This morning, as I was keeping my regular prayer rule, I sat in awe as a great thunderstorm raged outside. The lightning was bright and streaks of it flashed close to my apartment window. The thunder didn't rumble, it crashed with startling volume. Before one bout of thunder had the chance fade off, rumbling in the distance, there would be three more flashes of lightning and more crashing thunder.
I laughed to myself as I remembered a song often sung among Charismatic groups, "Mercy is falling like the sweet spring rain." Whoever wrote that song, I thought to myself, must not have looked out the window very often during a springtime thunderstorm. There was nothing sweet or gentle about what was going on outside this morning. Had I not been indoors, I would've been terrified, running all helter-skelter trying to find some sort of protection from such severe elements.
As I thought about this, however, I realized that there is a great truth here. God's mercy does fall like the spring rain. Sometimes, however, we may experience that mercy as a dreadful mercy. Who among us cannot relate a time where we went through some horrifying difficulty, only to have our true selves revealed to us during that difficulty? Who among us, during our walk through life, hasn't felt the chaos of life's storm swirling around us.
Even for those of us who strive to live a truly spiritual life, there are moments when we see clearly the darkness that remains within. We walk through the hazy morning of our inner life and don't realize just how much we do not see. Suddenly there is a great flash of lighting and all is revealed. The flash is so bright that every shadow is illumined. Everything is laid bare before our eyes. We even feel our own vulnerability. We feel naked before the great Unknown; unprotected from the great Lightning that flashes within. Flash after flash we see ourselves the way we are, with all of our weaknesses and vices.
Then come the winds and the torrential downpours. The lofty thoughts we have of ourselves are blown over, revealing the shallowness of their roots. The flood waters rise, destroying all that we have given birth to in our hearts. The old man within must die. The staleness, the rot, the decay of the winter months must be washed away in the flood waters. The flood carries it all away. Where it goes, we do not know. Where it goes doesn't really matter. What matters is that it is gone.
As the storm rages, the winds blow, and the waters swirl around us, we feel the chaos with great intensity. We can't see beyond the storm. I don't know if there will be anything left after the storm. We only have a vague memory of life before the storm. All that we know now is the chaos around us. In the midst of this chaos there is only one thing that we can do. "Lord, save me lest I perish!"
At first it may not seem as if the Lord is listening. The storm still rages around us. But over time we notice it starting to taper off. The wind is slowly dying down. The flood waters are slowly subsiding. The torrential downpours taper off. It is then that the sweet gentle spring rain begins.
Suddenly we notice new life around us. Have you ever gone for a walk outside shortly after a storm while there is still a gentle rain but you can see the sun coming out from behind the clouds? All of nature seems to rejoice at the fact that it survived such brutality. The leaves on the trees seem to open wider. The grass looks greener. Colors in general seem more vibrant. And the light from the sun breaking through the clouds seems to shine brighter. Resurrection! I believe this is what the soul experiences when we are given reprieve from the turmoils of life. Resurrection!
Perhaps this is just idle wandering on my part. But I know that this is what I've experienced throughout the struggles of my life. There have been times when I've felt abandoned and alone. I've been in the midst of the struggle and turmoil. I've seen what the lightning has revealed within me and watched as that dreadful mercy washed away what once was. I've stood vulnerable to the elements within and been changed by what was taking place. You come out the other side of that storm and you are changed forever. Hopefully that change is for the better. It seems to me that if one is honestly seeking to live a spiritual life, then that change will be for the better. We may have to endure the storm several more times before we are made perfect, but with each passing storm we are slowly perfected by grace.
Yes, mercy falls like the spring rain. Sometimes that mercy is severe. At other times it is gentle and sweet. We must simply stay focused on the Lord, crying out, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me." With His presence within us, we can truly endure any storm so long as we are close to Him. May heaven consume us.