When All Hope Feels Like a Drought

Aman can watch the sky like a plea.

“And we didn’t get nothing — not one drop.”

That’s what the farmer’s wife said to me before breakfast.

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How she headed home from town in a flat-out gully washer of a rain, thinking this was finally it — the whole dark sky like the ocean coming to find dry land, and she was just certain of it, the rain splatting across her windshield like a certain promise coming right now.

All the corn fields to the north and the south, they’ve been standing twisted right up for weeks.

Leaves curled tight and high in drought. Farmers, we call it pineappling — when corn leaves don’t hang relaxed, quenched and green and soaking in sun — but they writhe up like sharp pineapple spears — taut and parched and desperate to escape anymore heat.

It’s like the whole countryside’s reaching up like a begging.

But she said when she turned the bend, right there at the county line, not a mile and a half from the home farm, all that rain, all that hope, just evaporated into thin, clear air.

How there was nothing.

“When I turned up our lane, there was dust in the rearview mirror and rain coming down hard to the west.”

Hope, it can feel like a balloon string dangling over your head that you just can’t reach.

She shakes her head.

“I don’t think we’re going to make crop.”

That’d be like taking all of last year’s wage and investing it into a project — then putting in 12 hours a day everyday for six months, counting on it, and — and being told that you’ve just lost all of last year’s income — and you won’t be getting paid for this past six months either. That you’ll just have to go home with nothing — to a lot less — because the sky hanging right over your head, sky skirting with abundance just a mile to your north and a half mile to your south — it didn’t open up right overhead and let down your only lifeline.

Farmers in these parts are talking in days. How many days they’ve gone without rain. How many days left until their crop is futile in the field.

“We talked to a farmer who took his thousand acres and cut it down for silage — because when they peeled back the husks? None of the cobs — on a thousand acres — had even a kernel.”

Behind all the husks, there are a thousand ways that a life can feel barren.

Behind all the husks, there are a thousand ways there can seem not to be a kernel of hope at all.

The Farmer had emailed me while I was standing in a lobby in Port Au Prince, Haiti, in between blackouts, in between losing power in a country waiting for a gully-washer of hope. It had blinked up on the screen just before the dark: “We’ve never had a corn crop look so bad.”

And yet — hope is standing in the dark with a lamp lit with prayers.

The lights came back on.

I turn to the Farmer’s wife and I tell her what I had tapped back the Farmer: “So we pray.”

And the Farmer’s wife, she looks over at me and she says it in this sharp desperation of her own —

“You really think it works like that?”

Oh.

My silence, my interior groping — it must betray my confusion. She says it louder.

“You really think it makes any difference, anything you pray? It’s just going to be what it’s going to be.” She turns away.

“It’s just going to be what it’s going to be.”

She says it like she’s watching hope in the rear view mirror, hope headed away heavy for someone else.

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And I know that feeling, that witnessing. When I got home at 2:30 am on Sunday morning from Haiti, when after the sermon, I stood on the lawn with the Farmer, my sister and her husband and all our 11 kids, and we watched the sky grow heavy to the west and I begged “Oh, please, Lord…. please.”

And I’m another’s farmer’s wife too and how can I find it for myself and my prayer sounds more like a panic than a peace and I am the biggest mess of them all.

The Farmer’s got his hands in his jean pockets. He’s standing there where the lawn gives way to the corn field.

“I think we’re just on the south edge of this one. And it’s headed just a bit north of us…” He pulls a big Dutch hand out of his pocket, points towards the elevator bins across the fields. ” — See how it’s raining there on the other side of the highway?”

And I feel wild…

What if we get nothing? What if it is the way it is?

And he turns into all my angst storm and he can read me. He looks me in the eye and says it like a forecast:

When you know your Father’s loving — what can you fear losing?

He’s as calm as a man walking on water.

He hears us. He loves us. He has us. So whatever happens, He’s good and we’re good.

I look at him — He’s like a man completely resting on water. Isn’t that it? We pray to the Lord knowing His answer is Love.

And God is no genie and we don’t pray to God to pry something from God. We pray to God to be prepared by God for a purpose of God.

We don’t pray to get more from God — we pray to become more in Christ.

We pray because entering His presence is the answer to all our prayers.

Somedays just laying our head in His hands is the way we lay the burdens down.

The scars on His hands were made to be the perfect ditches for our tears.

The Farmer pulls me into him and wraps me in more faith and we stand together watching the sky, how the rain goes north.

How it comes down right here like a certain promise:

When your prayers look right into the face of Christ — every hopeless end turns into an endless hope.

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Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 | Faith, Farming, Prayer, Refiner's Fire