Friday, October 19, 2012

The Time It Never Rained.

The Time It Never Rained is one of my favorite books. It is not one of my favorite times of life. I live in New Mexico. The times it never rains are real, and they are hard. The weather is hot. We eye the clouds, wish the sun away, and wait eagerly every afternoon for the thunder to roll in. The showers are scattered, few and far between. The grass turns from faded yellowish green to brown, to gray, finally dying and blending in with dust and dirt patches that made the green mesquite look like a piece of paradise. 

The cattle follow the feed pickups eagerly, bawling with mid-winter hunger in the midst of June. Even the calves learn early. Tank water dries and every animal is as thirsty as the ground; inevitably water lines break somewhere from the pressure. Lawns and gardens require hours of care just to stay alive and the produce is slow to come. Town folks complain about the heat and ranchers joke of when Noah’s flood brought 1/2 an inch of rain. The laughter is just a front, though; their thoughts and conversations are filled with alternate plans; with no grass, what will the cows eat? How will the ranch produce? How will the bills be paid?

This summer was a time it never rained; for many the second summer, for some the third or fourth or fifth. Every so often we thought it might break. A sprinkle, a shower, a big rain “just over the hill.” Then discouragement returned. 

My friend made a point. God put the systems of nature and climate in action. He sees more than the dry ground. He calls us to pray for the field white for harvest in another way, to pray for souls thirsty for the Word. That, too, is a discouraging task, a hope that seems to hold nothing of reality. These souls seem to be in turf that has died; the Word sprinkled brings not even a wisp of green. Even in my own life, my soul has dry seasons. 

So, just as in dry weather, we wonder. Will the souls thirsting for the Word ever receive? When will the Spirit wind turn hearts? Can this turf be revived? Will my own parched heart be satiated? Will I bask in His presence? What if discouragement wins? What if change does not come? What will the end be? Showers come, refreshment in the forms of events, or relationships, or moments. Family Night at church. A question about “your religion.” A moment of the presence of God being as real as a person with skin. Yet, still the drought continues and we wait and we wonder if change is possible.

In The Time It Never Rained, it did rain. It rained after all but the toughest were broken. It rained after all hope was lost and only those who loved the land remained. It rained. In history, it rains. It rains after years of drought change the landscape and community. It rains after one generation has passed and another has forgotten. 

And our rains came, at least some of them. They came after summer had passed, after cows were sold and the growing season almost ended, but they came. If you've never lived through a drought in the country, I'm not sure the joy that comes in the rain can be expressed. The entire household was giddy the night the canyon ran. Everyone stayed up late when it began to sprinkle at bedtime, just to see how long it would last. Even children deprived of recess sat rapt watching the drizzle with a smile. The rains came. The grass turned green, first where water had run and stood, then at the roots of all the remaining patches of yellow and brown. Cattle began to ignore feed. Ranchers began to plan. Life returned. Hope returned.

So, too, in Scripture, it rained. The psalmist said he once was young, but now old, and had never seen the righteous forsaken. God sent rain after Elijah had slain the priests of Baal and He sent resurrection after it appeared that death had gained the victory. He sent the Spirit wind rushing through Jerusalem to reign on those from every tribe and tongue. The field may look dry here. Religion is killing relationships. Righteousness is turning into relativity. My own heart is patchy in showing the work of God. But a sovereign God holds every shower. He makes all things beautiful in His time. The rains, His reign, are coming.

We will pray. For rain.