It’s winter in my home town, Cape Town, at present. Walking my two German Shepherd dogs on the mountain trails, I am fortunate enough to witness firsthand, nature in all her fury and finery. We have just endured a long drought on this piece of the planet. Water is a rare and precious commodity on the Southern tip of Africa and with even less rainfall than usual over the past eighteen months, I have watched the riverbeds dry out, the ravines turn to mud and then dry sand and the dogs have relied on me carrying water for them.
But today, after some heavy downpours, the mountainside is awash with the exuberance of gurgling, rushing water. Lush foliage in deepest hues of green has claimed back the sun-scorched earth. The air is alive with the earthy smell of verdant life and I can’t help but marvel at the patient resilience of nature.
Throughout the long dry months, we humans have endured water restrictions, fretted over and striven to conserve water, made doomsday-like predictions about how long the drought would last, and looked for rain in every passing cloud.
We have talked about rain (the lack of it) prayed for rain, hoped for rain. All the while, nature remained unperturbed, silently waiting out the water-less season, with the sure certainty gained through time immemorial, that one day the rains would come again.
And come they have, not nearly as much as we need, but enough to awaken the dried out seeds, to imbue them with the strength required to force their way through the once-cracked, now moist earth. Brutus and Bella are reveling in this experience.
Their tails wagging, heads held high they run for every stick I throw, stop and savour the rain-enhanced smells, hurtle down to the streams to splash and drink, their joy apparent in their every move.
And I am instantly conscious that what I have witnessed these past months is a picture of faith… and this day, this after the rains came, winter morning, is the fulfillment of that faith. Lessons from nature to remind and encourage us…
It makes me think about how I manage the dry seasons in my life. (And believe me, there have been many, desert-like stretches of time,) when my determined digging (I am very persistent) has yielded nothing but more dry sand and spiritually how I have longed for drenching, soul soaking rain. What about you?
What is your go-to plan in those dry seasons (and yes, we all have them). Be grateful, very grateful if you have yet to experience one, and be warned, at one time or another (most likely several) you will know what I am talking about.
We can experience many droughts in a lifetime… financial, emotional, and spiritual. (I myself have both witnessed and had personal experience of all three. I have watched good people endure hardship after hardship after hardship. I have seen people become so weakened with the fatigue of enduring that hopelessness sets in and they simply give up.
Others falter and fall away. And then there are those who, no matter how long or arduous or relentless the season, have kept going, day after day after day, stirring up their faith, taking courage from the sure certainty that some day, one day the rain would come again.
Faith and Abiding
What is the secret of those who survive? Like nature, they have faith. But the question remains, “Is faith alone enough?” It dawns on me that what I have witnessed on these walks is more than faith. Nature knows another secret… She knows how to abide.
Abide: an English word that is falling our of use. These days it is often replaced with “remain” but its modern synonyms fall short of the full import of the word. Abide means to “hold onto,” “to wait”, ” to endure” , “to sustain”, “to withstand without yielding”. I am reminded of the words of Jesus, exhorting us to abide in Him. Now I understand why. Dare I say it?
Faith alone, may not be not enough. Having it now is no guarantee that we always will. We receive our faith without working for it. A gift of grace. But if we want to ensure that we don’t lose it, we need something more. We need to hold on. To abide. The two, faith and abiding, are mutually dependent. Like love and marriage, “you can’t have one without the other”. (Well, with apologies to the lyricist Sammy Cahn, you can but that is a miserable affair).
The Bottom Line: Faith without the abiding is doomed to be short-lived. And abiding without faith? Is there anything more pointless than holding onto nothing?
Faith and abiding: Together they are the key to enduring. That’s what Jesus knew when He called us to abide in Him. And the wonder of it all is this… even when we stop abiding and drift away from our faith, He remains faithful and abides with us.
“I am with you always” — Jesus (Matthew 28.20)