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(Painting: After the Rainstorm, by Miri Peer)

“You are ever active, yet always quiet. You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need. . . . You grieve for wrong, but suffer no pain. You can be angry and yet serene. Your works are varied, but your purpose is one and the same. . . . You welcome those who come to you, though you never lost them. You are never in need yet are glad to gain, never covetous yet you exact a return for your gifts. . . . You release us from our debts, but you lose nothing thereby. You are my God, my Life, my holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you? Can any man say enough when he speaks of you? Yet woe betide those who are silent about you!”–From The Confessions of St. Augustine

“Always active, always quiet.”

Right around Lent, in these parts we often have “the monsoon season of NE Missouri.” With Lent just around the corner, I was thinking a lot about how in this part of the world, the weather in those forty days tends to change drastically. We start the season in winter, and end in spring. We go from snow to flowers. It is the Passion and the Easter story as told by The Weather Channel.

In the middle of that season, we often have what I call “the monsoon season”–days and days of rain, followed by days and days of mud. It’s not the lukewarm respite of summer rain; it’s a cold rain–a rain that goes back and forth between brisk and drizzle, with occasionally a downpour and thunder in between. It might shut off a few hours and start back up. But it will carry on like that for 3 or four days. It’s a fairly colorless landscape–the grass hasn’t really started greening up, the trees are bare save for evolving buds, the sky is gray to an almost gray-brown. It comes at a time my pineal gland is desperately screaming for more light. Yes, the days are lengthening, but not fast enough!

I find that in this little short local season, the obsessive-compulsive side of me gloms on to the noise of the rain–hearing it all the time and getting tired of it. I hear it wax, wane, speed up, stop and start again. It seems the quieter my house is, the more the noise of that almost constant rain creeps into my brain. I can lie in bed in the wee hours of the morning and have it stop me from falling back asleep. Then suddenly, like a fever breaking, the rain stops–yet it had to have stopped a while for me to notice it!

But the fact remains that without that short season of cold, seemingly never-ending rain, the ground would not be prepared for the emergence of all that green grass and spring flowers.

I’ve discovered the NE Missouri landscape is not the only place where that short little cold rain monsoon occurs–I’m prone to spiritual monsoon seasons, too. I have little spells where it seems my prayer time and my pondering time becomes a never-ending stream of consciousness–always active, yet always quiet–much like a constant rain–where I hear it a little while, it fades in the background, comes forward again. Back and forth, back and forth–but the noise of the rain never stopping. Yet I still sense “quiet spots” despite the fact I know there is constant noise.

When I step out into that spiritual “rain,” it’s cold–I can feel it more than usual. It feels wetter, more piercing, more irritating than usual. But it’s the “constancy” of this season that catches my attention. I’m either constantly feeling or hearing it, some moments almost imperceptibly, some noticeably, but “always there.”

I’ve come to realize God doesn’t always use the “holy 2×4,” the thunderclap, the flash of light, to catch our attention and sense his presence, nor does he always emerge from the stillness, as prized as either method might be to some folks. Sometimes he uses the drizzle. Yet in that drizzle is the rain needed to prepare for the emergence of spring.

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