A few summers ago, I moved from a lush land with four seasons to a desert with two: hot and hotter. I thought I came prepared, but before long I was suffering from a common wilderness malady: dehydration.
Every day, I kicked up dust on my walk to Arabic classes. Most of the time when it rained, it stopped again before I could get to the window to see. My soul empathized. It longed for a lengthy rain that cleansed and refreshed, but got—if anything—drops that came in big, dirty splatters and muddied everything in sight while leaving my soul drier than before. I was lonely, and I felt oceans away from downpours and rainbows.
I saw a rainbow on the way to school. God remembers my little corner of the Arab world.
I scribbled furiously in my journal those days. I asked myself, Did I really mean it when I said, “Yes” to the ends of the earth? I wrote of wanting to quit. I dreamed of escape hatches. I fantasized about job postings I had read online. On my “good” days I longed to sneak away and get on a plane before anyone noticed I was gone. This time, I wrote one day, I am imagining what I would take with me and what I would leave.
I made a list of thoughts that troubled me and things that made my life here so difficult. I was surprised by the list’s length, yet I am sure I missed a few:
Quitting will give me the life I want.
I will not find a husband as long as I stay hidden here in the middle of nowhere.
God does not want me to be happy (specifically as it related to finding a mate).
I do not have the right background, skills, training, or experiences to do this work.
If I went home—or somewhere else—I could actually use my gifts.
I am not helping anyone. I am not doing any good here.
People back home will stop supporting me if I cannot feed them with great stories.
I am not as (adjective) as (name).
I am not going to make it. I may as well quit now.
Then God gently whispered to me, “I am never the author of lies.” He began to teach me that even if I do not get an eject button, He is good—even in the desert.
My prayers gradually changed to: Give me new vision so I can see beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death to the green pastures and the still waters.
I thought of October’s rainbow, and I started to pray for rain.
I have always loved the story of Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. God seemed absent from a land where no one had been able to shake the rain out of heaven for years. Those who believed, I imagined, felt much like I did: parched. Then Elijah came along with grand, arrogant promises, and God revealed Himself.
This time when I read, it was the rest of the story that grabbed my attention. After God wowed with His God-ness (Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench 1 Kings 18:38), He sent an abundance of rain. A heavy rain (1 Kings 18:45).
God, I need a heavy rain!
When I ask God to send soul rain, do I expect a light dew or a gully washer?
Thomas Merton says, “The grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience.” I asked God to show me His goodness. I knew little else, but I knew deeply that God was good.
Sometimes I just really do not like being here. Still. It is not the gut-wrenching heart throbbing of November. It is the dull ache of knowing the cost of obedience, knowing my life is not my own, and knowing I would never choose here—the desert.
Guess I’m staying.
Question to consider: When I ask God to send soul rain, do I expect dew or a gully washer?