Water my camels and I’ll water yours

Jul 16, 2009 by Tony Chung in Personality

Last weekend I took my family on a trip to visit my friend Caleb who pastors a church in Port Alice, a village in North Vancouver Island. Along the drive up the coast I had a lot of time to think. My kids slept in the back seats, and my wife focused her eyes on the unexpected conditions of the road ahead as we joked about how dark it was. Then the thought hit me to pray for all my single friends, who drive this road alone or with friends, and don’t experience the unspeakable joy that comes with being (in my case) a husband and father.

I prayed for my friends that God would provide for them a suitable help-meet who would offer to water their camels. That picture stuck with me, and now I can’t get the idea out of my head. I shared my prayer with Caleb, who in turn brought the topic up when we went out for coffee with his friends. After explaining the idea to this group of young married couples,  Caleb has taken off on the idea and I’m finding comments in his friends’ Facebook sites and everything. This is going viral!

Caleb explains to my sons how he lives in two trailers at once

Caleb explains to my sons how he lives in two trailers at once

Watering camels, historically speaking

The type of family relationship we’ve developed almost instinctively can be summed up in a story from Genesis 24, when Abraham pledged his chief of staff to return to his home land to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The servant, identified as Eliezer of Damascus in the Amplified translation, went on his quest back to the old country accompanied by other servants and several camels carrying treasures for the as yet unknown bride-to-be and her family.

Elizer was a God-fearing man, and like me, also found himself praying along his journey. Although he was concerned about finding success on his mission, his prayer anchored in a trust that Abraham had already prayed for the Angel of the Lord to prepare the way before him. He rested his entourage at a place where the women of the land drew water for the evening. I imagine there would have been several young women at that time of the day who would have made for a suitable wife for Isaac. But Eliezer was sure that God had already prepared the heart of one woman in response to his quest.

He set out a fleece before the Lord, that when he asked a girl for a drink of water, that not only would she give him a drink, but also provide water for the entourages camels. Anyone who has ever seen a camel drink knows that camels drink a LOT of water. It is no small feat to draw water time and again to fill one camel let alone the number accompanying the servants at that time.

But one woman did respond to the quest: Rebekah, described as “very beautiful and attractive, chaste and modest, and unmarried”. It just so happened to be Abraham’s niece. Eliezer asked Rebekah for a drink from her pail. She willingly gave it to him. Then she offered to draw water for the camels until they were full. Praise the Lord—This was the one!

Watering camels in the new millenium

How does this scene apply to the current day? Today’s world revolves around celebrity worship. Advertising directs us from the age of our youth to focus on superficial expression: appearance, economic or social status, and unfair comparisons. Mind games run rampant: “Does he like me?” “Does she think I’m cool?” Media teach our kids to idolize the “object of our affection” by placing him or her on a pedestal. Characters in movies research their “intended” by questioning friends of friends rather than asking direct questions while building a relationship.

When I met the woman who became my wife, I had made a pact with myself that the woman I marry would not be the one who met my needs the best, but the one whom I could best serve. This proved itself naturally, where my common actions met her needs, and hers mine. In addition to the natural communcation, which I call the “mechanics of conversation”, we were both willing to adapt to each other and go with the flow, much like jazz musicians who have never played together listen to what each other is doing and find ways to respond to what they hear.

There were no fireworks, no sparks, no love at first sight—just a natural growing together as our hearts worked toward becoming one in marriage. And that’s when the magic happened, which brought forth the whole shebang.

A willingness to water camels is a form of service that represents what is really going on inside the person’s heart. I am using camels as a metaphor for what a person finds important: their passions, their heart, their interests, talents, and hobbies. When partners recognize and nurture each others’ camels their relationship grows and matures in a healthy, natural way.

This desire shouldn’t end after marriage, but should grow and mature as old camels grow and mature. New camels will replace old camels. Every additional stage in the relationship could bring new camels that also require watering and support. If you follow Isaac and Rebekah’s story through the next couple of generations, you’ll see that Isaac anda Rebekah stopped watering each others’ camels when they played favourites with their twins, which caused a rift between husband and wife, and between brothers. Isaac’s son Jacob (Israel) eventually married both of Rebekah’s nieces, Leah and Rachel.

The camels that Rebekah watered to build the initial relationship eventually died off, leaving shallow husks of a relationship that brought pain and suffering to their children and grandchildren. Fortunately God fit all of this selfish mess into His plan and worked the same heart that willingly fed a strangers camels into the a man who generously fed his family even though they betrayed him.

Water my friend’s camels too

If you’re really daring, please visit Caleb’s blog, The Almost Weekly Report and leave a comment that says that you are excited for the work he’s doing at Ocean View Church in Port Alice and that you prayed for him to find a wife who is willing to water his camels, and he willing to water hers.

Almost Weekly Report: that about sums it up

Almost Weekly Report: that about sums it up

In my next few posts I plan to expand on this idea in the hopes of eventually writing a book out out of it. I will provide links to different resources on marriage and family relationships that I have found especially helpful.

What are your thoughts about watering camels in relationships? Am I way off the mark, or do you think there could be something here?