We've been having a drought here in Michigan, much like many areas across the United States and Canada. For over a month it's been hot and dry and cloudless. Crops are parched and people seem that way too. Even non-farmers are getting interested in the weather, turning their faces to the sky hoping for a sign of rain. And then yesterday, finally, the skies broke open and it poured. Without thinking, I headed for the door. (My son) Eli watched me, "Where are you going Mama?" I opened the door. "I'm going to watch it rain."
At the edge of the garage, the three of us stood in a line and just watched it rain. We listened to the steady sound and stuck our arms and faces out to feel the drops and we breathed in the smell of dead stuff coming back to life. Nature's thirst was finally being quenched.
The people I know who have traveled to the Holy Land seem to gain a whole new understanding of why the Bible uses so much language surrounding water. It is dry over there. Parched. Thirsty. Drought-y. So when Jesus tells the woman at the well that living water means she'll never be thirsty again, he is using a very poignant metaphor to someone who understands just how important water is.
Our world seems a little parched lately, doesn't it? It's thirsty for justice and hope and love. It seems hot and dry and cloudless. Our western culture would like to tell us it has just the thing for that thirst. Constant advertising assures me that there is something new/improved/interest free/guaranteed for the drought in my soul. The latest car or smartphone or clothing line will certainly take care of my parched spirit. Maybe a vacation will do it, or some new home decor. Maybe an advanced degree or the latest self-help book or watching reruns of Oprah will do it. But to our deepest thirst, it all tastes like sand in our mouths.
I think this is why I love going to church. Not because I grew up doing it, or because of the social pressure in West Michigan. Not because I'd feel guilty if I didn't, or because I think it's good for the kids. I go to church because the gospel is preached to us; we who have shown up with our dry and brittle selves. We learn about Jesus. We learn about Grace. Just as Todd Agnew's version of Amazing Grace says, Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me; Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away. Grace like rain. Do you smell that? The smell of dead stuff coming back to life?
Every once in a while Eli asks me, "Why do we go to church?" I suppose the next time I could answer it this way, "I go to watch it rain."