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It started out as a nice Sunday afternoon train ride after two great services in the Lorraine area of France. My wife had taken the car and was showing that part of Europe to her visiting sister and her niece, but I had work to do, (and I had seen it already), so I headed home by train. Plans called for me to arrive at the Epernay station around 8:30 pm. I would walk home to get in my exercise for the day. It was only about an hour afoot, though the last 20-30 minutes provided quite a climb to reach our house which is part way up a huge hill, or little mountain, whichever you want to call it (It felt like Mt. Everest before I got home).
Things started to unravel at Bar le Duc where I was supposed to change trains for Epernay. There had been an electrical failure, so we had to take a bus to Chalons in order to catch the train there. I finally arrived in Epernay around 10 pm. In summertime it stays light here until around 10:30 so I decided to walk home anyway instead of taking a taxi. The first part of the walk was okay, though I was pooped. Before I got out of the city though, I saw some ominous back clouds in the west. 'Lord, don't let it rain on me,” I prayed. As I advanced I saw lighter regions under the clouds in the dim light illuminating the vineyard on the heights ahead. That seemed like it could be rain. 'Lord, umm ...” It hit me when I turned onto the small departmental road. A downpour! 'Lord, could you make it stop?” Can you drown in a rainstorm? Fortunately there was no lightning and only a little wind but it didn't take long to get miserable with water soaking through my good spirits. Yuk! A few late cars passed me slowly without stopping. I probably wouldn't have offered me a ride either. The only people you expect to find outside in a rainstorm at nearly 11pm are strangers who've escaped from the critical-care wing of the local psychiatric hospital.
As I left the main road to slog up the little mountain where Hautvillers sits, the grapevine-covered hillside that moves me so in the sunny daytime seemed a bit ominous and brooding under the low clouds and heavy rain. If this had happened to my friends Guy, Claude, or Scott I would have had a good laugh. I had a hard time finding humor in it at the time, though, since it was me and not them. Huffing up the huge hill, shoes squishing, waterlogged clothes clinging to my body I hoped fervently that no old French geezer would come charging down the narrow road in his little Peugot and squash me in the stormy night. 'Did you see that Brigitte? I think we ran over a rabbit!” 'A rabbit! He was awfully big Pierre. Must have been a jackrabbit.” As I walked, I reflected. There must be a Coffee Stain in here somewhere. I'll admit, though, that I had a hard time finding any deep spiritual meaning or any life-changing insights from slogging along, soaked to the bone, grumbling and wishing I could hurry up and get there. Maybe stuff like this just happens when you're walking at 11 pm. I could have been a heathen, an atheist or a bullfrog and probably the rain would have come anyway.
Does that mean that God doesn't sometimes make the rain go away? Sure He does. Someone told me recently of praying about the rain and their outcome was much dryer than mine. But it's not like I didn't have other options. I could have taken a taxi. It's ten minutes for him and not so expensive as all that. There's probably two dangers in situations like this: one is to think there's never any significance and the other danger is to assume that there's always a significance. Sometimes God wants to speak to you through an experience and sometimes stuff just happens. Fact is, being a Christian won't always get you out of rainstorms. If you're dumb enough to walk in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, you're going to get wet, now and then.
There are experiences in life that are much tougher than a little wetting. A fellow had called me earlier that day, his voice wracked with pain. Cancer tortured his body and he wanted me to pray. Christians also face tough times. Does God heal? Does God do miracles? YES! It's just that some mountains you speak to and they cast themselves into the ocean (miracles) and others you have to climb (maturity). The mountain gets taken care of in both cases, but in the second case you build muscles while you're climbing. Both are expressions of faith. Both of these passages stand powerful and true:
When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, "Why couldn't we throw it out?" "Because you're not yet taking God seriously," said Jesus. "The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, 'Move!' and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn't be able to tackle." (Matthew 17:19-21 The Message)
Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, "My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness." Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size”"abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (The Message)
I guess it wasn't so bad. It's always good to see the positive side of unsavory experiences, too. I arrived at the house soaking wet. If it hadn't rained I would have been wet with sweat and stinky to boot. As it was, all I had to do was dry off and my bath was finished. Sweat doesn't go so easily.