I live in western Washington. You know, the place where it rains a lot. A whole lot. If I were a more research-loving geek, I'd look up exactly how many inches of rain we have a year...oh wait, I actually am exactly that kind of geek. Give me a moment. Here it is: 34.84 inches! Gosh, almost a yard of rain in a year. (Just so you know, Seattle, that little metropolis to the south, gets 36.2 inches of rain, according to the same source.) No wonder we all have REI raingear. And don't cancel activities due to inclement weather. I mean, we might not get anything done if we let a little rain get in our way.
But it rained today, and I have to admit, I wasn't ready for it. Wasn't ready to put away the lawn chairs, turn on the pellet stove, pull out my raingear. Just plain wasn't ready. And Beve clearly wasn't ready either. When he got up early this morning, the sun was still shining, so he pulled on his current favorite t-shirt, an orange Texas Longhorn one he found at Good Will about a month ago. He's worn it like a little boy who wears a ratty old Batman t-shirt so many days in a row that his mom has to wash it while he's sleeping. Yep, Beve's kind of like that little boy. Just throws on his beloved, soft Texas t-shirt, hoop shorts, and goes off to school because, starting tomorrow Beve actually has to dress like a grown up for another 180 days. Anyway, by the time I went over to meet him a few hours later, the weather had turned gloomy, the rain was coming down hard and fast and I was adequately covered.
When we went off to run errands, Beve did something we almost NEVER do. He looked around his office for the large golf umbrella he keeps for certain emergencies. Like any time he has to stand still outside in a downpour--football and soccer games, fire-drills. An umbrella! Are you kidding me? I was almost embarrassed to be seen with him--not because of the shorts, and certainly not because of the Texas t (I LOVE that color!), but that umbrella. Really. It was like he was advertising himself as someone who doesn't know any better.
The rain has come, school is starting, and I decided it was the right day for soup. French Onion soup, to be exact, with five giant onions sliced and sauteed until they're "very--but not too--brown," as my Moosewood Cookbook says. Now that's a trick, isn't it? I've made this soup many times (we're big soup-eaters around here), but it's more an art than a science to know how long this 'very--but not too--brown' actually is. Well, that's not true. I always know it when I see it, but I can never quite tell until the exact moment that it happens when that moment is. If that makes sense. I just have to stand there and let those onions cooks, stirring them, watching them, stirring them, watching them, and it takes forever and ever and ever...and then suddenly, they're brown. Exactly the proper shade of brown. And it's only then that the next stage of the making of this soup can happen.
These two things don't really seem like they go together, do they? The rain that fell today, that falls so often in this small corner of this globe, and those onions that must cook exactly to the right degree. But in my crazy, looking-for-connections, seeing-God-in-the-strangest-things, I was struck with the arc of my day as I stood at the stove. It seemed exactly right the the rain came just as summer vacation is ending. Labor Day marks the end of summer for most of us, even if we aren't governed by school calendars. But I can't quite imagine how it would feel to live in a place where the seasons didn't change. Like where my sister, the Dump, lives. Southern California. It's always nice, which is nice. But it's always nice, which is...well, the same. How can you tell when it's time to move on? How can you tell when season is over and the next is starting? How can you tell when something is very-but not too-brown, if nothing ever changes?
See, that's my point. My soup, and the rain, both made me realize that it isn't sameness I should want in my life, even in my life as a disciple. I need markers. A way to know I've actually grown. Some of those markers are like the rain--things that fall on and cover my life in such ways that I've flooded by them. God uses such things to change me. He's used the rain--er, the flood, even--of Grampie and Thyrza's move to Bellingham thusly. It's covered me. Us. In wonderful ways and in hard ways. And some of those markers are pressures of fire. Like physical pain. This fire I can not quite ever call beautiful or wonderful, but I am changed by it, and, by His grace, changed into what He wants me to be. Then changed again by it.
There are some people who might not want such markers in their lives. But I "want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the death." (Philippians 3:10-11) This is the prayer of my life. And when I read what knowing Christ is in this passage, it's clear that sufferings is part of that. All kinds. What does it take to become like Him? That's what I want. Sometimes something happens that is so much like those browned onions, actually. It's like He's been stirring me over the fire for an inordinate amount of time, just stirring and stirring and stirring. And I'm so stinkin' slow at getting it--at browning, one might say. But finally--even suddenly--sometimes, even in a flash, something turns, and I'm changed. I've been changed, I should say. The action has been done to me, not by me. And I know it's exactly what He intended all along. To change me. Whether it takes rain or fire. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3:12) This is the great news. What I am aiming for, He has already reached down to give. What I desire, He wants for me.
And for you. Not just the same ol' same ol' life. But rain and fire. And LIFE.