Last summer, my birthday wish was rain. Sixty-seven days had passed without so much as a raindrop, and 47 of those days reached temperatures 100 degrees and up. Each morning, we opened our weather apps and hoped the meteorologists had made a mistake and that maybe, just maybe, showers would fall and refresh the land. But the morning of my birthday showed nothing different. Just clear skies and temps nearing 100, yet again.
I stared out my bedroom window, lamenting the shriveled-up tomato plants, squash, and the remaining vegetables I’d intentionally planted into moist soil months prior. My backyard displayed all the visible signs of thirst: My hedges sagged toward the heat-cracked flower beds, and even the cacti, known for their resilience to warm temperatures and little moisture, drooped in despair.
I’d touch my wilting, withering plants and sigh with them. Raw vegetable salads, snow cones, tall glasses of ice water, and watermelon — my typical go-to’s for combatting sweat and dehydration — no longer did the job.
Nothing seemed to satiate the thirst and fatigue ushered in by the heat. Swimming and cold showers lost their luster. It was hot, and we Texans craved rain.
Hopeful in a Drought
Later that afternoon, we loaded the car with floats and pool toys before making a mini-pilgrimage to my aunt’s house. As we pulled into the driveway, my foot stamped the brakes before running over a colorful scattering of open umbrellas. The navy, yellow, black, teal, and red canopies lay open, flush against the sizzling concrete. Their shafts and handles were pointed upward toward the sky as though they were pleading for God to notice and allow them to be used. The sun reflected off the metal tips.
“What’s all this?” I asked my aunt as I touched the scorched handle of one umbrella.
Aunt Trace replied, “Well, baby, I’m praying for rain. I told the Lord I’d supply the umbrellas if He supplied the rain. Just look at this picture of joy on this man’s face… that’s what we’ll look like if it comes.”
I glanced down at the Texas Highways magazine she held in her hands. It was opened to a black and white shot of an elderly, toothless man, the corner of his eyes crinkled, his hands in the air, and his shirt soaked. It was taken in 1951 with a caption that read:
“Known as the most catastrophic drought in state history because of its length and widespread effect, the drought lasted from 1950 to 1957. Here, Sam J. Smith, a farmer in San Antonio’s Belgian Gardens district, rejoices in the rain on Easter Sunday, March 25, 1951. San Antonio Light photographer Harvey Belgin received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for the photo.”
Droughts Reveal Our Discomfort
I knew our drought was nothing compared to what Texans in the fifties endured, nor the perilous conditions described in Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds, set against the backdrop of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. And it certainly paled in comparison to the tragic states people in Somalia, South Africa, and other countries currently face.
No, 67 days felt like a measly amount of time against global trends. But still…it was something. Our droughts matter.
I looked upward at the darkened clouds moving toward us. Ten minutes later, it started to pour. The rest of us dashed underneath the protective awning while my daughter flung off her shoes and began to dance. She twirled on her toes in between the canopies with her arms held up high. Her purple, soaked shorts clung to her legs as she hopped and leaped into fast-forming puddles. The expression on her face mirrored that of the old farmer’s—one of unrestrained joy.
Later, I thought about my aunt’s animated display of hope and faith earlier that day. She expected real answers to her request and garnered renewed hope by looking at a decades-old picture. A natural optimist, Aunt Trace’s effervescent personality rarely wavered through her life seasons of drought.
All the reminiscing made me question how I perceive my own droughts. I’m talking about the ones that invade without notice, where the rain halts one day, and the world as we know it no longer exists. Where do we go when nothing satiates our thirst?
The biblical story that comes to mind is one of Jesus meeting with the woman at the well during her quest for water. He promised that those who drink from his living water thirst no more.
What if our droughts aren’t necessarily just about thirst, fatigue, and dryness? Or if they’re more than the loss of our precious food supply and vegetation?
What if the droughts in our lives also reveal our discomfort with reliance upon a Source greater than ourselves?
There’s something about “reliance” that makes us Westerners tingle with nervousness. Individualism and personal freedoms are highly valued in our social system, making it easy for those who live in reasonably safe, insulated conditions to gloss over our need for God. That is, until we come face-to-face with our needs during seasons of drought, in both the literal and figurative senses.
Dry Spells Wake Us Up
Droughts illuminate our neediness. They shine a floodlight on our control-freak tendencies and individualistic plans as we watch them all slip through our fingers into the hands of the One in charge.
Maybe part of the reason droughts can be agonizing is due to the ways they wake us up. It’s often amid dry spells that we finally grasp our unrelenting need for the kind of reliance that supersedes any we can conjure on our own. Our deep-seated longings for a trustworthy, forever dependable Source greater than all of our well-constructed plans are revealed to us.
So, what do we do when we encounter a season where everything is dried up and desolate, and when the rainwaters that once flowed and satisfied us are nowhere in sight? We have some say in the matter.
We can lament, sigh, and sag toward the ground next to our dying plants (because all of that is part of the human experience).
And…we can also go open our umbrellas.
We can speak hope when the odds are stacked against us.
We can look back at our history and lived experiences and recall the moments when we relied on the Source of all forms of water.
And finally, we can dance when the rain comes, because eventually, it will.
Dealing with an unexpected drought? Here’s how optimism can help ease the burden: What Does Optimism Bring to a Woman’s Life? – 184