The Autumn Rain, My Vindication
I went on a run the other day in my new neighborhood. It’s my favorite way to explore a new place: running, set on getting lost, just to find my way back.
I run by front yard gardens, compost piles, and fresh cut flowers next to signs that say, “Please take a flower.” Then I pass the market with an imperfect produce section. The more unusual sights include a 12-foot model airplane in someone’s driveway, and the man who walks his three cats by leash. That’s the Friendly for you, and it’s the best.
But three weeks earlier, that wasn’t my scene. I lay in a heap on the ground, on the phone with a friend, sobbing about a “God who doesn’t answer my personal prayers.”
Dramatic, I know. Ironic, too, considering prayer meetings are my favorite, and part of my job includes recording testimonies for a community-wide prayer initiative. I know God answers prayer. I could tell you all the stories.
Though when layers of delayed answers and tarrying promises, press down under still another disappointment, sometimes you crumble.
I, along with two friends, had fourteen hours left to sign a lease, and I’d called another friend for prayer. We were accepted for a three-bedroom house. I should have been excited, except for the black clusters in the walls and the aroma of certain mildew. It was probably livable, even cute enough, but I had the worst feeling about it.
The dream had been in my heart for years: A gathering place. Living with a community of women. A home for hosting and cultivating relationship. A place where people meet Jesus. A Kingdom space. I had promises and prophetic words too.
But something always happened: The application wasn’t chosen. The group disbanded. The landlord backed out. Always. Something.
In my crumbling, the memories seemed like inevitable prophesies. I had prayed. I had taken steps. There had been four other houses and four other groups of women. Every time, I had stepped out in faith and in pursuit of a prayer-nurtured dream. Though still, in the span of five years, I hadn’t managed to move out of the home where I grew up.
It shouldn't be that hard. Really.
The memories dampened my expectation of good, like the mold that loomed over our approved-application. It felt like another predictable chapter in the story of a dream almost-fulfilled.
Was this what I had waited for? Was this the answer to years of prayer? I circled around the questions, while I paced through the rental. Then again, a house is just a house and maybe I’d over spiritualized it, prolonging the process for myself.
We withdrew our application the next day – a relief and a disappointment.
What happened next can only be blamed on the mercy and faithfulness of God.
The Answer I Needed
Two days later, the three of us connected with a new friend who needed housing too - our fourth roommate.
As I chatted with my roommate, I prayed a half-daydreaming, side-comment prayer: God, would you give us a house with a big living space, white walls and hardwood, washer/dryer, even a dishwasher? Oh, and affordable rent. And a great landlord.
There was nothing hyper-spiritual about it, no impassioned emotion either; just the childlike desire of my heart.
The following day, we found a home and were first to apply.
One obstacle stood in the way of my application and our group getting the keys – my lack of rental history. I called the landlord; perhaps we could work it out.
A recognizable voice answered the phone – a friend’s dad! I spent the second half of my growing up years around their family. The house that fit all the criteria of my wishful prayer was their rental. Mountain moved.
A few days later we moved in.
When the Autumn Rain Came
BACK TO MY RUN
I was halfway through my route when the rain came. It wasn’t forecast. It was the kind of sun-shower where the skies are blue, the rain is warm, and the clouds are the slightest wisps.
The emotion of the moment caught me off guard.
“. . .for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful…” Joel 2:23 NIV
You see, I hadn’t run in the rain in more than two years (I ran a half marathon on a knee injury in 2016, and I’m just beginning to run pain-free, thanks to physical therapy. It was a poor decision, I know, but I’m still kinda proud of it). Rain-drenched workouts are one of those absences I didn’t know I missed.
There I was. In my new neighborhood. On an almost thirty-minute interval run. In the middle of a long-delayed, finally-fulfilled answer to so many prayers.
The autumn rain washed over me like a shower. Cleansing. It soothed the ache of delay, healing the pain of the long-unfulfilled. I paused to take it in, as if each drop was purifying my faith and renewing my hope for other dreams which still tarry.
When the shower passed through, raindrops still laced the leaves. A few fell to my shoulder; then my cheek. One raindrop dared to land on my eyelash, like an intimate trust-restored.
“Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the autumn rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.” Joel 2:23 ESV
The Autumn Rain, my Vindication.
That’s what it felt like - a vindicating hope come to pass. Maybe vindication is such a fitting word because long-delayed promises can carry with them an air of injustice... if you give into them. And I had. My long-awaited answers were a vindication: I hoped, and God came through. I waited, and the God of Hope did not disappoint. He remained true to His name, despite the barrage of my own conclusions in the delay. He shamed every lie of the enemy, accusing Him of being anyone but Faithful. He responded in unoffended mercy, even in my momentary assault against His character in my crumbling.
His faithfulness is my vindication. Today, I don’t have profound conclusions to offer. This story is a memorial stone. It’s a celebration of the mercy and over-the-top goodness of God. It’s a transcript of thanksgiving.
The other day, I woke up to foggy, grey skies. It sent a subtle wave of in trepidation through me. Autumn will soon pass through, making room for winter – a prolonged season of grey in the northwest.
This year, the autumn rain left this lasting resolve to carry me through winter: The answers of today must determine how I live and hope, while answers to other prayers still tarry in the distance.
Because the autumn rains came, I know the spring showers will too. Because my God answered, I have faith afresh in His continued faithfulness. I hope you do too.