This past Sunday, the Sunday school teacher, a retired UMC elder, decided to expand the lesson. The lesson focused on the call of Moses and the burning bush. However, the teacher began with the beginning of the book of Exodus. He read the first three chapter up until the call of Moses. His lesson was a good one, but what really struck me was the transformational presence of water in Moses’ life. Sure, God used fire to lead and call Moses many times: burning bush, pillar of fire, on top of Mt. Sinai, etc. However, in the reading, I noticed the presence of a well. I’m sure I’ve heard this before, but it struck me this time. It tied together a large portion of Moses’ story and the story of salvation for me.
Within the first chapters of the book of Exodus, whenever Moses encounters water a new future opens for him. He is placed in a basket by the river: Pharaoh’s daughter finds him and raises him (with his mother’s help). He flees to Midian and sits down by a well: the daughters of the Priest of Midian approach and he helps them. He leads the Israelites to the edge of the Red Sea and God parts the water for the Israelites to escape the land of Egypt. New futures open up through water. Other well stories which quickly come to mind include Hagar and the woman at the well, both who find new life through an encounter with God in relation to a well.
In terms of rural life, water is crucial. Water for crops, water for drinking, water for cleaning, and the general presence of water in the natural world are all integral to life. When I am hiking, one of my favorite things is to stumble upon a water source which is out of the ordinary. Sure, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and streams abound in Western North Carolina, but the happening upon a small spring, a tiny waterfall, or even just moisture running down the side of a mountain is a happy moment for me. In the summer, pop up thunderstorms regularly occur and disrupt the day’s plans.
In thinking about new futures opening up in our presence, the idea of the well and the water as the way to new life is interesting. Obviously we talk about baptism a great deal, and water, and new life, and redemption. I don’t want to do that. Instead I want to talk about the experiences of people who find a new future through water they didn’t expect to find.
Two new futures I want to life up came from very different places. First, a new future opened up for me in terms of career with the closing of furniture plants in Thomasville, NC and my inability to help the people deal with this in a real way. I am now working a dissertation with it’s entire focus on opening new futures in rural deindustrializing communities. My second came from my hiking. Hiking, being a hobby of mine, opened up the possibility of a new ministry at my church which includes environmental missions, spiritual formation, physical activity, and fellowship. Hiking was fun for me and even created the opportunity for me to exist in a Sabbath space, and now it has opened up new relationships and possibilities for our church.