Last week I was racing through the train station to make an express train home—but even though I tried my hardest, I missed my train by a few minutes.
Doing what most Sydney-siders would do, I walked along the platform to find a seat to wait for the next one (coming in 12 minutes) when I noticed that every person I passed by was texting, reading or playing a game on their tablet or phone. Not one person was looking up or talking to the person beside them.
Perhaps it was an odd moment, so each day that week I found myself looking around as I was waiting for my train. Earphones, texting, games... the same.
This got me thinking about the story in John chapter 4 when Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman. In verse 4 it says, 'Now he (Jesus) had to go through Samaria'. Jesus needed to leave Judea to go to Galilee as the Pharisees were coming close and it wasn't his time yet.
Understanding ancient Middle Eastern geography—it was established that the fastest, straightest, most convenient and socially accepted route between Judea and Galilee was east along the path of the Jordan River.
However, in this particular narrative Jesus didn't take the established route, instead he took the western route through Samaria. In this context and time in history, Jews wouldn't dare to go along this path as it was seen as unclean, despised and for lower classes in society.
Why does Jesus take the socially avoided route?
In John chapter 4, verse 9 we get a little insight into how much the Jews and Samaritans do not associate—much less share dishes that Samaritans had used: 'The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).'
Jesus knew this route would involve stopping to rest, 'Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon'. He knew he would need water, 'When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"
Despite the obvious need to stop Jesus chose this route, and after this encounter with the woman he stayed in Samaria for two days, 'they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days ... After the two days he left Galilee'.
Jesus knew this route would take him longer yet he still took it anyway because he knew he would meet someone who needed to hear about living water.
It is likely the woman came to the well in the middle of the day, even though most would avoid walking at that time as it would have been too hot. She may have been trying to avoid the gossip and whispers she would receive from other women who would gather at the well at different times.
This story—the choices Jesus made and the timing of the woman's visit—show us the way Jesus lived his life: completely and utterly interruptible.
Regardless of where he was going he was focused on people.
Would you go an inconvenient route or even miss a train if it meant encountering people who need to hear the gospel?
Society fights for our attention and I want to choose daily to walk slowly—even in the midst of a busy train station or church foyer.
People are all around us, but how often do we truly allow ourselves to stop to hear their story, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through us?
Next time I catch a train I'm going to try and actually sit next to someone instead of finding the empty row. Perhaps I'll even keep my earphones out for some of the ride. Who knows what conversations I (and we) could have?
Meenal Chandra is a Sydney-based writer who wants to stay interruptible.
Meenal Chandra's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/meenal-chandra.html