On Left-Handed Drinking Fountains and Not Making it Into Gideon’s Army

Back while I was attending college almost a decade ago, I had a very awkward experience once with a drinking fountain that shot water from the left side rather than the right. I found myself incapable of drinking water from it, slurping and lapping awkwardly with little success. I hadn’t really thought about it before then, but I always drank water from the right side of my mouth, and this left-handed drinking fountain thoroughly stumped my motor memory.


It got me thinking that perhaps this was due to the fact that I am almost cripplingly right-handed, so I talked to my wife about it, eager to find out if she had a similar problem—since she is also right-handed. She said she had never really thought about it. She had never encountered a left-handed water fountain. Not to be thwarted in my quest for data, I asked her in what way she sipped rinsing water from the faucet while she was brushing her teeth. She told me she never drank straight from the faucet, but cupped water to her mouth with her hand. After asking some other members of my family and friend group, I found that most people I knew also cupped water or used a disposable cup for rinsing.

Not long after that, I re-read the account of Gideon in the Bible and came to an oddly discouraging conclusion—I would not have made it into Gideon’s army. Here’s the pertinent text from Judges 7:4–7:

But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

So, no matter how eager I would have been to join Gideon in the fight against the Midianites, I would have been sent home because I do not cup water to my mouth as my lovely wife does. Attempting to apply this to my life now, I come to the conclusion that God might have me sit some of his battles out, and not necessarily because I’m unqualified for the job or unwilling to do it. Learning to be satisfied with his timing and his means has been a great challenge to me, but I’m thankful for little lessons like this—sometimes buried in things as mundane and obscure as left-handed drinking fountains.

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