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She doesn’t have a name; did you notice?

The first person to whom Jesus Christ publicly proclaimed his ministry, to whom he revealed himself as the long-awaited Messiah – we don’t even know her name.


We know she was a social outcast; drawing water during the hottest part of the day was nobody’s first choice. That’s what you do when you are not welcome to gather with the other women during the cool of the mornings and evenings.

I am not that desperately alone. But I know what it feels like to have others whisper, to wonder, to sneak a glance my direction while saying something that others laugh at. I have walked into a room, and thought, “I don’t fit in here.”


We know she had had five husbands, and at least one of them wasn’t really married to her. Even today that is a bit much, to have married or lived with five different men while still young enough to draw water. It is clear why people, especially in that age, would have considered her wanton, probably incorrigible in her habits.

I haven’t had five husbands, but I have had two while young enough to draw water, and I must admit, the worst assumptions about how I ended up married twice by my mid-twenties are not far off the mark. I know what it is like to find myself puzzled about how I ended up on a path I don’t like and can’t seem to find my way off.

I know what it’s like to have everyone know.


We know she was socially insignificant. Even if she hadn’t been an outcast, even if she had been a respectable woman, she was still a woman, a second-class citizen.

The Jews were oppressed by the sprawling, world-changing empire of Rome. They were a conquered people, watched over by a proud and successful conquering nation that viewed the strange monotheistic religion as somewhere between pathetic and dangerous. The nation of Israel had no political power, no prestige. They were a tiny backwater, important to no one. No Queen of Sheba visited the Jews in their captivity.

She was a Samaritan, a member of a group so meaningless and insignificant that it was despised and scorned even by the Jews, who were despised and scorned by everyone else.

I cannot quite identify, here. I am an educated person in a wealthy country, the recipient of many social and economic blessings I haven’t earned. But even so, I know what it is to feel insignificant.

To be the last one chosen, the last one called. To feel that my efforts are worthless, that no one notices me. I have spent many hours doing the unseen, thankless work of motherhood, wearing out my knees and my fingertips on chores nobody noticed or cared about.

I have pursued dreams that ended in failure, started projects that impressed no one, wrung my hands after encountering more successful people, wondering what they had that I didn’t. I have been in parties where people I like didn’t remember my name.

I have been dropped.

I know what it’s like to be insignificant.


But I am not as insignificant as she was. The rejected, shunned, second-class citizen of a third-class nation. She was immoral and unclean; it was inappropriate for a Jew to condescend to even speak to her.

And yet the King of the Jews, the King of Heaven, sought her out, and announced the beginning of the crowning event of creation only to her.


I was a young single mother, desperately trying to claw my way out of an abusive relationship. I felt so alone. Nobody could understand the pull that first husband had on me, the tendrils he had grown into my mind, the way I felt lost and helpless without him. I was literally walking to the phone to call him and beg for him back when the phone rang. It was my bishop, wanting to see how I was and if I needed anything. I did not deserve a miracle, but I got one anyway.

I am the woman at the well.

Last weekend, my daughter’s fiancée was arrested for an old (non-violent) warrant. She was left alone, frightened, desperate about what would happen to the life they had built together. A friend texted and invited her to stake conference. She decided to go, for the first time in many years, but felt desperate and out of place. She stepped out back, seeking the least-used door, to smoke a cigarette. She had just started when her uncle, whom she didn’t even know was in her stake, pulled up to that little-used door with his family. A minute later a young man pulled up to the same back door – neither my daughter nor anyone else had known him personally, but they recognized him because the night before he had spoken in the evening session of stake conference.

He had told about how the Lord had helped him when he had been arrested and imprisoned for an old warrant. He sat next to my daughter during the meeting. Afterward, the young single adults were invited to meet with the visiting general authority, and my daughter went with them. She was sitting, listening to a general authority, when she received the phone call telling her that her fiancée had been released and was coming home. She was not even active, but she was showered with miracles anyway.

She is the woman at the well.

We often think that miracles and salvation and the celestial kingdom are for prominent people. It’s for prophets and apostles or those who devote their lives to missionary work or helping the poor. You probably at least have to be a bishop, we sometimes think. We imagine the celestial kingdom full of famous, influential, significant people. Not just ordinary people like me with ordinary, pathetic, hurtful or embarrassing sins dragging behind us.

It is not so.

There is a reason Christ proclaimed himself to a woman so insignificant they did not even record her name.

There is a reason he spoke to her first, not to a prominent politician or religious leader. There is a reason he proclaimed, to a woman whom everyone knew as a sinner, the joyous news that the salvation of all mankind was at hand. He chose the lowest of the low, the most rejected, the most socially unacceptable, the least admired. He knew what he was doing.

I feel the impact of that proclamation even now, thousands of years later, muddling through my own insignificant and sin-scarred life.

To God, not one of us is insignificant. We are known, down to our five husbands, and we are not rejected.

We are all the woman at the well.