As a Jewish rabbi, Jesus’ decision to speak to a Samaritan woman (John 4) was unexpected. It opened the door to her redemption and to salvation for many others in her village. Through His compassionate heart, He continues to pursue the lost today, as we see in the story of my friend Jackie.
Jackie captured my heart the instant I shook her hand. With her trendy asymmetrical hairstyle and crazy-print Capri pants, at ninety years of age she made quite a statement. Her spunky, fun appearance screamed, I’m an interesting character. You should get to know me. Her smile and warmth gave no hint of a life story that included years of pain and life-altering mistakes.
We chatted in a quiet corner, savoring our cookies and tea. She dove right into conversation, asking me questions about my life and my family, putting me at ease and somehow making me feel important. When I asked about her life, she shared her story with surprising transparency.
In the 1940s, as a wife and a mother of four, Jackie relished her sweet life. She had what most women wanted: a husband she loved, children she adored, and a comfortable lifestyle. But her world came crashing down the day her husband abandoned her and their children for his secretary. Jackie never saw it coming. The shock knocked the breath out of her. The suddenness of the betrayal, along with her years as a stay-at-home mom, placed her and the children in a vulnerable financial position.
Desperate to find a way to support herself and her children, she immediately accepted an entry-level job and tried as best she could to move forward. Her heart was shattered not only for her lost marriage but for the many ways her precious children would suffer. She felt utterly worthless and struggled with the cultural prejudices of the day. Jackie shared how people in that era thought, You aren’t much of a woman if you can’t keep your man happy.
Maneuvering through day-to-day life in all the familiar places was painful. Jackie heard the whispers and noticed the demeaning glances as she struggled to care for her children without falling apart. Maybe it was true, she thought. Maybe I don’t measure up. Maybe I wasn’t good enough to make my husband happy, to keep him out of the arms of another woman. Knowing it was impossible to go back and try again, Jackie slid into a deep, dark emotional hole.
A brief time later a man came into her life, bringing attention and plenty of compliments. He was thoughtful and interested in her, and he listened to her story with a compassionate heart. He made her feel not only better, but beautiful again—desired and valued, somehow. Oh, how his attention soaked deep into her wounded soul!
Blindsided by her emotions, Jackie quickly tumbled into his arms, hungry for someone to love her unconditionally and truly value her. Shaken and terrified when she learned she was pregnant, Jackie poured out the news to him, unsure how he would respond. He also proved to be less than honorable when he, too, abandoned her and their unborn child.
Her life had been damaged and shaky before, but what would others think of her now? Pregnant, unmarried, and abandoned once again, Jackie hit rock-bottom in that dark and dreadful season. Knowing her children had to come first, she moved forward as best she could, working low-paying jobs and struggling to raise five children alone while searching for meaning and healing in her life.
Thankfully, her story didn’t end there. Jackie met Jesus and began a new life of healing and transformation. Thrilled and thankful for salvation and the promise of eternity with God, she served Christ wholeheartedly. Jesus filled her aching heart and met her lifelong need for acceptance and purpose.
Jackie found a place of belonging in the church she attended. Surrounded by a spiritual family who adored her and enjoyed her company, she grew deeper in her relationship with the Lord and freer through His healing power.
* * *
Jackie finished sharing her story with me, and we both dabbed at our tears. Then she added, “Last night, hearing the message the speaker shared impacted my heart like never before. For the first time since those painful early days, I feel the shame lifted off me. The heavy weight of guilt is gone. I feel free!” Her face radiated true freedom. Jackie had received a beautiful gift from God through a simple message at a women’s event. Jesus is still showing up at the well!
I could have jumped out of my seat in utter joy for her freedom, but my heart also ached at the thought that for the past fifty years Jackie had carried some shame for her past sins and mistakes. She loved Jesus and had accepted His gift of salvation. She enjoyed His ongoing presence in her life. She had lived these past decades serving Him faithfully and loving others. Yet in all those years she had not known total freedom from her painful past. She had continued to see herself through tainted lenses that labeled her a failure. Jesus never intended for her to carry such shame for fifty years.
Praise God, He can work in our lives in every single season of life, even when we’re nearing one hundred years old. No matter who we are, God can meet our needs. He can make His Word come alive in our hearts and set us free from failure and regrets!
Taken from Adored by the God Who Sees Me, by Kerry Clarensau and Kay Burnett (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2019), p 21-24. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Kay Burnett has served more than twenty years in pastoral ministry with her husband, Jim, as well as eight years in district ministry to women. In 2016, she was appointed as the national Women’s Ministries director for the Assemblies of God. She is passionate about the Word of God, spending time with Jesus, influencing anyone she can to pursue a deeper walk with Him, and devouring great books that make her heart ache for more. She is the author of Voyage: Trusting Jesus in Uncharted Waters. Kay and Jim have been married for thirty-eight years and their greatest joy is their family—a son, Tyler (and his wife, Megan), and a daughter, Leandra (and her husband, Rusty), along with their five incredible grandkids.