In a spur-of-the-moment decision, guided solely by my instincts, I found myself heading to a women’s retreat nestled within the tranquil confines of Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp, nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Hillside, Colo. These mountains, the southernmost extension of the mighty Rockies, bear a name that speaks volumes in translation: “Blood of Christ.”

Emotionally I was wrestling with inner turmoil and longing for a reset. Amid my struggles, I recalled that Jesus had sought solace and rejuvenation in the mountains. It was a time for prayer and reflection. The vibrant hues of autumn, the serene surroundings and the presence of kindred female souls made it the ideal locale for the “eco-therapy” my soul yearned for.

Drawing inspiration from Jesus’ encounter at the well (John 4:1-42), the retreat was aptly titled “Living Water.” In that sacred story, Jesus, conversing with a Samaritan woman who was fetching water, displayed an uncanny knowledge of her life. I couldn’t help but wonder: Does Jesus possess such insight into my journey?

Intuitively I requested a cabin with solitude, fully aware that I was embarking on days of profound self-exploration. Indeed, it was a weekend marked by torrents of tears. I wept for the loss of my children, for the life I would never lead, for the innocent girl within me who had learned to acclimate to trauma. I also cried for the middle-aged woman in me who had been made to feel she was of little worth, a beast of burden.

I felt that “living water” coursing through me—in the streams of tears I shed at the foot of that cross and again as I lay on my bunk, weeping, during the night.

Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). Could it be that simple? Just to ask?

Amid the remote tranquility of Hillside, a profound sense of sacredness enveloped me as I walked the pathway that led to an outdoor worship area surrounded by evergreen trees, quaking aspens and crimson red rocks. In the chill of the autumn morning and again with the embrace of the evening sunsets, I laid my grief at the foot of the large wooden cross.

Jesus proclaimed: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

I felt that “living water” coursing through me—in the streams of tears I shed at the foot of that cross and again as I lay on my bunk, weeping, during the night. On the retreat’s final day, there was no doubt that this water was meant to cleanse me of anxiety and worries. Not a single day would be added to my life by worrying, Jesus had taught. Wash it away. Let it go. Leave it here.

Soon enough, Jesus, I will come to you, I pondered. For now, you have me on earth for a purpose. Perhaps I’m the metaphorical woman at the well, engaged in a profound conversation with the Rabbi who then proclaimed himself the Messiah. Just like the Samaritan woman who dropped her water jar and ran joyfully to share the good news, I contemplated my role.

A small tattoo on my left wrist serves as a daily reminder, etched with the word “hope” alongside a cross. During a Bible discussion at the retreat, a woman showed me her wrist ink, symbolizing “faith over fear.” Was the Spirit urging me to heal? To share my story? Had I already heard the call, yet was too afraid to answer?

Perhaps, I thought, I was meant to be the woman at the well sharing my story with the hope of aiding others in their healing journeys. Maybe it was time to exuberantly proclaim that faith and healing are intertwined, especially when one surrenders and places their trust in the transformative power of “Living Water,” allowing it to wash away the pain we have all carried for far too long.

Maria K. Miller
Maria K Miller is interim director of people operations and interim director of communications of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Greeley, Colo. She is the former editor-in-chief of the Ohio Country Messenger, former syndicated columnist and an award-winning journalist.

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