Let’s face it: July and August are always hot and miserable months, although this summer has been far from the worst. And a wonderful thing has taken place three times in the last several weeks: We saw rain.
I was home for the first rain. I sat outside and watched it descend. The elephant ears bobbed up and down with the drops. The rain spouts from the gutters flowed with water, directing it onto flower beds. I sensed even the drought-resistant plants drawing a big breath of relief. But not all parts of my lawn or garden received benefit from the rain.
In this part of the world, much of our soil has some clay in it. When it dries, that kind of soil becomes rock hard and tends to form deep cracks — the kind of cracks that can swallow long-handled rakes.
When the ground gets that hard, it may need several days of slow rain to soften it adequately. That type of rainfall is rare here in Texas summers. Our recent storms, as we know all too well, were brief gully-washers accompanied by wild thunder and lightning and scary winds. The rains ceased quickly.
Only the soils that already had some dampness to them could actually receive water from these sudden storms. Those pre-watered soils had, in a way, developed the habit of being able to receive rain.
The never or rarely watered spots had become so hard that they were unable to change quickly enough to let the water in. The root-dry plants and cracked-open soils were untouched by the blessing of rain. They had become habitually dry.
There is a Bible verse in the Gospel of Matthew that is often misunderstood. It reads in part, “for he … sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”
In extremely rainy areas, where yet another rainy day brings despair of heart and depression of mind, the idea of sending rain sounds like a curse rather than a blessing. But in more arid areas, such as the area where the Bible was written, rain was an unequivocal blessing. And God sends it to fall on both those who deserve the blessing and those who don’t.
Those who don’t deserve blessings are those who refuse to receive blessings. Many people suffer from the same fate in receiving the goodness of God as do our hardened and impermeable soils when the rain comes.
Without some means to be kept receptive, we can’t take it in. God’s invitation to open ourselves to the Holy and Loving Presence rolls off and gets lost in the deep cracks of our souls.
We’re root-dry and cracked open. Quick fixes won’t help this any more than brief summer showers solve the hard ground problem. We say we give God a chance by showing up at a worship service every once in a while, or occasionally uttering a desperate, demanding “God, help me” prayer. When we don’t get what we want, when no blessing penetrates to our deepest needs, we respond, “Well, I tried God and God didn’t come through.”
It takes time and careful preparation to become open to blessings. We have to develop habits that water our souls.
Those who have become rich in the spiritual life, those who have discovered God’s peace in the midst of fear, death and disruption, those who can see glimpses of the holy in the midst of human sin, those who know the difference between genuine lasting joy and cheap, fleeting happiness have diligently prepared themselves.
They have developed the habits of the spiritual life that permit goodness to trickle into the depth of their hearts, minds, emotions. Those habits offer riches that most people envy instead of realizing that those same riches are available to everyone.
Our habits will make us or break us. More on Sunday.
THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS is the pastor of First United Methodist Church of Krum. Reach her by calling 940-482-3482 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .