Tuesday morning as my fellow SHERPAS and I excitedly packed for 4 days in the backcountry, we were shown a video by Rob Bell titled “Nooma: Rain.” Maybe you have seen it. Basically, Rob Bell narrates a time where he was out hiking during a blissful vacation out in the woods. He ventured out from his family’s cabin with his one year old son nestled safely in his backpack. He describes a perfect afternoon hike, looking out over the shimmering lake and basking in the sunlight reaching through the trees. Then out of nowhere some clouds roll in and it begins to rain, and he says something very poignant. “It always rains doesn’t it?” Seems about right. When things couldn’t be going any better, when all is right with the world, it rains. Stuff goes wrong, things happen, and everything gets wet. If only we had known how fitting that video would be for the week ahead.
The first afternoon on the trail was absolutely gorgeous. The trail meandered through massive trees and bordered a bustling creek. The sound of water rushing over the rocks was our soundtrack, and its beat kept our pace as we marched onwards. At one point we spread out along the trail and created our own personal sanctuaries to just be with God. It was perfect. You can probably guess what happened next. As soon as we made it to our campsite, we heard the familiar roll of thunder in the distance and the pitter patter of raindrops hitting the trees. Of course it rained. We set up camp in the rain and struggled to muster up a fire during a brief break in the downpour. Pretty much everything was wet, and for the rest of the week it would be.
Earlier today we tackled an orienteering challenge. We had to find ourselves on a map, then find a certain location on the map, determine our bearing to get to that location, and get there as a group. A tough challenge in itself. We scrambled around our maps, pointed compasses in all directions and tried to choose a consistent bearing. We bushwhacked our way up a scarily steep hill, only to find our desired location was on the other side of the hill. About halfway through the sketchy descent, we heard the all too familiar pitter patter of rain drops. Before long the sound of rain drops in the trees materialized into rain drops soaking us to the core. With the rain came a rolling thunder and occasional flash of lightning. Our orienteering leader called for us to retreat and we quickly went back the way we came and found shelter. It always rains.
When Rob Bell was hiking with his son and it began to rain, it gave him the opportunity to pull his son close and whisper, “I love you buddy, we’re gonna make it, Dad knows the way home.” Over and over. It was an intimate moment, and it strengthened their relationship. The thing about rain is that it is temporary. Eventually, the storms in our life will be over, and eventually we will dry out. But that doesn’t always make those times when it does rain much easier. When you are slodging through the mud trying to outrun a lightning storm while not tumbling down a hill, it sure doesn’t feel temporary. When you are hungry and tired and fumbling around with ropes and tarps trying to set up camp, you just can’t wait for the rain to be over. Rain on the trail can be challenging, and even more so when the rain comes in your life. When things come crashing down around you and your bad situation seems inescapable, it doesn’t feel like just a “trial.” When the storms come in our lives, it’s tempting to pull up our hoods, fold our arms, and just look at the ground. But it is in these times we have to remember that God is silently pulling us closer saying, “I love you buddy, we’re gonna make it. Dad knows the way home.” And when the clouds roll away and the elusive sunlight finally breaks through, you can’t help but to feel God’s love shining through. Even those first few rays of sunshine are enough to make the downpour of yesterday seem like a small drizzle.