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Wednesday, 04 November 2015 15:32

Essay 1: The Savior, the Singles & the Woman at the Well

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*Note: This essay is the first of seven authored by Jeremy for the LDS Midsingle (31-45+) community. The opinions and thoughts shared therein are his own and unless otherwise noted all names and circumstances of stories have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. 

The Woman at the WellIn his piece, "O Me! O Life!", American poet What Whitman wrote in 1892, "That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse."

As I recently reread those words I couldn't help but feel like those two lines aptly describe the state of most LDS midsingles I know: that the powerful play of life is going on and we deeply desire the opportunity to contribute a verse. Shakespeare tells us that "life is a story" and "all the world's a stage"; it is on that stage that we as midsingles have passed through some of life's greatest joys and experienced much of its deepest sorrows. By definition as midSINGLES we are trying to write the story of our lives, with all its ups and downs, without a mortal co-author, a spouse with whom we can share the burdens and the pleasures, the brightest of days and the darkest of nights.

While we would never admit it on social media (because Heaven forbid we share our hurts and struggles online), a high percentage of us battle loneliness; we ache for the companionship that far too many married couples blindly take for granted. Some of us (hand raised) don't even have the joys of parenthood and all the incredible memories (and yes, heartbreaks) that it brings. How many of us are striving to find the "be happy single first, then you'll be happy with someone" mixture in our lives? How many nights do we reach across to the pillow next to us, wishing someone was there snoring away blissfully or cooked a meal over the stove, wishing the table was set for just one more?

Oh, yes, Mr. Whitman; the play of life is going on and while we do our best to not let it get to us, the weight of charging forward without a fellow Thespian (actor/actress) is enough to weigh down even the most faithful heart. As the mighty Job asked, "though I forbear, what am I eased?" (Job 16:6). The original Hebrew word translated here to "forbear" is damam, which means "to sigh, but not aloud." How many of us as midsingles are sighing in our hearts (but not aloud) as we strive to keep our chins up and be faithful, no matter how hard the struggle becomes?  

And I will contribute a verseAfter attending several midsingle functions over the past few weeks, I felt a desire in my heart because of my own damam-ing, if you will, to know what I could personally do to help those inner aches and how I could "contribute a verse" to this play of LDS midsingle life. The answer to my prayers came in the form of an idea to write 7 Essays for LDS Midsingles, of which this one is the first. These essays, while far from all-encompassing, will strive to cover various pertinent topics for our demographic from the standpoint of, What Would Jesus Tell LDS Midsingles if He Were Here Today? As precocious as that sounds, I should clarify that I will not attempt to speak for the Savior, but rather to use his words as recorded in holy scriptures to expound upon each topic. In doing so, I pray my thoughts and His words will alleviate some of your own heartache and inner burdens.

Ready? Let's begin.

Does the Lord Care About LDS Midsingles?

I remember asking myself that question one night several years ago after a particularly long string of bad first dates (boy, wasn't that fun). A long-term relationship had ended months prior, so the absence of a partner-in-crime was still noticeable. Yet as I wondered if Jesus ever hurt, followed by the deeper question, "Does he care that I hurt?", the story of from Christ's life of the woman at the well (John 4) came to mind.

We know this woman was a Samaritan (vs. 7), someone who the Jewish general population of that time would view with contempt and intolerance because the Samaritans were no longer "pure" (they had intermarried with foreigners). And while thankfully that is far from how 95% of the general Church population treats us as midsingles, there are those difficult circumstances in family wards where we feel like we don't fit in, that the lessons are for complete families and like we are the odd ones out at activities. That is not a doctrinal problem, but rather a cultural one just like the biases between the Jews and the Samaritans of Jesus' day (mostly). The Church is organizationally perfect, even though the people in it are not. As such, we as LDS midsingles may sometimes feel out of place, emphasis on the sometimes.

The Woman at the WellAnd yet, it was to this woman that Jesus chose to come after a long, tiring journey. I think we so often forget that while he was the Son of God, Jesus' body was still mortal and therefore subject to hunger, thirst, aches and pains after such a trek. So when you are tired, when you are exhausted, when you don't know how you can keep going forward one more day or even one more hour, remember that even our Savior experienced fatigue (vs. 6).

Now, this woman was probably doing her best to lead a good, fulfilling life to the best of her ability. Are you? Be honest and compassionate with yourself: are you doing your best? And even if you are overly critical of yourself, here's something to consider. Jesus encountered this woman at the sixth hour, or noon we would say, as she was drawing water from Jacob's Well. What's interesting is that traditionally Samaritan women drew water in the mornings and the evenings, so its possible that this woman went at midday to avoid "the crowd" due to her reputation (we know she had five husbands and was on #6). Some versions state that she was "the woman of Samaria", possibly indicating that she was known for transgressions.  

Are you ever concerned about your "reputation" as an LDS midsingle? Maybe you worry others will judge you for your divorce or your struggles with faith. Perhaps you feel shame for a bad habit or the status in the Church. Do you feel your mistakes hang around your neck like a big scarlet letter or do you just feel out of place as the only single in your Relief Society or Elder's Quorum? Or maybe you feel all those other things even in your midsingles ward! If so, you can relate to this woman at the well who bore the weight of inner anxiety.

As I said, this woman was probably doing her best and I'm willing to bet that you are, too. Just as she drew water from the well to quench her inner thirst and that of her family, I bet you are doing what you can to draw emotional, spiritual and physical water from the sources in your life. I would guess that you are trying to be a good friend to your friends, a good mother or father to your children, a good worker at your job, even a Christlike person to your ex (well, usually), and holding onto the Iron Rod, even if just by a single fingertip because in your heart you don't want to let go. Again, this woman was at the well at about noon, the hottest part of the day. And as you feel the "heat" of your own trials and adversities in life, as you seek to find water to quench those thirsts, please remember the words of Christ spoken to this fellow seeker of water for life.

