiliar places. So, I am grateful for this amazing gadget, and my life heavily relies on it. In that sense, yes, I am a phono sapiens.
On the other hand, however, I feel a little uncomfortable admitting that I can be defined by the device I use. A part of me strongly refuses to call myself a phono sapiens, perhaps because I do not want to define who I am by the thing I carry around all day. Yes, it has become like an extended organ that functions to help every other part of my body, but I feel uncomfortable admitting that this device defines what kind of human being I am. At the end of the day, a phone is a phone no matter how "smart" it is, right?
Please don’t get me wrong: I am not anti-technology. In fact, I am closer to being an early adopter. As my father is a retired electrical engineer, I was exposed to cutting-edge technologies in the 80s, such as the Walkman, beeper, and PC. Growing up, I always loved to play with computers and new technologies. It's just that I feel like there are many other factors that are way more important than the smartphone that should figure into defining who we are as human beings. We can't just be phono sapiens.
What if I argue that we humans can be defined by our thirst, not by what we already own? In other words, we are defined not just by our past and present, but also by our hopes and dreams for the future. Yes, we are what we eat. However, we are also what we aspire to be. Some thirst for money, power, and fame, while others thirst for spiritual growth. Arguably, however, we all thirst for peace and justice on earth. We are thirsty and hence we search for the Living Water. That’s who we are.
In today’s Bible story, we hear about a woman. She was a Samaritan and had five husbands before. The one she was living with now was not her husband. She was always thirsty. It was not her fault that her life got messed up. She never had the power to control her own life. Autonomy was not allowed for a Samaritan woman in her time. Yet, people around her always cast judgmental glances on her. They said it was her fault. She could not help but accept that as the truth. She began to believe that it was her sin and her life was condemned by God. She was thirsty for forgiveness, reconciliation, and heartfelt relationships.
That’s why she went to the well in the middle of the day when there was no one around. She kind of liked that time alone. During this time, she could do what she was required to do without seeing the uncomfortable eyes of others, without being seen as a sinner. It was her job. Getting the water from the well was her responsibility to be with him. And she needed to quench her thirst. Thankfully, she had the right tool to do her job: the bucket. It represented her worth, her purpose in life, and the insignificant but crucial power she had. “No one, even the king, could get the water without my bucket,” she imagined. She knew it was a meaningless daydream, but it made her feel a little bit better. She felt that her life was somewhat important, as much as the bucket was important for drawing water from the famous Jacob’s well.
And then Jesus came to her. You know the rest of the story. At the end of the conversation, we hear that “the woman left her bucket and went back to the city.” Her life was not dependent on the bucket anymore. She was not empty and thirsty anymore. She met with the Messiah. She couldn’t contain the joy gushing up in her. It was the Living Water. It had to flow from her. It didn’t matter how the village people thought of her before. She had to share the message: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” She was not just “the woman at the well.” She became a messenger.
During this week, I would invite you to think about this question: What do you really thirst for? What is the thirst that defines who you are? If you are not thirsty anymore, that’s a great news. I remember the time when I was really thirsty for a healthy church community. Now I have it and I am so grateful for that this “living water” gushing up in me that makes me want to be a good messenger of hope, peace, and love to the world. I thirst for God’s kingdom on earth. Phono sapiens or not, I am a Christian. How about you? What do you thirst for? I hope you find your Living Water as well.
*https://www.economist.com/leaders/2015/02/26/planet-of-the-phones ** Source: https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/how-many-phones-are-in-the-world
In your life journey, was there a time when you desperately needed the Living Water? What made you so thirsty?
What do you thirst for today? What do you want and what do you need to quench your thirst?
What does it mean to you that Jesus is the Living Water? How do you connect yourself with the story of the Samaritan woman at the well?