I like to imagine myself as an observer of human beings, and by association, an observer of human behavior. Most of us, I think, are creatures of habit. Much of life is comprised of repetitious activities like going to work, Monday through Friday. Or, standing in line at the grocery store waiting to tell the clerk whether we want paper or plastic. We manage the traffic, waiting at red lights while we listen to the daily news on our car radios. The news is rarely good, because we’ve trained ourselves to ignore the stories of good news, and listen incessantly to the bad news, so we’ll know how desperate things really are. If I am not careful, there can be a monotony and a rhythm in my own life. A cadence as common as a windshield wiper, back and forth, back and forth. But the back and forth of my common life can easily obstruct my noticing of the God of my every day.
Last week, as a gentle rain fell, while I waited at a red light on my way home from my office,
And just before I would pick up some milk and bread at Safeway,
And tell the clerk I wanted a paper bag, and not plastic,
While I sat waiting for my light to turn green, listening to my car radio and the newsman drone on and on about how bad things were.
I saw them, in the crosswalk in front of me. Three people, walking in the rain. One was a woman I supposed was a mother. She held an open umbrella over her head because of the rain. But two small people trailed along behind, not under the umbrella, oblivious to the rain that fell. Their focus was not on the rain?
It was on the puddles.
For, along their path, as they followed their mother, two small boys, brothers I guessed to be 6 or 7 years old noticed the small pools of rain that gathered like tiny lakes in the crosswalk in front of them. The mother as she hurried to the safety of the other side of the street, was careful to step over or around every puddle. She obviously didn’t want to get her shoes wet.
But the brothers? They held hands as they walked, and laughed, and yes, splashed. They were exceedingly careful not to avoid a single puddle. With exquisite intention, and radar guided precision, they stopped at every puddle. They stomped their feet in those puddles, forcing the gathered pools to give way to shoes that didn’t mind getting wet. As I watched those two little boys, I felt an urge swell within me. I wanted to get out of my car, and follow along behind the two of them. I didn’t want to follow the example of their mother, who avoided every puddle. I didn’t want to jump over or around those puddles.
Splashing looked like way too much fun. My mind raced back to the days when I was a splasher of puddles.
I felt like the vaporous picture playing out in front of me was gift, in an odd sort of way. For, within seconds, the light changed. And it was time for me cross the intersection, and turn into grocery store parking lot. I had to find the bread and milk aisles, and stand in line with all the other people whose shoes were dry and whose faces had blank stares.
‘Paper or plastic,’ said the cashier, when my turn came to be served.
‘Paper,’ I said.
I watched her carefully place my bread and milk in that paper bag, before she thanked me for shopping at Safeway.
As I left the store, I noticed that the rain was falling harder, now. People getting out of their cars were running toward the store, covering their heads with umbrellas or hoods. I watched them jump over or around the deepening puddles forming in the parking lot. And I thought to myself, “They’re missing all the fun!” As I left that Safeway store, I decided not to take the safe way to my car. I walked slow as any 6 or 7 year old.
And as if guided by some radar, I searched out and splashed in every puddle I could see. And in the splashing, I rejoiced in the God of my every day, who sends the rain. The God who invented puddles.
Ps. 84:6 in The Message reads, “And how blessed are all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel; They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain! God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!”