Another drought is upon us in California and water use restrictions are coming our way. Sometimes it just doesn’t rain. Centuries ago, farmers were ultra-sensitive to droughts, not possessing the sophisticated water channeling techniques of our modern times. Despite ever increasing taxes in California, the government refuses to build more water catchment and storage systems to mitigate the inevitable drought season. Homemade road signs in the San Joaquin Valley read “Food grows where water flows” because politicians shut off their access to water for irrigation, leaving farmers desperate. We pray for rain, just not too much of it. Too much rain and our homes flood or landslides wash out roadways. Not too little and not too much. We want just the right amount please, and none on Saturday!
Rain is a miraculous feat of nature. Water vapor condenses and coalesces on tiny particles of dust in the sky until clouds can no longer hold their weight, at which time they fall to the ground as rain. Rain falls in little droplets; each raindrop is on average 2.5 millimeters across. Millions of gallons irrigate millions of acres in a storm and I just can’t get over how it all starts in a cloud, in the sky. If a cloud is merely air and water vapor, how does it hold millions of pounds of water?! Why are good clouds white and storm clouds gray? What is coalescence? And what do rain and drought tell us about God’s nature?
NASA uses remote sensing radar that can detect surface moisture from space. A radar receives its reflected transmission from the surface of earth in addition to optical images, courtesy of reflected sunlight. Some of the frequencies chosen by NASA are not within the visible range of wavelengths and cannot be seen by our eyes, but all these remote sensing signals are electromagnetic waves, whether visible to us or not – it’s all light. The way the light reflects off the ground reveals the nature of the soil. Scientists use mathematical models to deduce the condition of the soil based on the reflected light. Dry soil has a different fingerprint than wet soil and wet soil has a different fingerprint than snow covered soil. None of it can hide from the light. A drought in your spiritual life will be evident in the way you reflect the Light as well. Water is a Biblical type of the Holy Spirit and when you cut yourself off from the living water, you experience a drought that is evident to any observer. You see, soil in a drought looks different to scientists because it literally reflects light differently. It changes the way the light reflects. Not just more or less reflection, like a volume knob, but the way the soil reflects light is changed. Perhaps you have a snarkier tone or a negative attitude when God tests you. Perhaps you answer not with words of grace but of complaint. Water will change the way the soil reflects light and the Holy Spirit will do this in your heart as well. The parable of the Sower aptly likens soil to the human heart and the fertile soil represents those believers who produce a bountiful harvest of spiritual fruit.
When God causes clouds to pour forth their rain, it is the culmination of a miraculous process in which particles in the sky become enveloped by water until the weight exceeds the carrying capacity of the cloud. White fluffy clouds against a blue sky do not rain. Such white clouds are just water vapor through which sunlight reflects many times within the cloud. It’s as if the cloud were a huge pinball machine and each light particle (photon) bounces all around inside the cloud. Since light with all colors of the rainbow is white, we see white in the cloud. The same thing happens in your car’s filmy windshield – it looks white when you are driving into the sun and it’s hard to see through it. With sufficient particulates in the air, water vapor condenses on these particles and millions of water molecules adhere to each other via hydrogen bonding in a process called coalescence. As the water droplets grow in size and become too heavy, they fall as precipitation. Next time you are in a position to see a rain cloud pour forth its water, notice how the cloud resembles a sack of groceries from which the bottom just fell out. The drops of rain can only fall so fast because the wind resistance on the way down will break up the larger drops into smaller drops. The clouds cannot hold larger drops because they’re, well, air and air can’t hold much. So, God built a failsafe mechanism into rain. The drops won’t be too heavy, causing injury, because the wind resistance on the way down overcomes the strength of the hydrogen bonds, breaking them into smaller raindrops.
Rainfall is absorbed into the water table, unless there’s so much that it saturates the soil, in which case water runs off into the street, or wherever gravity takes it, hopefully not your basement. Water reservoirs catch what they can, storing it for the next dry spell but inevitable evaporative losses can only be replenished with more rain. There’s no way to eliminate the need for rain. We can’t get a single dose of God’s word and be filled for a lifetime. Rather, we need continual filling of the Spirit and to be reading God’s word. Only then, when we’re exposed to the Light, will we reflect the light as nourished soil, not parched dirt.