A bearded man sat on the porch, rocking and whittling, a pile of wooden logs by his side. There on the rickety porch railing was a large collection of beautifully carved wooden dogs. With a wave of his hand, the man motioned for me to join him, the only invitation I needed. I parked the car, grabbed my purse and headed for those wooden dogs. "Look all ya want," the man invited. "And if you need to, you can ask a question." I had only one. "How in the world do you carve these beautiful dogs out of those ordinary pieces of wood?" I asked. "Well, Missy, it's pretty simple. I just take me a piece of wood and cut away everything that doesn't look like a dog."
God changes lives in much the same way. His love slowly, patiently uses the circumstances and relationships of life to cut away everything that doesn't look like His child. Some of us need extra work but can rest in the truth that if He is the One doing the cutting, the results will be beautiful.
The woman at the well was in desperate need of someone who could change her life. "She said to Jesus, 'You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?' Jesus replied, 'If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.' 'But sir, you don't have a rope or a bucket,' she said, 'and this is a very deep well. Where would you get this living water?' Jesus replied, 'People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.' 'Please, sir,' the woman said, 'Give me some of that water! Then I'll never be thirsty again, and I won't have to come here to haul water." (John 4:9-15 NLT)
The living water Jesus described is God's unconditional love, a love that was completely foreign to the Samaritan woman. She had spent her whole life going from man to man, desperately searching for someone who would really love her. Notice that she came to the well at noontime, the hottest hour of the day, to draw her water. All of the other women came in the morning or evening in order to avoid the brutal heat, but she came alone, I believe, to avoid their condemning eyes and sarcastic whispers. I can only imagine the loneliness she must have been feeling that day as she made her way to the well. Then she spotted Jesus -- sitting at the well, waiting for someone. The minute she saw Him she knew that He had come for her, His eyes filled with something that she did not quite recognize. It was unconditional love that reached out through her sin and drew her to Him, tearing down the guilt and stripping away the shame that had become such a familiar part of her being. It was the unfailing love for which we all thirst that compelled her to come. Real love, God's love, with no conditions, no hidden clauses and no strings attached. Scripture tells us God is not just loving or able to dispense love, but is the very definition and substance of love itself. When we know Him, we know love. "But anyone who does not love does not know God -- for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." (1 John 4:8-10 NLT)
Like this woman, we cannot give what we do not have. We are incapable of giving real love until we have received real love. It is only in a personal encounter with God that we can experience a love so powerful that it reveals the very person of God to us. We must understand and remember that God does not love us because we are lovable and deserve to be loved. He loves us simply because He is love -- and He cannot help Himself!