For years, California has been in a historic drought. This week we have been hit with torrential rains which have caused all kinds of issues, including flash floods in many areas. Weather events can bring all kinds of challenges and even destruction, but that’s not the point of this particular post. Instead, I want to talk about an idea I call “spiritual irrigation.”
There is a great difference between something being watered by irrigation or by rain. Deuteronomy 11:10-11 makes a contrast between the Promised Land as being one that “drinks water of the rain of Heaven,” whereas the land of Egypt being a land that is “watered with your foot.” In other words, Egypt required irrigation, and the irrigation was achieved by fetching water and dispersing it, and partly by digging trenches with the foot. Mechanisms were also used that were powered by men sitting on the side of the machine using their feet to create the power. It was a predecessor to our modern (and amazing) irrigation processes today.
So why does it matter, and where in the heck am I going with this? Humankind has, from the beginning of time, searched for ways to rely more on themselves than on God. That is a reality none of us want to consider, but it is true nonetheless. We, as human beings, do not like the idea of having to trust God for our needs because we think He may not supply them on our timetable – and often He doesn’t. We like security, safety and predictability. Boy how we like predictability. We want to have enough money in the bank so that we can take care of ourselves in the way WE want to be taken care of. We won’t admit it openly but we, as people of faith, are afraid God is going to let us down. Maybe it comes from the fact that we have been let down by others in life. It’s hard to find someone who is true to their word, always and in every circumstance. It is hard to trust someone implicitly and yet we are told over and over that God will “never leave us nor forsake us.” We are told in His word that He will supply all our needs. So why do we spend so much of our time trying to take care of ourselves? Because we don’t like the rain, we like irrigation.
Irrigation allows us to be more in control of our destiny. We can plant crops where they wouldn’t normally thrive because we have found ways to transport water from one location to another in ways it wouldn’t occur naturally. Irrigation certainly requires less reliance on God to provide the rain we need – or think we need. We have gotten so used to doing things our way that we forget the source of our blessings. We start thinking we are truly in control of something as basic as water itself. Oh sure, we pray for God to bless us with rain but if we get too much, we start to complain. After all, we’ve been watering our crops and now that it’s raining, there’s too much water! We wring our hands and wonder what we are going to do. We’ve all seen buildings (or cities) built in areas where there is little doubt they will be flooded or even washed away if there is a lot of rain. We actually criticize people in these areas and say, “well what did they expect? They built in the middle of a flood zone.” But why? Because the rains don’t always come and after a while, no one actually believes they will.
So today it struck me, this thought of spiritual irrigation. As people of faith, we often build our lives on what we think is best. We make our plans and if they don’t really fit with where God may be leading us, then we find ways to make it work. We “irrigate.” I’ve heard my own uncle speak of his call to the ministry and how he really didn’t want to be a pastor. So instead of doing what God was leading him to do, he tried other ways to get the conviction to stop. He taught Sunday School classes. He led the choir. He got involved, but in his heart, he could not escape his calling. Most of us do the same thing. We know what God wants us to do but we would rather do it OUR way than His. It’s funny to think the Bible tells us “His ways are not our ways,” and yet we still can’t seem to get it! God is rain and we keep trying to live by irrigation. We not only want to create the path ahead, we want to control the flow of the water. We live this way and then when God does exactly what He has promised to do, we often complain that it “isn’t the right time” or “it’s too much,” so we wring our hands and start looking for ways to minimize the effects. We feel God leading us to something else and we find all kinds of reasons not to go. Or we feel God calling us to stay right where we are and we find all kinds of reasons to still leave because staying isn’t what WE want. Believe me, God is not only capable of bringing the rains, but taking care of the drainage when it’s necessary as well. He knows how to control the flow!
Waiting on the rain isn’t easy. It is often terrifying. To be honest, faith itself is terrifying! Waiting for God to bring what we need, WHEN we need it takes a strength I sadly admit I do not often possess. It’s hard not to start irrigating when the rains don’t come. The more we rely on ourselves and our plans/abilities to make things work, the greater the chance we may build where we shouldn’t. The more we irrigate spiritually, the less we appreciate the rain. Just like the farmer who relies solely on irrigation, rain becomes a nuisance. We want it to rain (or snow) somewhere else so that we can store up the water and then use it as we see fit. Yes, we want the rain, but not necessarily directly. Yes, we want God to work in our lives, but not directly. We want Him to provide our needs in ways that allow us to control the flow. Whatever happened to the truth of the Doxology? “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
I am tired of being a “spiritual irrigator,” and my definition of a drought is probably much different than God’s. I want to live with a faith that follows God’s leading and trusts Him to provide the rain. When we shed our need for control and put on that cloak of trust, we get to experience the most amazing moments. We get to dance in the rain because we know from where it came. We start seeing God’s providence instead of looking at Him as if His ways are interrupting our great plans. From our perspective, it is better to plan and execute rather than follow and trust. But from God’s perspective, it is far better to simply trust Him for everything we need and then dance in the rain when it falls.