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My dog hates the rain.

If I open the back door to let her out, when she clearly has to go, she’ll stand there and stare out the open door, offended. She’ll hold her pee for hours if it means she can stay out of the rain.

Which is weird to me, since my dog loves rolling in dead animal carcasses, snacking on scat, licking mud puddles, squeezing underneath furniture that’s small enough that she gets stuck. Given her love for all things uncomfortable, I find her aversion to rain totally irrational. The other day she burst through the curtain while my husband was showering, just to keep him company. Makes no sense.

This Sunday, the children’s message at my church was about rain. The kids were asked to close their eyes, and look up at the sky, and extend their arms, and imagine being caught in a big down-pour of rain — clothes sticking to them, feet squishy in their shoes, hair in rivets down their faces. And then, it was explained, this was something like grace. Unexplained or earned. Soaks me and the person next to me the same. It was a beautiful children’s message; choked me up a little.

But as it turns out, I’m like my dog. I don’t love rain, either. As I, too, imagined that feeling of getting soaked, I immediately thought, “I’d be so pissed if I got caught in the rain.” I think it was especially the part about the squishy toes. Ick. I’m more of a stay-inside-when-it-rains kinda gal.

I live in a time when I’m used to avoiding the experience of getting soaked by rain. I have a house to live in and a building to work in and a car to drive in — all of which keep me dry. Should I have to go outside, I have coats, umbrellas, an attached garage. (I actually don’t have an attached garage, but you get my point.) A lot of energy and money is expended to ensure that I don’t have to experience the rain. So getting soaked by it is mostly an uncomfortable and unpleasant thought for me.

It got me thinking about grace. How easily, fluently, often we talk about grace. And how much time and money and effort we spent avoiding the experience of it. Perhaps grace feels kind of excruciating, too. Perhaps the idea of Jesus having already forgiven me is much preferred to the experience of actually being forgiven — the exposure, the helplessness, the realization of repentance that this free gift requires in order to be received.

I kind of get it, when I watch my dog stare at that open door, incredulous that I might expect her to walk out into the downpour. We are no longer downpour-appreciators, we’re downpour-avoiders. It’s changed us, all the ways we have deceived ourselves into thinking that we do not depend on one another, on God, for water and harvests and forgiveness and belonging. The way we’ve come to believe that we deserve comfort, safety, rest, renewal. Perhaps, even, that we have earned the sprouts of new life that come in the spring.

I’ve done a lot of complaining about the rainy, wet summer we’re having here in Michigan, a lot of rolling my eyes from indoors, longing for a sunny beach day. But, maybe, it’s time to step out into it — let it soak my hair, my clothes, my toes.

Shower, O heavens, from above and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the Lord have created it. (Isaiah 45:8)

Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Kate is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who serves in the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

9 Comments

  • I needed this today. Thank you, Kate. Beautiful.

  • Kathy Van Rees says:

    Kate, I soak up your words. Always. I love this on this rainy day.

  • Kent says:

    “But, maybe, it’s time..,”

    Maybe? C’mon, Kate, you just exposed yourself and me! Let’s run out into the rainstorm and stay there, and let’s take our kids and friends and co-workers all with us. The neighbors will only think we’re crazy for a little while before joining in our unexpected and undeserved joy.

  • Helen P says:

    Kate this is beautiful and I love the scripture reference.
    Sometime, find a warm, rainy day and go outside in your bare feet; catch some in pails and have a water fight with your children; take turns dumping it on each other. Then turn your face up to the sky again; the rain you feel will no longer be uncomfortable.

  • Karl VanDyke says:

    Maybe I want my grace warm. In Michigan rain is cold, miserable and just plain not for standing in. But in Vietnam and the Philippines the rain is warm. I can handle that kind of grace.
    Is it possible grace can feel uncomfortable when given, but the warmth thereafter is all the more welcome?

  • Fred Mueller says:

    I plan to preach on the Prodigal this Sunday. This helps! Thanks.
    He “…sends his rain on the just and the unjust.”

  • Lynn Setsma says:

    Kate, want to join me in getting an “it’s all grace” tattoo. I think it’s time. Love your writing my friend.

  • Kristen Rietkerk says:

    i wonder…what would it be to have a sprinkler party for the congregation on the church lawn–bystanders, those fully soaked, those tepid at first before coming in…on and on the invitation goes. This message practically begs experiential learning.

  • JoAnne Wagner says:

    “Perhaps the idea of Jesus having already forgiven me is much preferred to the experience of actually being forgiven — the exposure, the helplessness, the realization of repentance that this free gift requires in order to be received. ”

    Yes.

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