Friday, July 31, 2009

Downpour

I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

                        Isaiah 44.3 

Gray Skies Bring Color

It’s been a wetter summer than usual. Yesterday, the mid-Atlantic got hammered with storms and tornadoes. My parents tell me this is the rainiest summer in the decade or so they’ve lived in Florida. And as I write this, the sky is overcast and thunderstorms are expected later tonight, with rain predicted for five of the next 10 days. We Chicagoans typically enter summer with a grudge hanging over from a tough winter. The last one was colder and snowier than usual, so this pattern of downpours every three days or so isn’t sitting well around here. We’re a little miffed at Mother Nature for rewarding our winter hardships with summer delights.

Personally, I find whining about weather and shaking fists at the sky a little nutty. To keep out of that trap, I remind myself gray skies bring color. A wet, snowy winter gives birth to a verdant, spectacular spring. A rainy summer leads to stunning autumn foliage. When, as Karen Carpenter crooned, rainy days (and Mondays) get me down, I pick myself up by looking ahead instead of resenting the past. It’s a little cuckoo—as nuts as the complaining I’m try to avoid—but it gets me through the rain.

How Rain Works

Rain can ruin a day. Outings are cancelled, chores put off, and travels delayed. In our frustration, we forget how rain works. It falls today to end yesterday’s drought and start tomorrow’s growth. When current inconveniences are forgot, blessings carried in the rain remain. Isaiah 44.3 is a splendid reminder of this. “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground,” God says. Dry places where we’ve not seen any progress, sparse areas that no longer produce, and streams that ceased to flow will awaken with fresh life. Past disappointments will be rectified. We welcome rain to these regions. We’ve prayed for downpours here. What we’re apt to miss, though, are rain’s promises for our future.

“I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants,” God proclaims. His downpour restores and regenerates. When He showers His Spirit on us, lost hopes gain new life and new hopes are planted. Therefore, while rejoicing in amazement at our renewal, we also sing and dance with expectancy of fresh potential. Rainy days are the perfect time to thank God for correcting old losses and creating new possibilities.

The Next Generation

Although the writer uses a different metaphor (God’s enduring fortress), Psalm 48.13 encourages us to marvel at His works “that you may tell of them to the next generation.” When the Holy Spirit is given at Pentecost, Peter explains it as the fulfillment of God’s promise in Joel 2.28: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people”—the same promise Isaiah records. And it’s worth noting the first believers greeted the Spirit’s downpour in terms of its impact on future generations rather than its significance to them. The first sermon a Christian preacher ever delivered looks beyond the now to envision the next. Peter tells his impromptu audience: “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2.39)

Whether or not we’re parents, we have children—young people who follow our example and construct their lives on truth we impart to them. As God’s rain revives our blighted hopes, it also seeps into their hearts and minds. Downpours that wash away our dead ideas and rejuvenate our dry riverbeds also fill their reservoirs and soften their soil. Ground we can’t break will flourish for them. They’ll bathe in clean springs bursting through our dusty traditions. They’ll drink healthy water replenishing our stagnant wells. We need to know this. More than that, they must know it. We have to teach them their future flows with freshwater sources we thirsted for. We must impress on them their responsibility to cultivate growth and progress we won’t fully achieve. Let’s not complain about gray skies and dark clouds hovering overhead. Let’s rejoice in downpours they bring. They revive hope we lost and instill hope in generations to come.

God's downpours revive past hopes and instill future ones.

(Tomorrow: Selah)

2 comments:

Cuboid Master said...

The quote from Isaiah reminds me of my grandmother's saying, "You have to know the darkness to love the light." Truthfully, the most verdant growth occurs after the rain. It is helpful to look to future generations. Many of us have survived abuse and life-threatening trial, and we have chosen to "end the cycle" of the past and give health to future generations. It matters not if you offer this gift to your biological children, to children you've adopted, or to children you are a role-model and friend to, in all cases the result is a more beautiful future. That promise Peter speaks of in Acts -- "for all who are far off" -- makes the suffering purposeful and good. Thanks for the reminder, Tim. :-)

Tim said...

CM, every chance I get I tell young people, "I have such hope for you." This is not a manipulative tactic. It's the truth. You, I, and others in our generation took to the sky on wings of hope our elders had but couldn't rally their generation to achieve. We must inspire those coming behind us to do the same.

While it's true in every community, because Walt and I belong to the gay community and live in a fairly large enclave, we've had the experience of wandering back into places we haunted years ago. Observing the changes can be disconcerting at first and we fall into the trap of saying, "These kids don't get it." But then it dawns on us, they do get it. They're taking what we did at their age and making it their own. It's a beautiful, amazing thing to behold.

I also believe that's what's happening in the community of faith. Barriers that many of us--GLBT and straight--struggled long and hard to scramble over, the next generation is simply kicking down. We must encourage them to keep kicking, to ask questions, and reject blanket "because I say so" rationale. Today's kids are going to follow us, but because of us, they don't have to struggle like us.

It seems you, I, and others of our time were called for the work you mention: breaking cycles of abuse. If we achieve this, we free our "children" to break cycles of exclusion and prejudice. Time is never on our side--we'll always wish we could have done more. But God is.

We look to those who "afar off" and see dreams and visions that drive us fulfilled. And that matters more than doing it ourselves.

Thank you, CM, for your astute comment. As ever, you brighten our hearts with hope.

Blessings always,
Tim