While in Belfast I wrote a blogpost called ‘Rain Is Grace’ and last week while working on an article for the Presbyterian Outlook, I couldn’t help thinking about the rain again in New Orleans. Here’s the article I wrote that’ll be published in the Presbyterian Outlook in a few months!
“Living in New Orleans, the sun has been a welcome and faithful resident, greeting me in the mornings on our balcony as I sip coffee and watch the city come alive. From the beginning of this YAV year, gulf coast living appeared to be opposite from Emerald Isle living, but I was wrong. At the start of spring, rain came to New Orleans in powerful, electric waves: a visiting friend I didn’t know I wanted, or needed, until it came back into my life.
Rain, like grace, comes in different forms throughout our lives. During my YAV year in Belfast it lived right around the corner and we became close friends. It was a part of Ireland’s history, its people, its beauty and its inspiration. Dampness would linger in the air from the consistent, calm mist which gave life and vibrancy to its rolling green hills. Showers caused strangers to become friends in the shelter of pubs and cafes, and a hint of sun would brighten the grey skies with the most colorful rainbows. The rain in Belfast taught me that God’s grace is always surrounding us, and freely given.
In New Orleans, the rain is teaching me that faith is contradictory and counterintuitive. Here it’s often a powerful downpour, slowing traffic on freeways and flooding canals.
It comes without want or warning, causing unplanned stillness to occur in the deep waters. Almost twelve years later, not a day has gone by during my time here in which Hurricane Katrina isn’t mentioned in conversation – whether it’s at the library working with a patron on a resume, or overhearing strangers in a restaurant. Rain has taught this city about resilience, and hope growing out of devastation. Meanwhile during this YAV year I’ve done a lot of “unlearning” about race, religion, and politics – from both literal and figurative stormy stories of others – and how it all relates to my faith and identity as a white, female, American Christian. I’ve started to grapple with my own overwhelming pursuit of perfection in myself and the world, letting waves of fear and anxiety be destructive forces rather than swimming lessons. I’m re-learning how to pursue God in the present, letting His grace be sufficient for each wave.
For rain, a falling contradiction coexisting in both YAV years, I’m grateful. Rain is an unexpected healer when we feel burnt out, restless or anxious. Rain makes us pause, slowing down long enough to recognize, and accept, the grace that’s being poured out for us. Rain destroys at the same time it rejuvenates, but grace remains unchanged. Rain is teaching me that the demand for perfection doesn’t mean believing we are above and beyond perfection, but consciously forgiving and including imperfection in our lives. It teaches us that spiritual growth isn’t linear, but exists in the waves – the changing waters that bring both hurricanes and rainbows. The course of nature can’t be altered anymore than our faith journeys, but we can find God’s grace in the rain.”
“For Equilibrium, a Blessing:
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.”
― John O’Donohue,