About a year ago I spent a long weekend in Arizona with two close friends. While there, our hostess informed us that it was monsoon season. We listened to the warning and headed out on our adventures. Once gone, we snickered about what seemed like an unnecessarily dramatic mislabeling of a few thunderstorms.
A few days later we were visiting some local shops and I stepped out onto a nearby balcony to view the incredible scenery around me. Gazing into the distance I began to wrap my head around exactly what we had been warned about. Off on the horizon, dark, ominous clouds gathered. It was literally a wall of blackness. A thick, heavy veil stretching from the heavens all the way down to the parched ground. You could actually see the approaching rain descending in dense, weighty sheets.
I realized our levity was horribly misplaced. We were wrong. Monsoon season. It’s a serious thing. It’s known to wash out roads, fell trees, flood homes and cars, even take lives.
The last several months have felt like my own personal monsoon season. Today we are dropping our oldest off at college and it is wrecking me. For weeks I’ve stood on a virtual balcony watching this moment come with no hope of avoidance. And I am barely holding it together. I am fragile and frail and easily nicked by the smallest thing. The last time I’ll see his backpack on the floor. The last time I’ll wake at 2am to see the downstairs light still on. The last time I’ll get a notification on my phone that he’s arrived home. So many lasts. And each one feels like a sharp, stabbing drop of rain.
In Genesis 3, after the fall of Adam and Eve, God discloses the consequences of their sin. To the serpent, He gives a curse that sentences him to a life of enmity with humanity. Adam’s consequence undermines the success he might experience in his work.
But to Eve, He reveals a consequence that strikes at the very core of womanhood.
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing, in pain you shall bring forth children”
I have always taken that verse at face value. Whenever I read it, my mind immediately went back to the hospital rooms where I gave birth to my three children. I remembered the intense physical pain that accompanied those days.
Recently, however, I heard this verse with fresh ears and it made me wonder. And weep. As the mother of an 18, 16 and 12 year old, I can tell you that childbearing did not end in the hospital. The process of “bringing forth” a child continues long after the physical pain is gone. In fact, I would argue that the emotional pains of childbearing continue for years and far surpass the discomfort of the physical event. My heart strains under the weight as I help my children navigate all the highs and lows of life. The job of anticipating pitfalls and diligently scanning the horizon for potential snares leaves me weary and worried.
But today, the greatest pain is in the letting go. I have spent the last two decades preparing my children to leave me. I have protected and nurtured, directed and disciplined, all in an effort to get them ready to live and thrive without me. Since they entered my world, a door has been slowly opening. A door that inevitably leads them away from me in many ways. And in a ridiculous twist, I am supposed to usher them through. While one hand clings to them, the other must hold the door. What cruel irony. I have become a victim of forced retirement and I’m just not ready to turn in my employee ID.
All this said, however, I am convinced that for every supposed curse, there is a proportionate blessing. Just as towering peaks juxtapose lowly valleys, somewhere in all this hard there must be redemption and hope.
So where is the hope in monsoon season? Interestingly, there isn’t much in the immediate aftermath. Once the rains recede, what’s left is a muddy mess. Roads are indiscernible, paths are unclear, the landscape is nearly impossible to travel. This is where I currently am. It’s muddy. And oh so messy. I can’t find my path and I am ill-equipped to navigate this new terrain. Backwards isn’t an option but forward is blurry. And exceedingly difficult.
Weeks after monsoon season has passed what remains is breathtaking. Over time, the desert soaks up the nourishing water and converts it to glorious green. The rain that appeared so devastating and destructive brings life and lushness beyond compare. The dry, brittle ground springs anew with magnificence and vitality.
And this is my hope.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
I couldn’t love this verse more. I like to think Isaiah wrote it during monsoon season and I love to think he wrote it for me. For this time. To remind me, though difficult to perceive, that God is doing a new thing. That the rivers in my desert will give way to abundance I can’t imagine. That even though some trees may fall, they will fall to reveal a fresh path.
Change is afoot. It’s coming in heavy waves and there’s nowhere to hide. It will drench me and scare me. I may feel lost and alone. But thankfully, I have a good pair of boots and a secure rock to cling to. I am not lost because God knows exactly where I am. And I am definitely not alone. He is in my desert. He is in my wilderness. He is in my monsoon. And He is most certainly in the new thing that’s yet to come.