A few years ago, I made the decision to leave an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship and move overseas. To clear my head, to renew my heart, and to tap into whatever God was trying to teach me. I planned to be overseas for one year, working as an au pair. Instead, I took on an internship with International Justice Mission as it launched in Australia, and I met my husband. I did come back to the States, but only to visit my family and get married. And then, I packed up everything I owned, applied for permanent residency, and moved back to Australia.
It was an exciting season, filled with blossoming relationships, newlywed bliss, and a restored heart. But it was also an incredibly difficult season. I was a foreigner, trying to build friendships and put down roots in a place half a world away from everything I had ever known. I didn't feel unwelcome, exactly, but I didn't feel at home, either. I felt certain of the rightness of it all, but at the same time, I felt deeply displaced, coping with insecurities and worries that were totally new to me.
I needed Jesus in a way I had never needed Him before. This need wasn't more serious or profound than other times in my life, but it was unique. As all new and fresh seasons, this one held challenges I hadn't yet faced and didn't feel equipped for.
While I was grappling with the countless changes arising, the pastor of my and my husband's church asked me to lead a women's study on hospitality. As I was welcomed into the community of our church and began to feel more satisfied and settled, I began to more deeply understanding the welcome we receive from our Heavenly Father when we approach Jesus at the well. When we come, thirsty and dying, He joyfully accepts us into His home – His family – and fills our souls with a life-source that promises to never run dry.
That was nearly three years ago. Since then, life has become more routine, but God has not ceased teaching me about His character. A few months ago, I began studying the words "well" and "welcome," wanting to understand their histories and meanings, and wondering if they were somehow etymologically connected. It turns out, they're not (riveting, I know). But Biblically, I think they're far more connected than we might think.
Let's start with wells.
A well is a spring of water, but more richly, a well is a source from which anything is drawn. Used as a verb, "to well" indicates something bubbling or gushing forth. In the Bible, the word well occurs easily more than 50 times. This makes sense, because culturally, wells would have been the most common water source. They would have been the centre of life for most tribes and towns. So, when Jesus approaches the woman at the well (John 4), it isn't the appearance of a well that's surprising. It's the connection Jesus draws between Himself and the well.
Water is the source of life. Without it, we die.
Jesus is the source of Eternal Life. Without Him, we die.
Jesus is the literal well of life. He is the source from which we draw life. When we draw from that source, peace and joy bubble over in our hearts, like clean water from a well.
But what about being welcome? What does that word have to do with understanding Jesus as the Well of Life?
There's some debate over whether the word "welcome" means "it is good that you have come," or "it is good that you are my guest." But either way, the intent is clear. When someone is welcome, she is gladly received, joyfully accepted. Romans 15:7 says, "Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted you, to the glory of God" (CSB Translation). That is, so that God may be glorified, we must always welcome and love others, just as Christ has welcomed and loved us.
Are you seeing a connection yet?
Once, we were enemies with God, separated from Him as a result of our sin and doomed to a certain and eternal death. But through Christ's sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection to life, we are able to approach our Heavenly Father in all confidence, knowing that we have been adopted as His daughters and equipped with His Holy Spirit.
We have been welcomed to the well.
Once a parched and dying people, separated from the One who truly brings life, we are now not only reconciled to Him, but chosen and loved, gladly accepted. He, from whom all life springs forth, sees it as good that we have come to Him.
One of my favorite things about the Bible is that none of the words are a mistake or a coincidence. This is why accurate, sound translation is so important; each word in The Word was chosen on purpose, in order to teach, rebuke, encourage, correct and build up. When we open our Bibles, we are being given a clear glimpse at the character of God; each of the words used to tell the story of the Gospel is intentional.
So now, when I look at these two words, well and welcome, I see a lavish, abundant story unfolding. I see my own story, of relocating my entire life and still finding a home and flourishing community. I see God teaching me about the importance of being welcomed and seeking welcome from the right sources. But more importantly, I see the story of Christ, God's own Son, accepting a life where He was largely unwelcome and unaccepted so that we might have a seat in our Father's house for all eternity.
Where we deserve to be cast out, He joyfully accepts us, glad that we have come. Where we deserve death, He brings us life, overflowing.
We have been welcomed to the well.
By Grace Dellis
Originally published in Be Still Magazine, Issue 5.