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“Getting to The Good Stuff!” Exodus 6: 1-12 Key verse(s): 12: “But Moses said to the Lord, ‘If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips’.”

When I was a boy I had the rather thankless job of feeding a herd of our neighbor’s hereford cattle. The job was in payment of some kindness the man had done our family; so there was no remuneration for the services rendered. The job was not one of my favorite things to do for a variety of reasons. First, it had to be done first thing upon returning home from school. When all the other kids were gearing up for at least an hour or so of bike riding and just hanging around, my brothers and I had to trudge across the meadow, down the hill and over to the cattle barn. The barn was not well kept so you always needed to be careful as to where you stepped. If you happened to step in the wrong place you could end up sinking up to your shins in something that looked like mud but didn’t smell like mud. And, of course, there was the poor lighting in the barn. As evening fell the barn got very dark and the few scattering light bulbs did little to relieve the fear that the sound you heard three stories up in the loft was something more than a cat or a barn owl. And there was the hay. How I hated the hay! It came in bales and those cattle ate a bunch of it. First you had to lug it, then snap the twine without cutting yourself, and then force it down the manger chute. All the while the air was filled with tiny bits of chaff that targeted my sinuses like ballistic missiles.

When all was said and done, this was often an unpleasant job. Sure, there was the occasional hay or feed fight to distract us from time to time. And, after a time we got to know each steer and cow pretty well. But, overall, I found the job to be tedious and difficult. I remember bumping into the farmer one evening as the three of us dragged into the barn for our evening chore. He could see that we looked none too excited to be there and decided to give us a hand with the lugging and the dumping for once. After a while he broke the silence with one of those declarative statements that just seem to come out of nowhere. Sensing the rigors and unpleasantness of our daily trudge he simply blurted, “Did you ever notice how the good timber always seems to be surrounded by a swamp?” We stared in respect but our lack of response evidenced our utter confusion. “You know.” He continued. “That one tree you really would like to cut down always seems to be more of a chore to get there than to cut down. Swamps! They’re everywhere!” He smiled and didn’t say another word.

For years I really thought that the man was daft. But, over time I began to understand what he was trying to get at. If you ever are going to find the good in this life, you have to be ready to deal with the bad. Feeding those cattle was not often fun. Yet, it was one more chore in life that built character and gave us skills. It was a sort of swamp that each of us boys had to pass through if we were going to get to that grown-up side of life waiting temptingly just around the bend.

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