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    water molecules in the air

    Water Is for Blessing

    We’re facing droughts and floods, but there’s also the delight of my daughters dancing in the rain.

    By Brett Bradshaw

    August 14, 2023
    • Joyce Baxter

      I love this story. Beautiful and inspirational. A great read to start my day.♥️

    • Sandy Brister

      Love this reminder about the role water plays in our lives and the spiritual meaning it holds.

    Rain began to fall after dinner one evening. I watched from the front porch with my two oldest daughters. The younger one, who was three years old at the time, inched toward the roof dripline. “Can we go in the rain?” she asked, grinning. I gave permission. She leapt into the yard, quickly followed by her five-year-old sister. “Come on, Daddy!” they pleaded. I chased after them. The soil squished like a wet sponge beneath our bare feet. Big raindrops mottled my white undershirt. I stopped, and the younger girl looked up at me. Her face was wet and very pretty, water glistening on blushed cheeks, dimples tucked in, lips curved upward, blue eyes squinting. She was washed in a kind of grace, delighted and free. As Marilyn Robinson writes in Gilead, “It is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing.”

    I am reminded of my childhood in Nacogdoches, Texas, in the nineties. I was more familiar with Walmart aisles than garden rows, but people still talked about rain as a serious and pleasurable thing. About once a month, my father would take me downtown to Milford’s Barbershop off Main Street. We would walk into the shop – the Barbasol scent, the red-dirt-stained linoleum floor peppered with hair clippings, the buzz of clippers – and take a seat on a vinyl-covered bench lining the length of the room. Our reflections looked back at us in a wide mirror on the wall behind a row of barber chairs. Old-timers and young men, farmers and ranchers, skilled laborers and businessmen, friends and strangers sat waiting their turn. Talking about the weather, especially rain: the lack of it, who got some and who didn’t, when it was coming in, and when there was too much of it was a way of keeping company, a shared concern, a form of neighborliness. I have not visited Milford’s in years, but I imagine if I were to stop by most of the men would have their heads hung in a smartphone-induced stupor. I wonder what we lose when we stop talking about rain as a matter of shared hope, lament, and delight.

    a girl splashing in water

    Photograph by Tim Davies

    My father is a gravedigger, and it seemed inevitable that rain would pour when he had a funeral to work in Hemphill City Cemetery. I imagine him perched on his tractor, soaked to the bone, working the backhoe levers, the excavating bucket sloshing through a kind of muddy soup. Needless to say, caskets are not supposed to float. My father would come home on those days gritting his teeth. “A hell hole,” he’d mutter.

    There is, of course, also the danger that comes with storms. Too much rain can lead to deadly flooding. My mother, however, inoculated me from fear with wonder. When I was a boy, she would watch thunderstorms with my older sister and me. The dark-barreled clouds rolled in, the sky ripped fiercely bright, the air cracked, the woods shook. Rain swept through in a mean rush. My mother’s presence spoke beyond words: “Don’t be afraid. Look how beautiful.” I still look for the power and the glory.

    I listen to the song rain sings. I smell the scent that rain sends up from the ground, filling the air with an aroma of wet soil, stone, and wood, lingering faint and pleasant, like freshly laid mulch or rosemary rubbed between finger and thumb. I feel my spirit quicken in a summer rain shower. A palpable weight lifts, and for a moment the world seems new again.

    I remember an evening in early September, just as the sun was setting. A solitary thunderstorm had popped up over the neighborhood where I now live, north of Dallas. It began to rain, and I heard hail falling. Wondering about the condition of my car in the driveway, I entered the garage and clicked the lift button. The door rumbled up its rails, and I stared out through the opening.

    We will not overcome the challenges we face by technological innovation and public policy alone

    The sun had sunk low beneath the clouds. Light charged the rain, falling like a thin veil, and transfigured the street into a luminous gold. Water droplets burst to flame on blades of grass, flashing brilliantly like stars. Looking through water and light, I saw the glory.

    I could have easily missed it. I miss so much. I want to see better. Seeing is a grace and a responsibility. I do not presume to understand the immensity of the problems we face with increasing droughts, floods, and depleted aquifers, but we will not, in the long run, overcome the challenges we face by technological innovation and public policy alone. We will need all the help we can get, help from beyond ourselves, a reality we are reminded of in these glimpses of the wonder and mystery behind creation.

    On a Sunday afternoon in June, I went into the backyard with my two older daughters. The humidity and heat smothered like a damp wool blanket. But the girls wanted to play, and I was going stir-crazy, cooped up inside. We did not have a swimming pool to keep us cool, so I strolled to the water faucet and squeaked the knob. Water rushed into the long black hose. I picked up the nozzle, aimed skyward in the girls’ direction, and squeezed the trigger. The younger girl squinched and scurried out of the spray, fluttering droplets from her long black eyelashes. Her sister squealed. They hugged and flung their heads back. Water fell softly, and they giggled and opened their mouths gaping, their tongues out drinking the spray as if they were parched, the water running down their hair and faces in blessing.

    Contributed By BrettBradshaw Brett Bradshaw

    Brett Bradshaw is a lay director of Christian spiritual formation at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas.

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