Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

Back home on the farm at Route 4, Seneca, SC, we used to have a little song that we’d sing whenever we were thirsty. And, take my word for this, when you’re hoeing around the ‘maters and pole beans, a country boy could get real hot and dry and thirsty. I’ve seen times when I was so thirsty, I thought I could surely cough up a dust ball.

Of course, my thirsty-ness sometimes was due in large part to our water break being delayed due to a trip to the woodshed. And it’s a well know fact that the only kind of water ever found at the ‘shed’ comes from your eyes. And it’s a little salty when it runs down in your mouth.

Speaking of salt, I’ve never spent much time in the desert. Just workin’ in the fields during July and August under the scorchin’ South Carolina sun was hot enough for me. I do, however, remember promisin’ my mill-hill sweetheart that I’d walk bare-footed across the burning sands of the desert if she’d just go to the Fox Drive-In picture show with me.

But I’m headin’ down a side road. Back to the little song we used to sing. It went something like this. “If the ocean was Kool-Aid and I was a duck, I’d dive to the bottom, and drink it all up.” And just thinkin’ about that much Kool-Aid got us started on a little game of ‘I can do better than that!’

So Oliver would change the name of the refreshment to sweet ice tea. And then, I think it was Wade who changed it to Nehi Orange Crush belly-washers from the cold water drink box at Mr. Jim Stephens’ store. That boy always did have a vivid imagination. But all that singing, more like wailin,’ only did one thing. It just made us a hundred times thirstier than we were already.

And as soon as Daddy hollered, “Ok, boys, come and get it,” there would be a foot race to see who would get the dipper of cold well water first. We’d all be running lickety-split toward the well house, when just a few minutes before, we were so tired we couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. But, oh, how sweet it was to put that dipper to your lips.

Call me crazy, but I think about that dipper every time I read about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15:22-27). And then I remember VBS at Return Baptist Church, and the picture of Moses and his people walking on dry ground between a wall of water on the left and another wall of water on the right. You know, God not only parted the Red Sea, He also dried up the mud for His people to walk on. Now, this is just an ol’ country boy talkin,’ but I think I would have cut out runnin’ lickety-split toward the other side.

But those Israelites, bless their hearts, as Mother would say, had very short memories. Only three days after God’s miracle at the Red Sea, they were out in the desert lookin’ for some water to drink. If God could hold back the sea and dry up the mud for them to escape, and He did, I just wonder if any of ‘em ever had the thought, “Hey, I’ll bet God could give us some water to drink.”

But the first water they came to in the desert had such a bitter taste, they couldn’t drink it. That brought out a bunch of mumblin’ and grumblin’ and belly-aching. So Moses said, “Lord, what am I going to do with them?” Right then and there, God showed Moses a piece of wood and told him to throw it in the water. Moses did what God told him to do, and guess what? That water became as sweet as a dipper of well water on a hot day.

Right here, I’d like to offer a couple of ‘what-ifs’ like my two grandsons used to come up with. What if ol’ white-beard Moses had said, “You want me to do what with that piece of wood?” Or what if the Israelites had questioned Moses’ water-purification process? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of ‘em even thought the desert heat had touched the old boy in his head.

But Moses obeyed and because he did, the people got some sweet water to quench their thirst. And then the Lord led ‘em to a new camp site that had twelve springs and seventy palm trees. I think that was a great woodshed lesson for the Israelites. And for you and me.

There will always be some bitter times and some sweet times for us in life. But if He can part the sea of danger and dry up the mud of bitterness, He’s fully capable of providing you and me a dipper full of cold well water. And maybe, just maybe, He knows when life has turned a little bitter for us, and we’re in a desert of disappointment. What He wants us to know and understand is that, even in times of testing, if we trust and obey, He’ll lead us to our own ‘palm springs’ where He’s already drawn up a bucket full of refreshing water to turn the bitterness to sweetness.

That brings up another memory. We used to live in a little town called Thomson, Georgia, which happens to be where my new friends Jimmy and Anne Coxwell live, by the way. Before the interstates sent folks flyin’ down the road past all the small towns, everybody goin’ to Florida used to drive through Thomson. And on that main road through Thomson, there was a sign that said, “Sweetwater Baptist Church.”

I can’t say this for sure, but I’ll bet that back when that church was built, they knew some bitter times and some sweet times. But when it came time to put a name on God’s house, they chose to remember the ‘sweetwater’ times. As it is in life, the more bitter the desert, the sweeter the water tastes. And all He asks is that we listen to Him, do what’s right, and pay attention to what He says.

If we had just learned that lesson back home on the farm, our ‘water break’ would have come a lot sooner than we expected.