When the Rains Come
by Major Chick Yuill –
We live in the northern extremity of Pasadena at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. (It’s tough, I know, but I guess someone’s got to do it!) Just five minutes’ walk to the south of our house is the Eaton Canyon Nature Reserve, which we visited just a few days ago for only the second time in the almost four years we have been here. We’d never have troubled to do it but for the fact that our daughter, Catriona, and her fiance, Chris, are visiting us from England. Chris is keen on wildlife (could that be why he wants to marry into our family?) so we decided to make the trek into the canyon.
I confess that I wasn’t all that keen. It’s not that I don’t enjoy walking; it’s just that a few days after our arrival in Pasadena we walked through the Canyon on a hot July day and found it to be the driest, dustiest, most inhospitable place imaginable. I thought at the time that it bore a greater resemblance to a lunar landscape than anywhere I’d ever visited on this planet. It wasn’t just the heat of the day that made the whole experience unpleasant. The entire canyon had been ravaged by fire less than a year before and it was a sorry sight to behold. Definitely not the kind of place to which you’d want to make a second visit.
But at the insistence of the rest of the family I agreed to give it one more chance. And I’m glad I did. The sight of the new state-of-the-art visitor center at the entrance immediately alerted me to the fact that things had changed in the past three and a half years. But this man-made alteration paled into insignificance when compared to the transformation wrought by nature. Where before everywhere had been dry and arid, now there was growth and life. The green of the bushes, the smell of the vegetation, the sound of birds, the constant scurrying of animals –the place was seething and surging with life. It was wonderful. Best of all, the stony river-bed had become a stream –at first just a trickle, but all the time increasing, until we reached a glorious waterfall, tumbling over a gap in the canyon wall.
I should have realized, of course, that things would be different. Common sense should have told me that three winters and one El Niño since our last visit would have brought life into what had previously been a desert. But I didn’t think. I had made up my mind about the canyon. And I didn’t want to walk there again. But I have learned a lesson; or, at least, I have taken to heart what I have long known. All that stuff in the Bible about streams in the desert, and trees growing beside flowing rivers–stuff I’ve preached about for years–was vividly demonstrated in the sights and sounds of the Eaton Canyon.
I’ve seen churches and Salvation Army corps which lay apparently dead for years burst into life when the life-giving water of the Spirit of God has flowed through them. I’ve seen marriages that all logic said were over blossom anew when the love of God was allowed to pour over them. I’ve seen ministries that had long gone dry with the weariness of the years bear fruit again when they were opened up to a new baptism of the power of God. Sometimes the change has been instant; often it has happened gradually, over time, and it has only been with hindsight that the dramatic transformation could be fully appreciated.
There have been occasions when I have been as reluctant to exercise any faith or hope for change as I was to the revisit the canyon. And again and again my skepticism has been rebuked. But I’m a slow learner and the miracle is that the same life-giving power of the Spirit can transform slow learners, long-time losers, rocky marriages, run-down ministries, and dead churches. I need the new life at least as much of those things I would describe as being beyond hope. So let’s pray for rain, let’s get ready for an El Niño of the Spirit of God, and let’s expect new growth in the dry deserts of life.