Life in West Texas means doing three things when it rains.
- Standing on your porch to watch it fall.
- Comparing rain gauge totals the next day.
- Offering prayers of thanks.
I did all three of those things this weekend. One of those was harder than the others.
The skies were gray when we awoke Saturday, and they darkened through the morning. They promised rain, but they’ve lied before. In a distinctly modern twist, we used our iPhone to track the progress of a massive, slow-moving storm heading straight toward us.
The clouds told the truth. They dumped rain for at least 12 straight hours. It was raining when we went to bed, and it was raining when we awoke this morning. About 4 inches fell.
The summer has been, to put it succinctly, brutal. Numerous heat records were broken, and the lack of rain has placed this among the worst droughts in state history. It’s rained twice since the spring; we were out of town both times, which means we haven’t seen precipitation fall on our yard since March.
Truthfully, a lack of rain is no big deal for my family. Yeah, the back yard looks horrible, and I hope our pretty box elder bush in the front recovers, but I’m not a farmer who has lost a year’s crop or a rancher who has had to sell cattle because he can’t afford to feed them. I’m certainly not short on food, clean water or medicine, like thousands of dying children in Somalia.
My problems are so minor compared to those who truly suffer, and a lack of rain isn’t even among them.
I pray for rain. Not because I think that if I pull the handle enough times that the slot machine’s bound to pay out. When it rained over the weekend, I didn’t take pride in it as if I’d done it. Rather, I see the way the heat has been scorching the land, the way the fires have consumed swaths of the state, the way animals and plants are dying of thirst, and I say: Help. I can’t make the rain come, but I need it to come. I say, I’m not in control, and I know that droughts and fires are built into the cycle of nature, and that I’m so lucky to live in a nation where I still have access to potable water and good food. But still I say, Help. It’s not that I necessarily expect a certain response after a certain amount of time; prayer isn’t a recipe. Rather, it’s about constantly saying: I am not in control, and we ask your favor.
So as I stood on my front porch Saturday night, streams of rain pouring from the sky, rivers rushing in the gutters, puddles covering the withered grass, I lifted my eyes, and I thanked God for it.
Like trying on a new shoe, it felt stiff, awkward, uncomfortable. But it quickly felt right. Not only that, it felt good.
As I prayed, I could feel opening a channel to my Father that had been blocked shut by years of baggage. I recovered a small part of the faith I’d had as a child.
And God knows I need more of that.