Jesus loves usAnd when you think about it, this woman did nothing to seek out Jesus. Perhaps that is a lesson in and of itself; Christ is the good shepherd who seeks after those who are "lost" (Matthew 18:11), even LDS midsingles who are feeling lost. This woman was going about her normal life when he came to "stand at the door and knock" (Revelation 3:20), so if you feel lost right now, and thirsty from your troubles and labors, believe that Christ can come find you wherever you are (Matthew 18:12-13).

In fact, after Christ asked her to give him water to drink (John 4:7), and she pointed out that he was a Jew asking a Samaritan for water (vs. 9), Jesus said he would have given her "living water" if she had asked him for it (vs. 10). He was offering it to her. While all she knew about Jesus was that he was a Jew, the Savior knew everything about her, including the struggles of her life and her current sinful situation. Even so, our Lord treated her with kindness; so much so that she referred to him as "Sir" in the next verse (vs. 11), a scenario that was probably mana to her wounded heart since it it highly likely that other men in her area treated her poorly (remember, even the disciples were shocked that Jesus was talking to her in verse 27).

When it comes to LDS midsingles, I think the Savior would have us remember all the times he encountered people who were struggling in their lives, whether with sin or some other inner turmoil. If we study his experiences with the woman taken in adultery (John 8) or the sinful woman who bathed Christ's feet with her tears (Luke 7:37-50), we see that Jesus does not seek to smash our hearts when we sin. No, he seeks to heal them and lift up our downcast eyes. He wept when Mary cried of Lazarus' death (John 11:35), he tenderly healed the outcast leper (Mathew 8:2-3), and he had gentle compassion on the father afraid for his son (Mark 9:24-27). 

I think that is exactly why Jesus traveled to Samaria that day to meet this woman and I think that is exactly the work he would do in the life of every single LDS midsingle in the Church: he would heal, lift up and treat each of us with honor and respect, no matter the circumstance.

Christ knew that this woman at the well had been married five times before and was now living with a man who was not her husband (vs. 18) and there are three lessons that midsingles can learn here. First, she had followed the law five times, but had strayed from it lately. Does that sound like anything in your life, perhaps some commandment or principle of the Gospel that you used to be strong in, but now have become lax in it? Second, I can't help but wonder if this woman had become a bit hardened towards marriage (like that's not pertinent to our demographic) after losing five husbands; some of us are scared of commitment after losing one or after years of relationship struggles. And third, it is possible that she had become "inactive" in regards to her former beliefs and faiths. How is your testimony doing? Have you moved forward, backward or are you just staying stagnant in your progression?  

And yet, as they talked around this well, this source of water (great symbolism there), the teachings of this woman's early life came back to her when she stated that yes, a Messias would come. Jesus knew what she believed; he also knew that she had been through so much in her life. I cannot even fathom the weight on the soul that five marriages and five deaths would bring. Obviously it was enough for her to "give up" a bit on her beliefs and live with a man who she was not married to because in the arithmetic of her mortal perspective, the comfort she gained from this relationship helped her carry the weight of her pains. 

Jesus and the woman at the wellJesus knew all that, and he knows about all the choices, good and bad, that you and I make each and every day. He knows the whys, the hows, the whens, the whats which is why he alone is worthy and authorized to judge (James 4:12). As such, I believe that Jesus spoke to this woman not in condemnation, not in judgment, but rather in compassion, in love, in a deep desire to heal her deep, deep wounds. She even told him, "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw (water) with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?" (vs. 11).  

How deep are your wells, those inner pains and fears and anxieties and doubts and heartaches? Have you strayed from the Gospel? Have you been living in deep sin or are you battling an addiction? Are you lonely, or discouraged or angry or carrying some other burden on your soul that weighs you down "unto death"? Cast your burden on the Lord, no matter how complicated, painful, "dirty" or messy they may be.   

Jesus would remind us that as a great as the social scene can be and as much as we have going on in our lives with a career, hobbies, service projects, even our families, "Whosoever drinketh of (those waters) shall thirst again:" (vs. 13). And yet, if we will but turn to him, trust him, rely upon him even when we are afraid or hurting or angry or discouraged, he will bind up our broken hearts and pour healing oil into our wounds and sooth our troubled spirits with the balm of Gilead. 

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland testified (and promised), "Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek. He does love you, and He knows your fears. He hears your prayers. He is your Heavenly Father, and surely He matches with His own the tears His children shed."

Whatever your personal circumstances may be, no matter the level of your faith and testimony, no matter what you may think of the Church as an organization right now, begin your journey towards strength, healing and happiness with the help of Jesus the Christ. 

Jesus is the ChristI close with these words from Lamentations 3:21-25 as if they were my own:

"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him."

God bless you, my dear friends. 


Jeremy C. Holm

Author & American athlete Jeremy C. Holm has spent over half his life in the fast-paced winter sport of bobsled, including as the Head Coach for the US Adaptive Bobsled Team. He has a degree in Journalism and is pursuing a degree in Military History at the American Military University. In addition to motivational speaking and corporate appearances around the world, Jeremy is the author of three books and spends his time camping, hiking, writing and trying to make history, one day at a time.

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To read more of Jeremy's work, you can order one of his highly-acclaimed books by visiting the Online Store to purchase signed copies or unsigned ones by purchasing a copy wherever books are sold. 


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