The First Rain

It has been three months since we’ve had rain in this part of Liberia. Three months without an afternoon shower or an evening thunderstorm, something I had truly grown so accustomed to in my first few months back. The days are hot and the equatorial sun in strong, hardly a cloud painting the sky. The grass around my house is gone, first turned brown and then disappearing entirely. The roads are dusty, the air is dusty, and everything is covered in dust, even the plants themselves- those that manage to make it through the dry season. Every day and night dust blows in through the windows and covers my tables, my electronics, my bed, my clothes, everything. When I sweep, the dust just goes straight back up into the air and resettles on top of everything again. My skin is dry and as thirsty as the poor plants on my porch that now need to be watered almost two times in a day to keep them from drooping over in the heat and dying entirely. I want it to rain so badly I’m always looking up at the clouds, searching the wind looking for some kind of sign, some glimmer of hope.

I look up at the sky and talk about rain coming so much that I’m pretty sure that some of the guys around here think that I’m crazy. They are Liberian and they know the weather here and they know better than myself to be searching the skies in January and yet I still did, ever hopeful. I even dream about rain. Yes, I’ve dreamed about rain coming in the nights as I’m sure the plants would too if they could dream. Sometimes I’ve woken up in the middle of my dreams, they felt so real. I have so much anticipation. I know it sounds absolutely crazy, to dream about rain. But, there’s just something about rain, especially when you live in a country that is home to the “wettest capital in the world” and you haven’t had rain in three months.

Last night I thought I was dreaming again. Imagining things. How many times have I woken up, lifted my head of the pillow slightly and pulled out one of little orange my earplugs (yes, I’m weird), straining my ears to hear something that I thought I heard outside and later it turned out it was just the fan’s gears grinding a little extra hard? Nonetheless, I thought I heard something and so I went through the ritual again. This time though I was not disappointed! It was raining, really raining- thunder, lightning, and everything!

To be fair, it had rained a bit earlier that day which was thoroughly exciting and unexpected but it only lasted less than 3 minutes and I didn’t have proper time to enjoy it. This time I was overjoyed! I raised my head higher and nudged my husband to alert him of the excitement going on outside our window, hoping he might want to soak the moment in a bit. He was impressed but seconds later he was gone again. Deciding I wasn’t going to be discouraged so easily myself, I threw my legs off the side of the bed, clumsily walked over to the window, pulled the curtain backs, and just stood there, soaking it all in, literally. There was strong breeze misting me through the screen and I let it fall on me and cling to my hot and parched skin. The smell of rain was intoxicating and I breathed it in deeply as if I might somehow never smell it again. The rain hitting the tin roof above me was loud and powerful and yet so soothing and calming to soul. I eventually went back and laid back down but still I could not sleep, I was just so full of energy and of thoughts washing over me in waves.

What is it about rain that makes it so beautiful? Is it the way it falls from the sky without any hesitation, barreling towards earth with one purpose? Is it the way that it rolls and races off the leaves, down the trunks of trees and across the cracks in the ground and then seeps in slowly once it finds a soft place? Is it the way it cleanses and washes away the dust from every little surface? Is it way it fills up all the empty rivers and streams, giving home to all the creature living underneath the surface? Is it the way it gives life and renews the earth and everything on it?

For me, it’s all of those things. But I don’t get excited every time it rains, I get excited when it’s the first rain after a long time of going without. I get so much more excited when it happens in Liberia than when it did back home because the time in between rains here can be painfully far apart. It’s when those deep longings within my soul (and my dreams haha) are finally met with something real. When you’ve been thirsty, I mean really thirty, and someone finally hands you a glass of water it’s hard to put it down, you want to savor the way it feels forever. When you’ve been searching for something and you finally get it, it’s a feeling of fullness and satisfaction like nothing else.

Have you ever experienced this feeling before? What was it that you were longing for? Was it a physical longing, something that you needed here on earth? Was it a food, a job, money, or maybe a relationship? Or was it a spiritual longing, your soul crying out for something more, for more of Him and His presence? Did you ever find it? Did you ever find that thing you were looking for? Was that longing ever fulfilled? If so, what was that like?

For me, as I laid back down and listened to the rain outside, I couldn’t help but feel so alive with joy in remembering all the times that God had poured out His love and mercy and grace on me after long periods of searching or being away. Memories flooded my brain as I became overwhelmed by all the times that God has met me in a spiritual drought and quenched my soul with His presence …. in a summer camp tent where my faith first became real to me after years of wandering around blindly; lying on my bed in my parent’s house where I first experienced my Bible for the first time and poured through it for what seemed like days on end, so thirsty to know Him more; on the floor of my college dorm after I realized that God still had plans for me even after all the plans I had made myself were coming crashing down; on the top of a mountain in Botwana when I looked out and saw further than I’d ever seen before and realized just how wide the arms of my Maker go and that they were wrapping themselves around me; and in Liberia as I’ve been frustrated and doubting Him and then suddenly He comes to me and reminds me that He is here and that He is good and that His mercies endure forever even if I may temporarily forget.

Some of these times I was actively searching and I was aware that I was searching, I was aware of my need and therefore my longing to feel and experience more of Him and His presence. But other times my soul was searching on its own without my full awareness, because it knew what I needed. Either way, my soul was thirsting for more just as David’s soul was when he was stranded in the dry and barren wilderness and calling out to God, crying out for that life-giving water:

Psalm 42 vs 1-2. As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 63 vs 1-8
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Are you searching, longing for that rain to quench your soul? Are you going through a period of drought and wondering if God will ever answer, ever pour out His Spirit on your life and make Himself really known? Don’t be discouraged. God longs to fill the desires of our hearts as we search for more of Him and He longs to quench our souls with water from the well that never runs dry. Just as He did for David, He will do for you: “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind for He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good” (Psalm 107:9). He promises it will come to all those who seek it- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). And He promises that everyone who drinks of this water will never thirst again (John 4:13-14).

If you are thirsty, know that the water is there, that it is for you, and that the rain will come, it always comes. And know that when it does, it will be even more inexplicably beautiful, invigorating, and life giving than the rain that fell last night, even better than that first rain.