Thought of the week
“It is the Lord who sends rain clouds and showers, making the fields green for everyone.” Zechariah 10 v1b.
When I opened my curtains this morning and looked out, a childish verse came to mind: “Rain, rain go to Spain. Never, never come again!”
The first part of this could be a kindly and generous thought. There are parts of Spain that suffer from drought. Is this a wish to share of our plenty with those who are in need? I fear not. The rhyme comes from a time when Spain was seen as a distant threat, rather as some see Russia now, and the wish was for something unpleasant to be taken from us and visited on an enemy nation.
Of course, it is a very foolish wish. If the rain never came, our land would become arid. The crops would not grow and the flowers would wither. Life would end. Rain is essential. And it can be enjoyable. I must admit that I find the combination of rain and wind decidedly unpleasant, but, if the wind is not blowing and one is equipped with stout waterproof shoes, a good raincoat and a hat, a walk in the rain can be invigorating. What a pleasure it is, too, if you can come in and steam by the fireside. My old spaniel excelled at this. She loved to come in, shake herself vigorously over anyone who had not been out so that they could share the thrill of drying, look pained as she was rubbed with a towel and then throw herself down as close to the fire as she could with a grunt of satisfaction. There, she steamed and snored and gave off doggy odours as contented as any animal could be. Before this, she had enjoyed splashing through the puddles. The rain, as every toddler knows, provides its fun as well as its inconvenience.
It provides nourishment and it provides hope. In his gentle and encouraging novels set in Botswana, Alexander McCall Smith tells of the anxiety with which the people of that dry country await the rainy season and the joy with which they welcome it. At the onset of the first shower, excitable children run out into it shouting, “Pula, pula!” Adults often want to do the same. Rain is so important there that pula, their name for rain, is also the name used for the currency.
Alexander McCall Smith has achieved something that is very difficult for an author. In his heroine, Mma Precious Ramotswe, he has portrayed a really good person who is totally believable, totally sympathetic and someone that it would be a joy to entertain to tea. Mind, there would need to be lots of red bush tea and mounds of cake for Mma Ramotswe is fond of food.
Like many amply proportioned people, she is sensitive to the modern fashion of ascribing all the ills of the world to people who are fat. (I would not be surprised to hear it claimed that, since the nuclear bomb was invented in a country where many people are fat, it would never have come to plague the earth if Americans had eaten less.)
At Merioneth County Show a couple of years ago, I was amused by a sign displayed by a stall that was selling cakes, “Heavy people are harder to kidnap. Stay safe. Eat cake.” How Mma Ramotswe would have applauded that sentiment. She had her own way of describing what thin people might call being overweight or obese. She said that she was “traditionally built”. Well said Mma! So am I.
So often, different people see things in different ways. So it is with rain. To some it is a dismal depressant. To others, it is the harbinger of life; the necessary precursor to the vivid brightness of Spring, the long colour and scent of summer flowers and the fulfilment of Harvest.
For the third of the three pictures that accompany this thought, I had intended putting a picture of a bright summer scene, but I pressed the wrong button and ended up with a late evening shot of a lone woman on a cold, deserted beach. She watches a distant train go by. What are her thoughts? Does she wish that she was on that train speeding away from this desolation to a city full of activity and fun? Or is she content to wait for tomorrow when her children will play on a sun-kissed beach? (I happen to know that it was the latter. I even gave the kids the big water pistols with which they cooled her on that bright day.)
God often reminds us that He is with us in difficult times and that we shall pull through them to the sunlight. Joseph suffers enslavement and imprisonment before he becomes powerful in Egypt. He pulls through only because his faith in God upholds him. David is exiled and hunted. He pours out his soul in his psalms. He even whinges and whines, but his faith upholds him. He knows that the Lord is his shepherd who will lead him to green pastures. Our dear Saviour prays that the cup may be taken from Him, but beyond the pain and the cross, He sees the victory and the resurrection.
On this first day of a second lockdown in Wales, it is perhaps appropriate that the sky is leaden and the rain is falling. For many, it is depressing, worrying, even frightening. I think the Welsh Government is doing its best and better than many others, but still the time is hard. We are in the heart of darkness where there seems no end to the cloud and rain.
Joseph was in the prison. David was in the cave. Jesus was in the tomb. God was with them and brought them out to the Light. He does not desert His children. He does not leave us alone and comfortless. Hold out your hand and He will take it.
“O joy that seekest me through pain,
“I cannot close my heart to Thee;
“I trace the rainbow through the rain,
“And feel the promise is not vain,
“That morn shall tearless be.”
May He be your hope, your comfort and your constant companion through the days of lockdown.