My dog hates the rain.
If I open the back door to let her out, when she clearly has to go, she’ll stand there and stare out the open door, offended. She’ll hold her pee for hours if it means she can stay out of the rain.
Which is weird to me, since my dog loves rolling in dead animal carcasses, snacking on scat, licking mud puddles, squeezing underneath furniture that’s small enough that she gets stuck. Given her love for all things uncomfortable, I find her aversion to rain totally irrational. The other day she burst through the curtain while my husband was showering, just to keep him company. Makes no sense.
This Sunday, the children’s message at my church was about rain. The kids were asked to close their eyes, and look up at the sky, and extend their arms, and imagine being caught in a big down-pour of rain — clothes sticking to them, feet squishy in their shoes, hair in rivets down their faces. And then, it was explained, this was something like grace. Unexplained or earned. Soaks me and the person next to me the same. It was a beautiful children’s message; choked me up a little.
But as it turns out, I’m like my dog. I don’t love rain, either. As I, too, imagined that feeling of getting soaked, I immediately thought, “I’d be so pissed if I got caught in the rain.” I think it was especially the part about the squishy toes. Ick. I’m more of a stay-inside-when-it-rains kinda gal.
I live in a time when I’m used to avoiding the experience of getting soaked by rain. I have a house to live in and a building to work in and a car to drive in — all of which keep me dry. Should I have to go outside, I have coats, umbrellas, an attached garage. (I actually don’t have an attached garage, but you get my point.) A lot of energy and money is expended to ensure that I don’t have to experience the rain. So getting soaked by it is mostly an uncomfortable and unpleasant thought for me.
It got me thinking about grace. How easily, fluently, often we talk about grace. And how much time and money and effort we spent avoiding the experience of it. Perhaps grace feels kind of excruciating, too. Perhaps the idea of Jesus having already forgiven me is much preferred to the experience of actually being forgiven — the exposure, the helplessness, the realization of repentance that this free gift requires in order to be received.
I kind of get it, when I watch my dog stare at that open door, incredulous that I might expect her to walk out into the downpour. We are no longer downpour-appreciators, we’re downpour-avoiders. It’s changed us, all the ways we have deceived ourselves into thinking that we do not depend on one another, on God, for water and harvests and forgiveness and belonging. The way we’ve come to believe that we deserve comfort, safety, rest, renewal. Perhaps, even, that we have earned the sprouts of new life that come in the spring.
I’ve done a lot of complaining about the rainy, wet summer we’re having here in Michigan, a lot of rolling my eyes from indoors, longing for a sunny beach day. But, maybe, it’s time to step out into it — let it soak my hair, my clothes, my toes.
Shower, O heavens, from above and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the Lord have created it. (Isaiah 45:8)