Charlene’s Story

by Greg Laurie on Oct 20, 2007

Charlene McDaniel was a beautiful young woman. Some even compared her to Marilyn Monroe, which was pretty heady stuff for someone from Friendship, Arkansas. Although she had been raised in a Bible-teaching Baptist church, she bristled at the idea of following God’s Word and not being free to do what she wanted to.

During her first marriage (it would be one of seven), Charlene gave birth to a son. But feeling her husband was not the man she was looking for, she divorced him. She married again and, after the anguish of giving birth to a stillborn child, she returned to the party scene, looking for something more exciting than married life. She had a fling, then found out she was pregnant. Not wanting to have her child out of wedlock, she married again and had her second son. Charlene’s extended family nicknamed this son Pogo because, according to his aunt, “He was always so cute and mischievous, like the little opossum character in the cartoon strip.”

Charlene’s first son lived with his grandmother, but Pogo lived with his mom off and on as she made her way from one dead-end relationship to another, marrying and divorcing again and again. While Pogo was with his mother, all he saw was partying and violence. One night, he watched as her then-husband nearly killed her.

These were frightening times for a young boy. Some nights, he didn’t know where his mother was. Some nights, she’d return home at four o’clock in the morning and pass out drunk. Pogo felt his mother had no one to care for her but him, so he did his best. He was a 10-year-old boy playing the parent to his self-destructive mother.

I know that for certain because I was the mischievous Pogo, and Charlene was my mother.

As the years passed by, my mother’s once-legendary beauty began to fade. All the drinking, smoking, and hard living began to take its toll and one night, while driving under the influence, she had an accident that horribly disfigured her face. Her beauty, the one thing she had counted on throughout her life, was now greatly diminished.

I saw my mom begin to soften. She would wait for a prayer before a meal. She always seemed proud of me and was glad to tell everyone I was her son. And although I didn’t know it at the time, she saved every newspaper clipping about our ministry.

After she discovered she had kidney failure and would need dialysis three times per week, she began returning to her spiritual roots. One month before her death, I had a very direct conversation with her. I asked her if she believed in Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord. She said she did. I then told her that she ought to be coming to church. And the next Sunday, she came.

Her search brought her back to what she knew as a young girl. Like the prodigal son, she returned. Sadly, she spent almost all her life looking to men and to romance for fulfillment. All along, that fulfillment could have been found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

There’s another story of a woman who was a lot like my mother, or perhaps I should say that my mother was a lot like her. We know her as the “woman at the well,” an empty person who thought romance and sex would fill the void in her life. She went from husband to husband, hoping to find her prince. But after five husbands, she simply gave up. She was disillusioned, scorned, and ignored. That is, until Jesus came along.

This woman had searched for, but never found, her heart’s desire. What she (and people like my mom) did not understand is that she was trying to fill a void in her life that was created by God. That void is a loneliness for God. Jesus told this woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.” In fact, this statement could be written over all the wells of life:

  • Over the well of success: Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.
  • Over the well of pleasure: Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.
  • Over the well of materialism: Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.

No matter how much we have, if we don’t have Christ, we will always be thirsty. But when Jesus quenches that thirst, we will be satisfied.

Jesus cut to the core of her pain. He told her there was nothing the world had to offer that would quench her spiritual thirst. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14 NIV).

She had come to the well of relationships five different times, hoping to meet the perfect man who would fulfill all her desires. But time and time again, her Prince Charming turned into a frog. Her life was a miserable chain of unfulfilling relationships.

Jesus spoke of a spring of water, water that is always fresh, always clear. Unlike the stagnant water of shallow relationships and broken promises, the water Jesus offered was the kind that would refresh and renew the woman’s soul. Jesus was telling the Samaritan woman that her deepest thirst could be completely and permanently satisfied.

How about you? From what “well” are you seeking satisfaction right now? Is it the well of pleasure? Is it the well of possessions? Or are you seeking satisfaction from the well of some perfect relationship? That was the problem with my mom.

She thought that what she was looking for could never be found in the faith of her childhood. It had to be found somewhere else. She thought it was in men. She thought it was in all of those empty, shallow things the world offers. And sadly, she found out by experience that this wasn’t the case. As Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.” But in the end, she came back to the Living Water.

There are many out there today just like these searching women, people who are waiting for someone like you to reach out to them with the life-changing message of the gospel. Will you make yourself available to the Lord to be used in such a way?

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