Bitter Water Made Sweet
Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water.
Among other things we've been sharing in our latest round of Regional Conferences is a reminder of those places that bring the most fertile learning: the Israelites in the wilderness learned more in times of adversity than in those times when things seemed to be going well, they learned more in Marah where the water was bitter than they did in Elim where there were springs.
In an article in Developing Leaders, Eve Poole, based on research conducted, states that "under pressure, you learn faster and you acquire memories that last."
In this season in the church, as we seek to find new ways of being in the wilderness, we give thanks for learning that comes when our hearts are in our mouths, when we are trying new things and sometimes failing and for the resilience that comes out of difficulty.
We are facing challenges that are rarely simple or even complicated, where we can call in expert advice or rely on a previous tried and tested solution, but that are complex and can only be navigated by trial and error, by taking risks and learning from outcomes, whether success or failure. The bigger challenge is, perhaps, to rely on the assurance that, with God, we can find a way through - just as the church has been called to do in every age and to keep others on board as we do that, learning together and sharing those lessons as we go.