It is a rainy May day here in southern Alberta. Actually, it’s been raining for the past few days. On my few ventures out of the house this week (I’m spending most of my time sequestered at home battling some kind of a parasite that hitched a ride home from Colombia with me), I have heard the predictable complaints about the weather, the predictable “hopefully we’ll see the sun today” remarks. I usually smile and nod, but inside I am always thinking, “hopefully not!”
I have always loved the rain. I love how it gets rid of all the dust from the gravel roads, how it transforms the ugly brown landscape of winter into promising green. I love the smell after the rain, and the way the sunlight sparkles and dances off the puddles after a rainfall. Ever since I was a little kid, I remember loving the rain. Rain meant less work on the farm! It meant that we wouldn’t have to irrigate (at least not as much) which meant I didn’t have to get up at 5 am to move irrigation pipes. It meant that life could slow down for a few days, that I could spend time indoors reading, playing with hockey cards, etc, etc. Rain meant rest and relaxation.
When we moved to the west coast six years ago, we would often hear some variation of, “oh, I could never live there with all that rain. I need to see the sun!” from our prairie friends. But I never got tired of the rain while we lived out west. Even during our second year in Vancouver, when we set some kind of a record with 30 consecutive days of rain, I was untroubled. I was cheering for the rain, as we approached the record! Even when I had to stand and wait for the bus to go to school in the rain, I didn’t mind. I had a good rain jacket, I had a waterproof back pack. I was good to go. Getting a bit wet was a small price to pay for the lush beauty and greenery all around me. Yes, I loved the rain. I have always loved the rain.
As I look out my window today, though—as I look at the beautiful green grass, at the flowers blooming, at the clean streets and gleaming automobiles—, I am thinking of a scene from my time in Colombia. I am thinking of another rainy day in a slum called Cazucá on the southern outskirts of Bogotá. The climate in this part of Colombia is, I was somewhat surprised to discover, very similar to the west coast of Canada—consistently cool and wet. But that is where the similarities end, because in a crudely patched together community on the side of a hill with very little infrastructure or adequate drainage, rain is hardly experienced as “refreshing” or “cleansing” or any other such thing.
In Cazucá, rain means the already barely passable road that you take to work in Bogotá becomes even more treacherous to navigate with your moped or bicycle. Rain means an already grimy and dreary community becomes a sloppy, muddy, mess. Rain means that the holes in the roof you patched together with scrap pieces of salvaged tin are ruthlessly exposed. Rain means that, if you live near the bottom a hill, that your one-room home will be flooded, forcing you to move all of your family’s meagre possessions up on to temporary shelves to get them out of the ankle-deep water. In Cazucá, rain is no blessing. It makes an already desperate situation even more precarious and unliveable.
In Matthew 5:45, Jesus says that our Father in heaven “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” And, presumably, on the privileged and the harassed and oppressed. On the rich and the poor. On those whose cities and streets are designed to handle it, and on those for whom the rain adds one more oppressive burden to already overburdened existence. On those who have the luxury of watching the rain fall from behind well-sealed windows and efficiently heated homes, and on those who must scramble to devise their own drainage solutions so their houses won’t flood because they have been abandoned by their government. On those who can drive to work in sleek automobiles with windshield wipers and defrost, and on those who must struggle through the soupy mixture of mud and animal manure on their outdated, underpowered motorcycle for one hour each way to collect their laughably inadequate wages. On those who are grateful for the rain, and on those who wish God would just send it somewhere else.
Last night, as I prayed with my kids before bed, we thanked God for the rain that waters the earth. Rain was interpreted as a blessing to be grateful for. This is the luxury that falls to us, I suppose. We can afford to be thankful for rain.
But I know that while my kids and I are thanking God for the rain in our warm, dry beds, another scene is likely playing out in Cazucá. I know there are probably kids praying that the rain will stop so that they won’t have to sleep on a wet mattress… So that they can put their feet down in the kitchen… So they won’t have to hang the pots and pans from the roof… So they can make it to the church at the top of the hill for their one good meal of the day… So that the swampy patch of earth at the bottom of the hill can be used for soccer again… So they won’t always feel so cold… So that their parents won’t have to work so hard.
I wish God would answer their prayers instead of ours. Or, at the very least, in addition to ours. I wish that I could trade some of our gratitude for their relief. I wish that God would recalibrate the system a bit, alter the equations, recalculate the formulas. I wish a lot of things. But however God decides to distribute his rain, today, as I watch the heavens pour forth outside my window, my thoughts and, yes, my prayers, are with some dear people in a place far away who could use a bit less rain.
Thanks Ryan! You bring a helpful reminder for how we consider God’s blessing in our lives.
I was crying by the end. I spent most of my childhood praying for rain because it made my parents happy and maybe we could keep the farm… I worried a lot as a child and rain washed my worries away and my brother and I would sit literally for hours and watch it rain as we played. Rain brings back happy memories and it still does. However reading your post was very good for me. Thank you. It is a privilege to enjoy rain, I had never thought of it quite that way.
Love that phrase – “rain washed my worries away.” So much of how we experience and interpret life depends on the contexts we are placed in, doesn’t it?
My favorite of Aesop’s Fables:
A man has two daughters. One marries a farmer, the other a potter. The first daughter visits her father and says, “O father, pray to the gods for rain so my husband’s crops will grow.” The next day the second daughter visits and says, “O father, pray to the gods for clear skies so that my husbands pots will dry in the sun.” The man says to himself, “What shall I do? I cannot pray both prayers.”
This fable plays out regularly around here… During certain times of the year, some farmers want rain for their wheat, peas, canola, etc, and some want clear skies so their hay will dry and they can bale it.
Around here, it’s probably safest not to pray for the weather :).
Ryan, Excellent – my prayers join with yours for the people you just encountered in Colombia.
Thank you, Jacob.