Our first church was in a tiny village in Michigan. After one visit, we knew we liked the town, the people, and the church … but NOT the water.
The water was (and I apologize to all my friends who still live there and I have several of them) horrific. I mean, this stuff was bad. If you didn’t dry your dishes, you had little puddles of rust settling in. Same with your clothes – get them in the dryer or they’ll come out of the washing machine dirtier than they went in.
Even brushing your teeth was a challenge.
The first Sunday at the church, HIlda, a sweet lady came to me and said sympathetically, “You will not be able to live on this water, but we have cool, clear well water at our house. So every Sunday and Wednesday, bring several empty gallon jugs to church. We’ll fill them up and bring them back next service.”
Fortunately Hilda and her husband never missed a service and that’s how we got our water for four years.
But back to the beginning. Ken and I were young – still in our 20s and a little nervous about all this pastor stuff and that was especially true when we were invited out to dinner. So this one night after we had been in town about two weeks, a nice couple invited us to their home. (I will call the lady Elsie – since she is STILL my friend.) Word had gotten around that we didn’t drink coffee. (Ken went another 15 years before becoming a coffee drinker and I still don’t drink it.) So as Elsie sat us at the table, she poured milk for our kids (they were three and four at the time), coffee for her and her husband and then said to us, “I made Kool-Aid and that tempers the taste of the water. Is that ok?” Being polite, we both agreed. She also gave some of the Kool-Aid mixture to her middle-school son.
Well, I took one swallow of the Kool-Aid and knew I was in big trouble. My mom had taught me to eat what was put in front of me especially when I was visiting someone’s house as a member of the pastor’s family, But I was sure I would not get this glass of Kool-Aid swallowed. I glanced at Ken and saw him grimacing, too. This was BAD!
So as I ate the very good meal by taking a bite and then gulping a swallow of the Kool-Aid. I felt like the glass was bottomless.
Finally I got it all down.
“Would you like some more?” Elsie asked, ready to pour.
“No, thank you,” we both said immediately.
That was the moment her son took the first swallow of his own drink. “Mom, what IS THIS STUFF?” he cried and went over and spit it out in the sink.
Turns out Elsie had forgotten to put sugar in the Kool-Aid – so not only were we drinking sulphur-saturated water, but it had been mixed with unsweetened Kool-Aid.
Elsie was horrified that that’s what she had served her new pastor, but we actually got a good laugh out of it …
And are still laughing about it to this day.
A good start to showing grace as a pastor’s wife.
That’s not the first time bitter water was the center of attention.
Remember the complaining Israelites?
They reached the desert and for three days they could not find water. And it was probably miserable. Can you imagine walking through the hot, sand for three days without water? No water bottles, no Starbucks, No drinking fountains. Just miles and miles of burning sand. (They might have had access to some water, but the Bible doesn’t tell us that.)
Ah … there was much mumbling and great grumbling. Already they had forgotten that God promised to take care of them. When they did find water at a place called Marah, they were excited but the water was too yucky to drink. Again, there was much mumbling and great grumbling and they said to Moses, “What are we supposed to do? We NEED water and we can’t find water anywhere.”
Moses talked to the Lord, and the Lord showed Moses a piece of wood. Moses threw the wood into the water and instantly the water became sweet and good to drink. (Just like a cup of sugar did wonders for Elsie’s Kool-Aid.)
God had taken care of them just as He promised.
The Israelite’s story was much different than the Kool-Aid story. The Kool-Aid story is funny, the Israelite’s story isn’t so funny. Their story is of complaining people who kept forgetting that God promised to take care of them. (Just like we often do and often it takes less than unsweetened Kool-Aid to get us on a rant.)
Challenge your kids not to complain. Put a bank somewhere where everyone can see it and have each person (including parents) put a nickle (or quarter) in it each time he or she complains. When you reach a certain amount, the money goes to the person who complained the least (or some such award).
Be careful about complaining about bitter water.
Or anything else.
Maybe someone simply forgot the sugar.