‘From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” 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 complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Exodus 17:1-6, NRSV
I remember the fall of 1997 as the most stressful time of my life. I was running on fumes. Why? I had just given birth to my second child. My older child was a toddler. Our family was about to move from Germany to California. My then husband had already traveled ahead of us in search for a job and a place we could stay. I was left behind not only with two very young children, but also numerous tasks: selling our car, painting the townhouse we were renting (in Germany, you are supposed to leave any rental in ship-shape), packing, selling or giving away all the things we couldn’t or wouldn’t take with us, and, and, and.
I addition, I still was working as a ‘pastor in residence’; I had my preaching exams coming up and had to prepare meticulously for that. At that point, we lived out in the boondocks. My family and friends were not in the immediate vicinity. I felt utterly left alone and overwhelmed. I thought I had to shoulder everything by myself. In those weeks, I felt like I was out in the wilderness, parched and longing for a well that would refresh and replenish me.
And lo and behold, there was relief. A couple I was (and still am) friends with and who adored children, but didn’t have any of their own yet, invited me over to their place to spend some time with them. They would take care of the children, while I would have time and access to a quiet room to prepare for my preaching exams. Other friends organized a ‘painting brigade’ and got our rental in good shape. My brother-in-law helped me sell our car. Neighbors would invite me over for dinner – and did some babysitting, too. Help was offered from all sides. I had expected to be on my own – and found myself surrounded by love and concern. A mighty well of support was bubbling, right there in my time of wilderness, giving me the strength to somehow make it. I am still eternally grateful to all those who saw me struggling – and lent a helping hand (and more!).
The people of Israel in the wilderness felt abandoned. In Egypt, they had been oppressed, but at least they didn’t need to worry about their daily needs. Out in the wilderness, they had to find a way – and provide for themselves somehow. There was uncertainty and even fear – will we survive under these circumstances, on our own? They got discouraged and even accused God of not caring about them. But God provided – in the parched lands of the wilderness, God lets a well spring forth. Live is found in the most unexpected places. My prayer is that we find the (sometimes quite unexpected) springs of living water in all the parched stretches of our lives – and trust that God will not abandon us.
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash
This post is also available in: German