“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” – Psalm 63:1
When I arrived in Zambia, I stepped into a dry and weary land. I’m not talking metaphorically- it literally hadn’t rained for over four months. And it showed. The grass crunched as I walked over it. The lawn was a sad, sickly brown and the trees weren’t producing any fruit.
Then the rains came. First a thunderstorm swept through, then a steady rain fell one night, then a few days later a torrential downpour kept us all in the classrooms for teatime.
At first it didn’t seem to make a difference. But so gradually that I hardly noticed it happening, the landscape started to look rather green. And the mango tree started filling up with fruit. The roads became a little less dusty.
There is a tendency in Christians to fall into thinking of God as a sort of cosmic preacher who teaches us lessons as we take notes for future reference, but I’m inclined to think that He operates more like the rain. Sometimes in rapid bursts that take us by surprise. Sometimes with an intensity that hurts and destroys things that we thought were so important. Sometimes He works slowly and steadily like a spring rain that calms and comforts us. And gradually He transforms us into something new, something full of life and fruit.
“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” -Hosea 6:3
The other day someone said to me, “You know, Beth, I wish I could be more like you. You just take things as they come and don’t stress too much.”
I had to laugh at that description of me. If she had known me even just a few years ago, she would have met a rather anxious and timid teenager who was terrified of change or going out of my comfort zone.
I can’t pinpoint a lesson that I learned that changed me, but I can see that God has been working in my life to bring me to this place where I have peace and joy when I used to have fear and anxiety. I didn’t even know the change was taking place until I looked back at the person I used to be and realized that I am not that girl anymore.
Sometimes I try to explain how God is working and it feels like holding the rain in my hands. I fumble for the right words, trying to turn God’s transformative work into a neatly tied lesson to put up on my blog or teach a Sunday School class on. But I’ve realized that some lessons aren’t meant to be captured to share or save for later. They are only meant to change me.
As Oswald Chamber put it: “We are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, it is to be turned into something even better than teaching, namely, character.”
As I look out my window, I see so much brilliant green, but I also see places that the rain has not yet soaked into. Maybe the ground there is a little bit harder. And in my own life, I see places in my spirit and character that have been marvelously transformed by Christ’s work in my life, but there are spots that resist transformation. Spots of pride, envy, ambition. Lingering anxiety over things that I cannot change. Faults that are at odds with the beauty of the work that has already been done.
And that is why I am so glad to know that God is not finished with me yet.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” -Isaiah 55:10-11