Cleveland’s Chapel message merits attention
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Not good enough.
Sure, we try, but eventually — at some time, in some place, whether it’s personal or professional — we all are going to hear those words. Or at least feel them. No one is good at everything. And, for some, self-critique is what they do best.
When Courtney Cleveland addressed Chapel on Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena, she shared what those three words mean to her.
She told of how she battled depression as she finished college, how she thought she was supposed to “arrive” and “have it all together” and then couldn’t deal with it when, like so many other recent college graduates, she instead was filled with doubt and despair.
“I have to be a ‘right’ Christian, lest anyone think that I was the wrong kind,” she said.
She also shared what happened when she learned from Dr. Tim Griffin, pastor and dean of students at GCU, that she had been chosen as one of the Chapel speakers for the fall semester.
“I started having a major crisis of faith,” she said. “… I didn’t know how I was going to talk to you all about Jesus because it just sent me spinning in this tailspin.”
The Samaritan woman
But then Cleveland, a highly regarded Christian speaker and author, came across the very human story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, in Chapter 4 of the Book of John.
Not only was Jesus simply talking with the woman — something unheard of (literally) in a culture where men often didn’t speak to women in public and Jews most certainly had nothing to do with Samaritans — they wouldn’t even eat off a dish or a utensil that a Samaritan had touched. That Jesus asked her to bring Him some water was an even deeper violation of the mores of that era.
Cleveland was transfixed. She couldn’t let it go. “I felt like the woman at the well was stalking me,” she said, adding, “I sat there with this passage for weeks.”
It wasn’t just that Jesus was being inclusive. It was that He was doing that for a woman who was an outcast because of her past; she had come to the well in the heat of noontime, when other people wouldn’t be around.
“This makes me feel insane inside,” Cleveland said. “I want to go back in time and be at that well. I see her feeling rejected and alone, probably wishing she could be a part of the well chatter and the group walks.
“My heart just breaks for her. Honestly, I had a real hard time moving on from this part of the story. … I was just stuck at the idea of her being alone because I felt alone, too. “
But what really made the story hit home for Cleveland was the way Jesus kept trying to explain to the woman what He meant by the “Living Water” even though she couldn’t comprehend it. It’s the same, in many ways, as our relationship with Christ. We try to get ahead in the world rather than focus on things far greater.
“You guys live in the desert. I don’t have to tell you what it means to be thirsty,” Cleveland said. “But we know this isn’t the kind of thirsty He was talking about, right? This woman was spiritually and emotionally thirsty, and so are we — thirsty for more things to be proud of and to do to keep up with others. It is a bottomless pit that will never satisfy.”
Christ’s encounter with the woman was, as Cleveland noted, “a sweet exchange.” Jesus knew that she’d had five husbands, and yet He still kept “breaking down the walls and barriers of religion and culture to reach her,” Cleveland said.
God keeps trying to reach us in the same way.
“Our greatest need is to know Him, and He meets us at the well. I know that I can just tell you that I’m standing here because He met me at the well,” Cleveland concluded.
“Somewhere along the way, you are not going to get this whole thing right. Dare I say, you might even get it wrong — more than once. But it seems that Jesus has space for that. The woman at the well, she didn’t fully comprehend, but she asked for it, and He continued to reveal it to her.”
In other words, we’ve just got to convince ourselves that we’re more than good enough to do God’s work.
● Here’s a replay of Cleveland’s talk.
● Next Monday’s Chapel speaker: Chad Moore, Sun Valley Community Church
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.