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AfterWords | Everything I Ever Did (March 19, 2023)

AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.

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A 3-Minute Read
by Laura Boggs

“That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”   John 4:23–24 (MSG)

Everything I Ever Did

It’s noisy here
beside the well
with people rushing past.
Some of them stare;
most avert their eyes—
they know who I am.
They walk faster, kicking up dust.
They walk and walk and walk.

Sitting, the Stranger looks at me straight-on.
He asks me to give him some water.
Men are always asking,
but this One somehow does not
make me want to run and hide.
Well, perhaps I’ll hide a little,
as I do.
I don’t know how not to hide.
Whose face is that anyway, reflected in the water?
I don’t recognize that woman.

Neither does he, apparently.
If the Stranger only knew
who he’s asking for a drink.
I could tell him, but
I’m sick of apologizing.
Don’t you know
a woman has to make her way in this world,
counting on the kindness of strangers
who are not so kind,
who leave and leave and leave.

The Stranger, though, he stays,
not towering above.
A drink, please.
Is this his only question?
My backstory,
the one I recite over and over,
rings in my ears.
My head aches—
it’s noisy in here.

Is this guy for real?
I rub my eyes.
All I ever see is seen through
the film, the veil, the thick shroud
of my story.
It’s such a sordid little story.

If the Stranger knew,
he’d move on.
He really should move on.
But he’s going on about
impossible things
like generosity
and abracadabra water.

Oh, I say,
you’re one of those.
Magical thinking,
it will get you nowhere fast:
trust me,
I’ve tried
and tried and tried.
Someday my prince will come
is a lie.

Water is water,
with sediment
settling at the bottom.

You’d best go
before your friends see you.
I know your set;
you’re all the same,
you country-club religious types
with your secret handshakes
and insider information.

The outsider’s birthright
is not blessing,
but curse.
Go on, mister, before
it rubs off on you.

I want to stick my head
inside the well,
into its dim coolness,
to whisper my story
and hear it echo back
with condemnation so familiar
it’s come to feel safe.

Leave me, sir,
I have a date with self-hatred.
But he’s still here.
Now the Stranger is speaking
my sad, sordid story—
maybe there is something in the water…
He tells
everything I ever did.
The facts are plain,
but reframed.
The whole narrative,
a pebble
dropped down the well,

This One,
he likes to talk.
He tells another Story,
wide and deep.
This Story drowns out
the story I’ve been shouting,
but it also
returns it
to myself,
returning me to myself.

I walk away
and wonder at how
when we first met,
the Giver asked me to give,
to participate,
to join in the flow.
The sharp angles soften;
instead there’s a circle—
Filling and Self-Emptying and Outpouring,
for ages and ages.

I’d forgotten about her, that girl,
that one true girl,
pigtailed and freckled.
I can watercolor-see her,
as the water laps
and fills the gaps and cracks
and my siblings and I
play and play and play
at the river’s edge,
our fingers and toes shriveled like raisins.
No one can remember who started the splashing,
or who’s the oldest
or prettiest
or our parents’ favorite
as we feel the sun on our backs
and the peals and peals of laughter
ring in our ears.

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