By: Emily Meeks
All week long the rain came down – puddles gathered by the river, droplets splattered boots and strips of gray clouds hovered above live oak branches. It was not a forecast I expected in Austin, Texas, but I came seasoned from Seattle’s wet autumns with rain pants and waterproof gloves.
We have a tradition to explore a new city over the Thanksgiving week. It usually involves long urban walks, reading, and movies. It’s a break from the fast rhythms of activities in fall just before the turn to Advent and Christmas.
As such, it has become a time of deep introspection as I am away from so many things that distract me. I can become acutely aware of the tendencies that draw me farther away from God, especially the belief that I am just a few steps, clicks, words, or pennies away from that ultra moment of getting it completely right. Somehow this quiet space at Thanksgiving reminds me that these judgments are always imposed by me and never required or even invited by God.
In the Thanksgiving Day gospel selection (John 6:25-35), Jesus talks about a false sense of approval that comes when effort is placed above the eternal truths of God. He says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life” (John 6:27).
I listened to these words as I walked in the rain to a movie on Thanksgiving Day, reflecting on what causes me to come up short in expressing gratitude and focusing on the ways I have missed the mark of perfection. In these walking prayers, I asked in frustration: “Can you show me in a way that I can truly feel how much bigger Your way is than my self constructed limits?”
On Friday night, I went to bed early – days of big walking mileage had caught up with me. The lights were still on when I woke up, a sign that it was not as late as I thought – the sound of football bowl games humming as thunder punctuated the sounds of rain pelting. I saw flashes of lightning through the balcony doors. I was not asleep and yet not fully awake, but I felt encircled by the liturgy of rain, wind and thunder. The dialogue from that previous day’s prayer of doubt came back to me and it was clear: I felt a knowing of God and an unknowing of my ways at the same time – a deep affirmation of presence just before going back to sleep.
The next morning I woke up inspired to write gratitude cards to friends. As is often a practice, I searched for poetry that reminded me of their presence and friendship in my life. I stumbled upon these words written by Brad Peacock in “Let it Rain” and the whole experience from the night before came back in clear view.
“This is not a shower that will extinguish the light I’ve found within. It is a rain that will
soak me through, down to bone, baptizing me again and again, as I walk these gravel
roads that have helped me heal.”
The words remind me of the certainty of God’s love that I felt in listening to the rain and this desire for a pure sense of love that cannot be constricted by the clamp of perfection. The words “again and again” encourage me that even in my stumbling, God is there waiting to show me a way of love even in my doubts and pointless pursuits of perfection.
I go back to the Thanksgiving gospel reading when Jesus said to the disciples: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). I wonder: am I open to receiving this promise or am I focused on the need to accomplish it myself?
As Advent has started, I have been following Forward Movement’s “AdventWord” – a featured word for intentional reflection as we await the hope that is promised. One of the recent words was “rain/lluvia” in which the writer discussed how we relate to rain uniquely depending on season, geographic location and time of day. She acknowledged that rain may not feel peaceful, and yet it can bring forth or uncover something that can be an insight for change. Her last line seemed like a continuation of that stormy night in Austin: “Deep within our souls, let us wait for the rain excitedly, knowing that her coming is a gift of divine love.”
Listening to the rain invited me into a position of receiving without any additional action needed. I hope and pray for these waters of nourishment and healing to continue to flow freely.
Emily Meeks loves finding adventure and connection outside, especially while running, biking, hiking and. She attends and serves at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.