As Gail and I continue our efforts to make peace with Pacific Northwest weather (hit this link to be taken back to a blogpost on this subject), it is no surprise today that I am thinking again about precipitation. A rainy week is being followed by the weekend before us that actually looks pretty good, and I am eager to get out and enjoy it, sans spiffy new raincoat. Ebey’s Landing Bluff Trail? Rhododendron or Kettles Trail? Fort Casey State Park? Perhaps all of them. So many trails, so little time…
But as I think on it, it occurs to me that rain is only one of the four kinds of freshwater sources found in the natural world – water from above, water from upon, water from below, and water from within. All play their interrelated part in the order of nature. Water comes from above to replenish what is upon, below and within. And in a magnificent, even miraculous cycle, water from upon, below and within circulates back to what again comes from above. This cycle even makes scientists shake their heads in wonder at the specialness of our third rock from the sun.
Now, stick with me for a little theology here, for perhaps the same is true in the spiritual world. First, above. From the Spirit of God ‘above’ comes what the Bible calls the ‘early’ and ‘latter rain.’ Though their literal rendering refers to the early planting rains which soften the ground for seed sowing, and the latter ones which sustain the crops, a spiritual rendering is possible as well -- that which first brings spiritual life and that which sustains it over time, a refreshment that even places the exclamation point on a life in God. Further, just as literal rains fall and water the earth from above, so surely, the Bible says, shall God’s Word be, coming ‘down’ from above and accomplishing everything for which it is intended.
Second, upon: just as there are oceans, lakes, rivers and streams (in other words, water that is upon), so the Bible says there are such things as streams whose reviving presence ‘make glad the city of God.’ Again, though this may have a literal rendering in such things as a public utility work pulled off by a Judean king who tapped a spring stream from outside Jerusalem’s walls and brought it by a herculean engineering feat under the wall and into the city center, its spiritual rendering is also obvious: there’s that refreshing, reviving, spirit-enlivening water again. And besides, one thing of course is clear from the Garden of Eden: a river ran through it.
Third, below, water from below, springs and artesian wells, an interesting combination of pressures and water sources from another place that produce a mysterious flow elsewhere. These were the watercourses that were truly mysterious to the ancients. Some envisioned great oceans of water somehow below the surface of the earth, perhaps even upon which the land floated. And most mysterious of all were the springs that rose in odd places, unexpectedly generating a stunning vibrancy of life, both flora and fauna, in the harshest of spots. Think of desert oases. The spiritual theme still holds.
But finally, water from within? There are some rare places on earth with no apparent natural water sources, but where creatures still manage to live, a place like Anacapa Island, among the Channel Islands twenty miles off the California coast. No apparent water source? No problem. The few small animals that are there get all the moisture they require from within plants that have taken it from the air. In the spiritual realm, this is the most extraordinary, even supernatural, of waters. Jesus called it an innerspring that can well up, gush, jump up to eternal life. Water from within… It’s the refreshing rain Jesus promised the Samaritan woman at the well, who came there seeking for more life, more refreshment, than could be held in a water jar.
Lord, send your rain from above, and bring us ‘times of refreshing from the Lord’ (Acts 3:19). Cause us to come to your river (Psalm 46:4), the water that is upon, and to come often. Give us to drink from the water ‘that becomes a wellspring of life’ (John 4:14). But most of all, grant us the waters from within, those of which you said, “From their innermost being shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:38).”
Our shared request is the same as the woman at the well: “Give me this water always (John 4:15).”
~~ RGM, March 8, 2018