Lesson One

Deep relationships are important: Moses told [Jethro] about everything the LORD had done… about all the hardships… and how the LORD had saved them.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.”

So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them. Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, “Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians…”

Exodus 18:5-10

Lesson one from Jethro’s story is about the art of relationship.

Moses and Jethro are related through marriage; Jethro is Moses’ wife’s father, the grandfather to his children, the father-in-law. Typically, relationships with in-laws get a bad reputation. They can be tricky to navigate because they are born from a place of necessity. You don’t get a choice of in-laws - they come as part of a package deal, and sometimes, although not always, this can make for a challenging relationship.

Both Moses and Jethro could have maintained this relationship through a sense of duty or service to Zipporah. No rocking the boat, no major ups or downs, just keep it in the shallow end - cover the highlights, skip the rest. But we can see from this short passage that there is more to it than that.

There is a mutual willingness to invest time and effort into this relationship, and importantly, there is space for both celebration and consolation.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have journeyed through all that Moses and the Israelites had? The slavery, the plagues, the journey from Egypt into the wilderness… It’s not exactly all rainbows and butterflies, is it?

Moses doesn’t shy away from sharing with Jethro about the hardships that he and his people have experienced. Yes, God rescued them from their hardships, but they still happened. There are still grounds for talking about the hard times, and processing what that felt like. 

Moses clearly feels that this relationship is a trusted space where he can share all he has been through - not just the highlights; both the ups and the downs.

Moses and Jethro talk through the tough things and acknowledge that they matter, but we hear too that ‘Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel.There is space in their conversation for both the celebration of the good things and recognition of the challenges. 

This is the art of relationship. Space for celebration and consolation. Moses and Jethro take a relationship that could have been merely dutiful, that could have been a shallow place of focus on the highs, or a bleak place of focus on the lows, but they create from it an artful relationship which ebbs and flows with the celebrations and consolations of life.

Questions for reflection:

Do your close relationships have space for both consolation and celebration?

What would you say is the main focus of conversation with your support network - your hardships or your successes?