Islands have always intrigued me. There is an island in front of the one place on earth that means more to me than anywhere. A tiny dot on the Pamlico Sound in eastern North Carolina called Jarvis Landing. My mom grew up there and my brother, cousins and I were fortunate enough to spend summers of our childhood along the river shore. The island in the river is called Indian Island. An apt name, as one time coastal indians inhabited it. Also an apt name, as it always had an air of mystery to me. It was just close enough to always be in sight and seemingly at arms length, but just far enough away to be out of reach. You could get to it by boat, but tale is the mosquitoes were big enough to eat you alive if you ventured out onto the shore. And there were stories of teens in the past swimming to the island. Not us, I assure you.
The thing about an island is that it stands alone.
Embraced by water, yet always alone. Unto itself. Different. Set apart.
Some days I feel like an island. Different than everyone else. Knowing what I know about myself and perceiving nobody else could possibly be like me. Feel like me. Share my pain and struggles. Have the same story.
But I know this isn’t true, either. There are people that have the same story. I was reminded of one this morning in church. She was an outcast. She lived a life nobody accepted, except those that took advantage of what she had to give. She was the one nobody wanted to associate with. The one with the scarlet letter around her neck that was both invisible, yet clearly seen. She wore her rejection in the way she carried herself, the lack of eye contact she made, the time of day she drew her water so as not to meet anyone else. She was rejected by people who were supposed to be “her people.” Then one day, one very ordinary day, she changed. She was offered “living water” by a man she had never met, but she knew he was different. He knew her story. He knew her sins. And He didn’t reject her. He loved her. She left the well that day different. Changed. Set apart. I don’t know the rest of her story, but I don’t have to. I know the best part. The part where she found grace and redemption at the feet of her Savior.
I know that part of her story personally. I have lived it. I have my own scarlet letter. I have my own sin past. I have my own sin struggles. But I’ve been to the well. And Jesus met me there, too. My well happened to be sitting on a rock along a creek, no less. And on that rock, with water rushing by, I also accepted Jesus’ gift of living water. It didn’t make me a better person. It made me a new person. With a new identity. It was only after coming to the end of myself that I was able to realize I couldn’t make it through my life on my own terms. My way was. not. working. Only after giving myself up and surrendering to my Savior, did I find myself. I did not give up on myself…I gave myself up.
I need that reminder from time to time. That I’m not who I was then. I’m a new person. My past does not define me. It has a lot to do with who I am today, but it does not define me. Not now it doesn’t. Before Jesus…my past was my identity. After Jesus…He is my identity. I may be tricked into thinking different, but that is a lie straight out of hell.
I am an island, after all. I am different. I am set apart. I am being made new.
Read John 4.