Until 15 years ago, I lived in a four-season climate. Every month there was precipitation of one kind or another: winter snow, spring showers, summer thunderstorms, autumn rain. Now I live in a Mediterranean climate with a very different pattern of seasons. For six months, from May to October, there is what I call ‘sumter’–summer and winter melted together. It’s hot like summer but without any New England green. Because once the rain stops in April, the land turns brown, just like a cold winter.
It’s discouraging to go to the local park for my morning walk. The path is dry and dusty. The forest floor is barren and dull. Under the eucalyptus trees there is nothing but 50 shades of brown. I know that sumter won’t last forever, but it feels like it will never end.
And then the miracle happens. The rain returns. It pours for a few hours one day, and then another. Within a week, the park begins its transformation. Overnight, little blades of grass sprout in the triangles of dirt in front of the trees on the path. Shoots appear among the brown.
But perhaps the most amazing part of the change is that the potential was there all along. Nothing new was planted; the seeds were waiting patiently in the dry dirt the whole time. For six months, they were dead in the soil. Then the rain came and the water soaked down and softened the seed casings. That is all it took. They sprouted up, just like that.
It strikes me that there can be a similar cycle in our spiritual lives. Often we live in a spiritual drought, and seeds of hope and faith lay dormant in our heart. We live with a despair, or simply a deep discouragement over the way things are. The months and even years go on, and the landscape of our spirit looks the same as ever. It seems impossible that our lives will ever be different. The seeds buried in our hearts seem to have disappeared for good.
And then something happens. A soft spiritual rain begins to fall. The tiny seed of faith–no bigger than a mustard seed–is touched by living water. The hard protective shell becomes soft and then falls away. The seed sends down a shoot into the now-moist soil. A sprout of hope pokes up through our doubt and disbelief. Before long, death has been transformed into life. An old wound is healed. A relationship is reconciled. A debt is cancelled.
I need this vision of hope before me. I need to remember that drought, dryness, barrenness, even death are not permanent conditions. I need to remind myself that the rain will come, and when it does, the long-dormant seeds in my soil, seeds so long dry they look more like dust than containers of life, will spring up green, as if singing , “yes, this is what I was meant for.”
I need to cling to this hope no matter what. Because once the rain comes and the green grows and life returns, all my angst feels almost silly. Of course the rain will come again. Of course there is hope that God will work. But what if I had given up? What if I had thrown the seeds away? What if I had stopped listening to God? What if I had turned away?
- Where are the areas of drought or deadness in your soul these days?
- What seeds of hope do you need to hold on to?
- As you wait, what encouragement can you draw from how has God been faithful to you in the past?
- Where are new shoots coming in your heart?