Last week, my counselor handed me some fruit from a tree in her backyard. And I've been thinking about it all week long. I'm sure she plucked them from the tree and handed them to me only because I asked what they were out of curiosity. But, my mind has constantly gone back to those little green fruits that look like limes on the outside, but are like oranges on the inside. Whatever they may be, they are fruit. And when she placed them in my hand and told me to let her know what I thought about them, my mind was flooded with thoughts of how the Lord is growing fruit in my own life.
Every year is a year of change and usually I welcome it. I eagerly set goals, but purposefully keep them small so that I can actually reach them and experience change, however little it may be. It's true that some years bring more change than others. Like the year I graduated college, moved to California, then back to Alabama and finally landed in Mobile. Yet, there are years that blur together, some years where it seems the days were nothing more than mundane and I don't remember much of what happened in their lost hours. Goals set for a direction I wanted to go, but quickly abandoned when I couldn't meet one. Another year of no change, filled with mundane days.
The problem with my goal setting was that I wasn't inviting God into any of it. I made a list of all these things that I wanted to do and that I wanted to accomplish, some even with the aim to deepen my relationship with Him, but I still never allowed Him to fully enter in and guide me in any of it! God who promises to be my refuge and strength and my help. Help, the very thing that I need when it comes to anything, found immeasurably in God, yet I never asked Him. I never asked anyone. Out of fear that I was bothering people or interrupting their lives with my life, I just ignored it instead. I ignored and forgot my goals, my dreams, my desires, and just lived in the mundane. Alone.
I'm reading a book for counseling called "Invitation to Silence and Solitude" by Ruth Haley Barton. It turns out, I really suck at silence. I'm constantly filling it with something, especially when it comes to being still in God's presence. Barton's book uses Elijah's story from the Bible to help usher into moments of silence before God. In the silence is where Elijah finally heard that gentle whisper that was God, after he expected it to be in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. There are different practices at the end of each chapter, but a constant is to sit in silence, and when your thoughts drift and anything comes to mind (and it will), you direct yourself back to the silence. There are times I literally sit on my hands, because I know I will fidget just to fill the silence with something! Before entering into silence one day last week, I was so distracted and emotional with so many thoughts in my head. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to sit there quietly. But, I began, just so that I could get it over with, no matter how horrible it was going to be. During my opening prayer, I asked God to simply reveal Himself to me in a small way. As I sat in a not-so-silent five minutes, I was about to end with a closing prayer when the wind outside my window shifted. The softest rain began to fall and hit the leaves of the trees outside my window. And now rain has been my friend a couple of random times in the last few days. That sounds so moody and melancholy, but sometimes that’s me and it matches perfectly with what God is doing under the surface. Somehow, He is meeting me in the rain.
After I said amen, I opened my Bible to study rain. The Old Testament talks about the early rains of autumn and the latter rains of spring. In agrarian culture, the early rains are eagerly looked forward to. They prepare the earth for seed that is to be planted and revives the parched land and thirsty soil. The latter rains come and refresh the ground after the seed has been planted. These rains help in continuing the growing and ripening; they usher in the produce of the seeds that are becoming mature.
I saw that the rains bring what I have been needing in my life. Preparation. Revival. Refreshing.
Rain allows for abundance, for the evidence that God is near and providing. Egypt has little or no rain, yet the children of Israel were promised a land "that drinks rain from heaven." In a land that the people wandered for years, God was promising them a land of abundance. And even now, in my wandering and in my desert of mundane, God shows me kindness. He doesn't leave me without abundance. Rain will come, the land will increase, and fruit will come. The land will yield its harvest, what I plant in faith will not wither, and God will bless that harvest. And it will be good.
The land yields its harvest,
The Lord will indeed give what is good,
While I know I can rest in the promises that God speaks, I have to remember that both rains are needed. The land has to be prepared before the seed can be planted. The seed has to ripen and mature before it can be used. God promises to bless, but He also asks me to wait. My not so favorite thing to do, is what I must do as the rains fall.
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains." James 5:7
I'm reminded of Elijah again and how in his time, the ground was dry and things had dried up -- brooks, rivers, trees. All of it. My mundane days and hours lost often feel dry. I want nothing but to find shade and rest from the heat of my desert wandering. I seek relief in so many things that God has not called me to.
Yet, while the ground was dry, God didn't leave the people completely abandoned. He always makes a way. God promised that the food wouldn't run empty and the oil wouldn't run out, until it rained again. And Elijah believed. He knew that the rain would come again. He believed God before the first drop ever fell again!
I have five months of my twenties left and life still isn't anything like I had imagined it would be. While there are days that still feel like a desert, the rains are coming. They are preparing the land, reviving it, and refreshing it. And just as Elijah believed, I pray for it to be like that in my life as well. That I will believe God will do what He says He will, before it’s ever done. Yet, even if not in the ways I imagined, I want to declare that He is good and faithful and never changing. Like the fruit my counselor placed in my hands, it may look different than I imagined it would be, but it is fruit still. And though it be little, it is popping up everywhere, and I want to fill my hands of it all.
Nothing can more expressively represent spiritual blessings than copious showers of rain after this trying season is past." -- ATS Bible Dictionary
The rain waters come to prepare, revive, and refresh us.
Which of these are they doing in your life today?
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