Let it rain
It rained yesterday, and I said a prayer of thanksgiving. Ever since I became a homeowner with a yard to tend, rain has taken on new meaning. I understand now why my mother and father worried about the lack of rain for long stretches of time during hot Alabama summers, why when about five days had passed with zero precipitation feelings of anxiousness would arise. Of course, being the house with the unsightly lawn is the epitome of a rich persons' problems. Far more worrisome than brown grass are the dangers to food and water supply and the overall ecosystem that emerge during drought. Bur rain blesses us in both trivial and profound ways, making our world beautiful and verdant and vibrant and life-sustaining.
We artistic and dramatic types cannot talk about water too long before falling into metaphor. In the church especially we love to play with water's physical properties and capacities and apply them to the spiritual life. Water, experienced through baptism, cleanses, renews, refreshes, and makes life possible. Immersion in spiritual water ushers in a new experience of the world--a world that is full of potential and redemption and love and hope. Water is creative and healing and sustaining, and rain reminds us of this, by bringing water quite unavoidably into our consciousness, so that we cannot take its existence for granted.
Yet water has its darker sides, which rain also reminds us. When there is too much of this creative force, it can destroy. Rain inevitably inconveniences and disrupts our rhythms, so that our commutes, barbecues, and ball games all become nuisances. Sometimes--often--we do indeed need its interruption, its invitation to remember that our plans and attempts to master nature are but pretenses; we are not ultimately in charge. Other times these disruptions threaten our fragile ecosystems and psyche, so much so that we are not sure if we can handle the storm anymore. Our homes, our crops, our neighborhoods and towns are threatened and may never be the same. The interruption is actually an instigator of conversion.
I have been speaking of rain in a literal since, but in light of recent events, how can I not remark on rain's figurative usages? My lawn may be dry and dull green, but it actually has poured lately. Israel, Iraq, Russia, Ebola, Michael Brown, Robin Williams...the chaos, confusion, fear, and heartache continue to shower down upon us, and I think many of us are having a difficult time keeping our heads above the water. When will the downpour stop? And if it does stop, what will our world look like in the aftermath?
The thing with rain is that no one person or force controls its coming and going and what form it takes. The pressure in the atmosphere and the temperature determine whether our climate is dry or drenched, hot or cold, benign or fierce. We change our environments where we can, dialing back our harmful emissions to encourage atmospheric health, but mostly we pray. We pray prayers of thanksgiving when the rain that pours down brings life and joy and promise and we pray prayers of petition when we realize that the relentless showers may destroy.