It was an oppressively hot day in June, and I was eight months pregnant. I walked into church expecting that refreshing blast of air conditioning only to be disappointed with a stagnant wall of heat. And I remember thinking, “This is outrageous and beyond endurance. I shouldn’t have come.” Then I spent much of the service with a sour attitude and a hard heart. Which brings me to this week’s lectionary readings…
All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” Exodus 17:1-4
So when I read the accounts in Exodus of the Israelites’ foolish and short-sighted behavior, it’s informative for me to remember how I respond to much smaller and more narrow hardship. Think for a moment about tent camping with your kids for an extended period of time. Now I love time in the woods with my boys, but I prefer the cabin approach, and even with beds, toilets and running water, I’m done after a week. Seriously, only about 2% of parents enjoy long tent camping trips in the woods with their kids, and I think there’s probably something wrong with them. I like Jim Gaffigan on camping…
“My wife says, ‘Camping’s a tradition in my family.’ It was a tradition in everyone’s family until we invented the house.” Jim Gaffigan
Now add thirst and the desert to that camping equation, and imagine what that must have been like. Their frustration is understandable.
But they had forgotten where they’d been, and that killed their contentment and their gratitude and their dependence on God. He had miraculously and graciously brought them out of slavery, but it’s hard to remember that when there’s no water. We’re still called to do it though.
How? Reading through the Old Testament, it’s interesting and instructive to see how often God refers back to what he did for the nation of Israel in Egypt.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Psalm 81:10
I’m called to do the same thing in my life – to remember and revisit where I’ve been. God has gotten me through some messed up and painful stuff. It helps me to say it regularly, to make a list…
He’s the God who brought me through the loss of two babies with my faith and hope in tact. He’s the God who carried my family through my husband’s battle with cancer. I’ve been lonely, scared and desperate, with my boys urgently needing my strength, and he’s always made a way. Help me walk in that truth this week.
“Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” The Collect for the 3rd Sunday in Lent