People throughout California have been praying for rain. Lots of it. Due to severe drought conditions, the governor has issued an executive order to cut water usage by 25%, and conservation measures are already in place throughout the state.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the weather situation will change anytime soon. And recently, I was confronted with a disturbing reminder of just how bad things are.
I had been asked to speak at a church retreat, to be held at a Christian campground located in the mountains north of Los Angeles. Because I live quite far east of LA, I took the “back way”: north through the Cajon Pass toward the Mojave Desert, then back west along the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains. For much of the nearly 100-mile drive, I was greeted by acres upon acres of open land studded with Joshua trees, a sight I associate only with the desert.
I knew that my destination was located near two small lakes that I would pass on the drive, and I was looking forward to being refreshed by the sight of water. But as I passed, what I saw was less of a lake and more of an enormous mud puddle. Indeed, there looked to be places where one could cross the lakebed on dry ground. Later, one of the employees at the retreat center told me that conservationists had even had to rescue a species of turtle native to the area, lest they perish in their newly parched habitat.
The sight of the shriveling lakes was more than a curiosity; it saddened me in a way that I couldn’t explain at the moment.
It wasn’t until later that I began to realize that I had been feeling a little parched myself — spiritually, that is — preoccupied as I had been with a mental list of both responsibilities and Things That Are Broken that I Can’t Fix. The physical sight of the dry lakes, the disappointment of not being able to catch a refreshing glimpse of cool water, resonated deeply in my dry spirit.
And how did I come to this realization? Better to say not that I came to it, but that it came to me, as an unbidden gift of grace, when I loosened my sometimes obsessive grip on the responsibilities of being “the speaker” and simply worshipped with God’s people.
As I’ve said before on this blog, I am a dyed-in-the-wool introvert. In a way that extraverts might find hard to understand, it’s not easy for me to be “on” in the midst of people whom I don’t know well. But when those same people are singing their praises to the God of grace and glory, it’s different. We’re not quite strangers anymore; we’re brothers and sisters. We can sing together. We can enjoy a good meal together, and with it, a good laugh or two. Or three. And at the very end of it all, the group prayed for me before I left.
I didn’t know it when I left the house on Friday morning. But I knew it by the time I found myself back in the car Sunday afternoon, heading home: I needed that. All of it.
Fellowship and worship. It’s what I need — what all Christians need — to be more drought tolerant.