"I haven't had a very good day," my youngest one mumbled.
"Why not?" I turned from the kitchen though it clamored still for my attention.
"Because it is just gloomy, mom. It's a gloomy day."
Gloomy. Those days come, don't they? The ones when life is a constant downpour and our soaking, socked feet slosh in puddles that rise like bread dough until we are swimming/treading and praying for the rains to cease. One minute my neighbor was scrubbing, the next she was slipping, dislocating her shoulder, wearing a sling, aching in shrill pain. One moment. And the next moment brought the storm.
I've known these moments well--the day when wedding rings held no more value than the plastic ones in dime store toy machines and vows became subject to change. Rain. Sometimes the rain is our tears and our hearts drown beneath them as they soul pelt. And I've heard the cries of sisters, of brothers begging God to make the gloom stop. The burying of child--life never lived. The tumor that swells like a savage balloon beneath a skull that cannot contain the expansion. The locking of doors that once held home, the giving of keys to a bank that insists it no longer belongs to them.
Jacob knew the rain too. It came because of his doing--as so many storms do in my own life. I choose wrong and rain pours. He tricked his brother out of his birthright. His brother wanted to kill him. I'd say that classified as cloudy with a chance of torrential downpours. So he sought refuge on a journey to his Uncle Laban's. I can't help but think how often I seek refuge in a person when The Refuge and Strength stands, arms open.When he stopped to sleep along the way, he had a dream. It's the dream the toys are made for--the Jacob's ladders. He dreamt of a stairway to heaven. In the dream God spoke to him, telling him he would have as many children as there was dust on the ground, that He would protect him, bring him back to this land, and never leave him until He accomplished all He promised.
When Jacob awoke he said these beautiful words. "Surely the Lord is in this place, but I did not realize it!" Thirteen words strung like pearls into a sentence for all mankind, and I have missed it until this morning when the rain slapped windows and caused the sky to droop grey with its weight. Then, amidst the dusky morning they glowed on the page--a light in the gloom. The Lord is in the place of danger, the place of running, of hiding, of seeking refuge.
And God asks,
"Do you people think that I am some local deity and not the transcendent God?"
I have to be honest and say that sometimes my mind may know that He is an ever present help in times of trouble, but my heart thinks He isn't there.
"Do you really think anyone can hide himself where I cannot see him?"
I sometimes think I'm not worth finding, not worth seeking, so why would this great, worthy God bother with a worthless me?
"Do you not know that I am everywhere?" The Lord asks. (Jeremiah 23:23-24)
Everywhere. Did I not realize it?
He is present when the toddler rages, spews hurt and pain, and we want to scream with them because we just don't know how to raise them, and parenting is harder than we thought it would be, and we would like a refund, please. He is present when adult child chooses wrong, and leaves aging mother bent in anguish. He is present when the Ugandan child we kept goes home, and I can't be there to help him through life, can't be there to see that he is fed, can't be there to shelter him from a country that is desert and desolate. He is present.
And doesn't His presence change everything?
Because if He is present and He is good and His love endures forever, then there are love and goodness in the murky, moving rain.
And if He is present, and He is a strong tower and He is the Prince of Peace, then there are strength and peace to clothe us when our soul shivers in pelting storms.
And if He is present than we can "consider it nothing but joy when we fall into all sorts of trials" because He takes all things and forms them for our ultimate good. All things.
And if He is present than we can "in all things give thanks" because He is in it and so it must be in some unutterable, unfathomable way be good.
"We needed the rain, son," I told him gently. "Remember those tulip bulbs you helped me to plant yesterday? And the daffodils? A little rain helps their roots grab hold."
It does, doesn't it? A little rain helps our roots to grab hold of The Anchor of our souls. We need the strong, right arm of our Father, need to grab hold. Sometimes we need the rain to force the hand, force it to reach deeper into His love, His grace, His mercy.
I remember a day a couple weeks back when the rains came. It was the same boy that went digging in his drawers for summer's swim trunks. I wondered where he'd gone when I didn't hear him for a few minutes. But every mother knows that rain in November and swimming trunks out can only mean one thing. I looked out into the yard for the rain-catcher. He was there--at the peak of the apple tree. Branches lifting, carrying, supporting him, he'd climbed it. A way up in the rain.
"Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I flee to escape your presence?
I will give thanks, even for life-rain.
Pray with me: Surely, Lord, you are here. Even now. You are present. Teach me to stop and remember You are present when it hurts, You are present when it is all good, You are present and I give You thanks. Thanks for the rain. Lengthen, strengthen my roots, Father. Let me feel your arms, making the way up while rains fall.