“I woke this morning to the sound of rain.”
That’s how this letter was supposed to begin. The forecast was unambiguous. But when I opened my eyes and listened, I heard no rain. As usual. It seems there is NEVER any rain around here. Just ten days ago we hit 95 degrees, which is what passes for autumn here in Southern California. Our hills go from brown to browner, awaiting the seemingly inevitable wildfires that will finally turn them black. So when the forecast mentions even the possibility of rain, we do our best to hide our skepticism, watching the horizon, hoping, praying for just a little moisture, just this once.
As day began to dawn, I lay in bed, pondering our plight. We generally consider ourselves lucky to live in this desert paradise, where sunshine is the norm. Last Saturday I was hiking in the local hills and it was glorious: just-the-right-kind-of-warm, clear (!) blue skies, a gentle breeze. Elsewhere in the country they talk about bomb cyclones and the polar vortex, so we get no sympathy when we worry about another day of too much sun. Last night it dipped into the 40s here, which (I know) sounds pretty dreamy if you live in, say, Billings, Montana, where it’s not expected to get above 27 today. But it says here that the average November temperature in my town is 74 degrees. So yeah, we’ve got it pretty rough.
People are not likely to be any more sympathetic in Seattle, where they get fewer sunny days than wet days in a typical year. That’s 155 days of annual precipitation for them and around 34 for us, but I’m pretty sure you have to count foggy mornings in June to get to our total to 34. Earlier this year (March 5, to be exact), California was declared drought-free for the first time since December, 2011. That’s 376 weeks of drought—a stretch of truly biblical proportions. So perhaps you’ll understand why we constantly yearn for moisture without actually expecting it to come.
I acknowledge that in these matters we are the product of our own choices: the decision to live in a naturally arid environment, the preference for modern conveniences that contribute to a warming climate, the refusal to make meaningful compromises that might mitigate the consequences of our self-indulgence. It makes me wonder: How can I expect God to step in if I am not myself prepared to step up? Then again, how often do we truly deserve the blessings that He grants us anyway? Hasn’t he told us that hope is one of the three great virtues? Hasn’t he always invited us to trust in Him and in “good things to come”? Isn’t the whole idea of grace that He blesses us in spite of our manifest unworthiness?
And so, with “hope smiling brightly before us,” we pray for things beyond our merit, relying on a loving Father to hear our cries and reward our hope in spite of it all. To help us find a job when we screwed up the last one. To heal us of self-inflicted afflictions. To mend that which we have broken. To send the rain we need but perhaps do not deserve.
As I think about it, I woke this morning only to the promise of rain. And that promise was just enough to light within me a glimmer of hope that it might be so. I finish this short note to you listening to the fulfillment of that promise: pit-pat, pit-pat, pit-pat. The rain we long for, the rain we need. One more thing to give thanks for today when we say grace.