A long time ago, a beautiful maiden went down to the local well to draw water. She spied a stranger with a small caravan of camels. It was hot. They looked thirsty. She offered to draw water for them—camels and all. When she had, the man lit up with joy, showered her with gifts, and declared his intention to take her to a distant land to marry a man she’d never seen.
This was one beautiful maiden without a hesitant bone in her body. Once things were cleared with her parents, Rebekah, heroine of Genesis 24 and future matriarch of Israel, was off like a shot.
Life is full of defining moments: events that catch our lives and catapult us in a new direction. The day you meet your spouse. The first glimpse of the child who will call you mother. A job interview. A spiritual experience. Such moments last five minutes and live a thousand years.
And then there’s the meantime. The Great In-Between. Life is due to begin sometime soon—in the meantime, we’re just hanging on. We try to trust that God has a plan, but we’re secretly afraid that life is passing us by. Thousands of years ago in a desert village, Rebekah lived through just such a time.
Waiting periods may lack glamour, but it’s the daily grind that prepares us for life changing events. Rebekah handled her fateful moment with the grace of a well-trained runner crossing the finish line. Her actions at the well show that she’d discovered the hidden treasures of waiting. She’d learned to embrace the same opportunities—call them training tools—that we have. Work. People. And a God who gets involved when He’s invited.
"Let Me Get That For You"
Rebekah was beautiful, but she didn’t consider herself above manual labor. She was Helen of Troy with dirt under her fingernails. Her care for others clearly outweighed her care for herself. But I’ll guarantee she wasn’t born like that. Her actions bear witness to days and weeks and years gone by, years in which she’d chosen to play her little part with all her might.
Witness Rebekah at the well, laboriously drawing water for the day’s work while a stranger watches. As visions of laundry, cooking, and scrubbing dance in her head, she hefts a very full, very heavy water jug onto her shoulder and prepares to trek the miles back home. No sooner has she finished than the stranger has the gall to ask her for a drink.
Rebekah’s reaction is utterly splendid. She doesn’t haul out the sarcasm, nor does she pitch her jug at the stranger’s presuming head. She doesn’t explain that this water is for her family and she’s rather busy at the moment. She doesn’t even bite her tongue and "do the right thing," innerly griping all the way. The King James says Rebekah "hasted" to give the man a drink. When he’d had his fill, she "hasted" again and poured the rest of the water into a trough for the camels. This done, Rebekah "ran" back to the well to draw more water for them. That’s a lot of water, a lot of work, and one incredible servant’s heart.
Rebekah hadn’t just trained herself in a physical sense. Her heart had gone through some training as well. The man at the well didn’t ask her to water his camels. She offered. She didn’t drag her feet when she helped him out. She hasted; she ran. Rebekah didn’t just work, she served. The difference between these two things is found only in the heart.
Tempering a Heart of Gold
No matter what arena of life you yearn to enter—marriage, parenthood, a career, a move—no one can prepare you for it like the people in your life today. The stranger who asks for a drink at an awkward moment will teach you to serve. The child who drives you up one wall and down the other will teach you the fine art of patience. The co-worker who dissolves into tears at the slightest provocation will teach you sensitivity and understanding. The socially awkward lady at your church can show you how to reach across barriers to find common ground.
We can’t learn servanthood without people to serve. We’ll never learn what love is if we don’t love the people in our lives today. Humility will elude us until we see ourselves as one thread in this big tapestry called humanity.
Work keeps our hands busy during the meantime; people engage our hearts. Rebekah was no Rapunzel, loafing around an ivory tower while the world trudged by outside. She plunged herself into the daily grind and put her heart into ordinary relationships. Other people were important to her, so she practiced going the extra mile for them.
Then one day, she went the extra mile for the right person. Rebekah didn’t go down to the well expecting her life to change, but that’s what happened. The godliness of Rebekah’s actions identified her to the stranger as God’s first choice to mother His chosen people. It’s the formation of our inner lives—our character—that will make the biggest difference to our futures.
At a Moment’s Notice
When it comes to making life-changing decisions in a split second, Rebekah wins the gold medal. Within hours of meeting the stranger at the well, Rebekah was asked not only to go and marry a man she had never met, but to leave immediately.
This was not a small matter. Rebekah wasn’t considering moving into the house down the street. To go with the stranger was to leave her old life behind forever, to join the "religious nut" branch of the family, to leave a settled lifestyle for a nomadic one. It’s possible that Rebekah wouldn’t ever see her family again. Yet she didn’t hesitate. When the man returned home in the morning, Rebekah went with him.
I don’t believe that Rebekah’s decision was made on a romantic whim. Nor do I believe she was a rebel who jumped at the first chance to leave her family. No, there was a depth and strength of conviction behind Rebekah’s decision that awes me. She knew that God had led the man to her, and her trust in God was so strong that she didn’t hesitate to leap into His unexpected will for her life.
Trust in God isn’t spontaneously generated any more than servanthood is. Somehow, out there in a little desert village, Rebekah got to know God. She came from a quasi-heathen family with a history of occasionally hearing the voice of Jehovah. She made the most of that history. Thus, when God called on her to surrender everything and take a whole new path, she was ready.
So While You Wait, Rebekah…
The big events of our life hold great significance for us, but they don’t define us. The daily grind, with its hundreds of little decisions, determines who we are—and without it, we would never be ready for those stranger-at-the-well moments.
Such a moment may be around the corner for you or me. In the meantime, we’d do well to stop thinking of tomorrow and start living in today. Rebekah didn’t sit around and daydream while she waited. Through the challenges that came her way each day, she built the character she needed to be a mother of Israel and the spiritual confidence she needed to abandon herself to God’s will.
You and I have the same opportunities for growth that Rebekah had. We have daily annoyances, people who challenge us, a God to talk to, and windows that need washing. It may feel like life has yet to begin. That feeling is wrong. Life is now.
Someday you may meet your own stranger at the well, and life will take a brand new direction. Until then, you have the opportunity to learn the blessings of waiting. Like Rebekah did, you can make the most of the meantime.
[This article first appeared here at Ungrind several years ago. We’re republishing it because … well, we just love it that much. We hope you enjoy it too.]