Friday, August 20, 2010

It’s a dry rain

“When it rains, I like to tell children that God is crying. Probably because of something they did.” ~from Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey

I was born in a desert city, an arid place with high summer temperatures which people excuse with “It’s a dry heat.” There are few places on earth like this, where rain is welcomed with dancing in the streets, where people come out of their offices and homes to experience for themselves the big splatters of rain, the blasts of ever-cooler wind that take the temperature from 110° to 80°, the bolts of lightning striking the power substations. 

We desert people love our storms. Like gamblers coaching dice, we look to the eastern sky and beg the thunderheads building over the mountains, “Come on, baby, you can make it!”

It’s called the monsoon season, although it bears no resemblance to the monsoons of the Near East. When I was a child and the city was much smaller, the storms hit several times a week through July and August. Now that Phoenix is 100 miles from northwest to southeast, the column of heat rising from concrete and asphalt bounces all but the strongest storms back into the desert and its mountains.

The funny thing is, desert storms aren’t broad systems, but individual towering clouds only a few miles across. Sometimes the rain will fall 30 feet away on the neighbor’s property, but your own property gets nothing. Wet sidewalks there, dry here. The Doppler radar on your computer shows a big red blob headed for your neighborhood—but the storm splits and goes around, leaving you with all the dust, some of the cool, and a few of the sprinkles. But not the downpour that would wash away the months of powdered sand, stream off the roof, or sink into the thirsty ground. Someone wrote on Facebook, “It’s a dry rain.”

Here in this dry place, separated from loved ones, rejected by an employer, applying for jobs in the black hole of the economic recession, seeing no spark of a love life, unable to afford the reunion this year, lacking resources for health care, not qualifying for aid after paying taxes for 35 years, having moved away from a house that I made home, leaving friends in another state, and feeling unappreciated—I need rain. 

It’s been my practice to follow the advice of a friend, to “stay sweet and positive” in my relationships and communications. Certainly in this discouraging world, it’s important to present myself as strong and happy, that I have my act together and am successful in my work, that I'm invulnerable and have faith in God’s desire and ability to bless, that because I’m a child of God he supplies all my need. It's not hypocritical to want to portray God as my "everything"--it's called evangelism, sharing the good news that our loving God is the answer. But I confess that I'm the same as every other hurt child.

The danger is that my own friends and family don’t understand the need because they see the image I successfully projected. They have their own need to worry about, so if they think I’m doing all right, well, that’s all good. So day after day, month after month, I am a heat island, repelling the storms I need in the fiction that I-am-woman-hear-me-roar. No hugs, no touches, no heart-to-heart communication. No rain.

The powerful and beautiful storm clouds tower above, and there are precursors to a soaking rain. Then the storm splits and goes around, and I’m left as hot and dry as ever, but this time without hope. It could be days or weeks before the next storm appears, and it may roll over again, leaving its refreshing blessings on someone else.

Your Father in heaven… gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matthew 5:45 NLT

The point of the verse is to love the unlovable as well as the lovable, just as God distributes his grace to all, righteous and unrighteous. But at this beaten-down, vulnerable time (that seems to drag on endlessly), I just need to know deep inside that I’m loved by God and loved by people, that all this painful change is not the consequence of something I did or a bad choice I made. It's the way of the world that is not our home. However, it's the only home any of us has known thus far.

I need real, wet, soaking, refreshing rain. I need to feel that God is not punishing me; that he's not withholding blessing to teach me a lesson; that he's not closing all the doors—and windows, too. I need to know that he's not crying about something I did. Hearing people say they’ll pray for me is nice, but it’s not enough. I don’t know what will fill my empty reservoir.

Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. Isaiah 35:6-7 NLT

That would be a good start to filling the dry desert lake. There would be enough water to release into the dry riverbed filled with rocks, prickly cacti, and mesquite trees, and let it nourish the lands beyond.

Surely I’m not the only person on earth going through the parched, empty valley, desperate for the pillar of cloud. Look around. Those who seem to have it all together—don’t. Millions have lost their jobs and had to make hard choices when they thought that their years of sacrificial work and good sense would allow them to thrive, not just survive. They've seen their immediate family turn away. They have deep wounds that they hide in an attempt to keep it together for an example to others, and to "witness" about godly life. God doesn't need our public relations efforts. He will be glorified anyway.

What can you do? Realize that everyone is a lost, lonely child. Start with a hug. When they pull away in embarrassment or confusion, give an extra squeeze as if to say "I just can't do it in only one hug." Don't believe them when they say everything's all right and change the subject. Your open heart might be rain to them. They might step outside, inhale the sweet breeze, soak up the raindrops, and begin to dance.

1 comment:

  1. Jane G said:
    I imagine you are dancing in the streets, unless it's not raining where you are. When I first moved here, I thought it was so funny to see how excited people got when it rained, while I was excited to see the sun. Your explanation of the monsoon has answered questions I've had about seeing lightning above the nearby mountain, but no rain here.

    Thank you for your honesty in expressing your need for "real, refreshing, rain", because I can relate to that. Since moving here and starting a new life, I've been wondering what will fill my empty reservoir. The Lord is ever so slowly revealing that to me.

    Well, the rain has stopped already, the sun is out, but there's thunder in the distance.


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