When Geoff Mercer receives a letter one Monday morning, it brings the past back into his life. He and Kate are about to celebrate 45 years of being married. Now he is sitting at the kitchen table reading about the body of his previous girlfriend, lost in a climbing accident in 1962, and rediscovered preserved and buried in the ice.
LP Hartley’s novel The Go-between begins with the line – ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’ Well they certainly did things differently in 1962. In those days Geoff went climbing with his girlfriend Katya, and when they needed accommodation they claimed to be married and she wore a wooden wedding ring. This news has a massive impact on Kate, and in the week leading up to their big 45 Years Anniversary party they are both drawn into revisiting the ‘foreign country’ of his past.
When Jesus meets a woman at a well in John’s Gospel chapter 4, he discovers she has a difficult and painful past. She has been married and dumped by five different husbands. Her life has not gone according to plan. Now she goes out alone, avoiding the other water-fetching women. Yet at that lonely well she finds a new way forward. Jesus invites her to revisit her past, but while doing so treats her very differently to any other man she ever met. He listens to her, and provides a way forward. He doesn’t magic the bad experiences away, but he does begin to remove the poison. At the end of their conversation she runs back into her town telling everyone about the man who knows all about her, and yet treats her with care and respect.