Like rain in its season, the Spirit’s work is gentle but sure

Photo: Reza Shayestehpour, Unsplash

My parents modeled for me a gentle faith, as integral to their lives as the sure changing of the seasons. My dad was a pastor in a close-knit country church that sometimes struggled with relationship issues, and maybe it was there — hearing behind-the-scenes as I did — that I learned to mistrust the loud, the sure, the people who knew they were closest to God and wanted everyone else to be, too. Too often, they were the troublemakers, the backbiters, the ones who hurt other people by making them feel less than. 

Instead of the flaming God of the passionate reformers, my dad taught me a gentler way of viewing God. “God is a person,” he said once, trying to help us children understand. “He probably went fishing with his disciples. He had conversations. They were just regular people.” 

To him, God was a beleitlich God, a Pennsylvania Dutch way of saying a “people-friendly” God. “Think of the nicest person you know,” he said. “Someone who loves people. That’s what God is like.” 

To Dad, an introvert and lover of -solitude, this only made sense. God had to get along with multiple personalities. While people in churches butted heads, God liked one sort as well as another. 

And so, among my images of God resides an image that is like a gracious and giving older couple who always welcomes you into their home, enjoys the small moments of togetherness and values you in a way that makes you feel cherished. 

I have been encouraged by stories of healings and signs and miraculous conversions. These stories strengthen my faith and help me to see more of God’s glory and all-sufficiency. They help me to trust God with the mundane details of my own life. 

But when doubt rocked me as a young person and I wondered if there really was a God, it was the sure, steady faith of my parents and others like them — people who helped me see God as part of the rhythm of everyday life — that ultimately helped me release doubt, to realize that just as miraculous as the big moments are the small moments: the rose unfurling, the star winking from space, a mother’s head bent to her child. 

These things are so deeply woven into the fabric of Earth we do not recognize them as miracles. But here, at the most primal level, God is revealed. I cannot deny the Earth spins. I cannot deny the law of gravity. I cannot deny that magnet attaches to magnet — but why should these things be, these elemental laws, without a Creator to balance them on the tip of a finger? Without God, chaos. 

I understand the Holy Spirit to work much the way nature does — steady and gentle as sap running through trees, starting at the heart, running up to green, the show building so gradually you don’t know it is happening until suddenly it bursts on you in glory.

When someone is too loud, too blithe, too assured of their role as worker with God, my German reticence sends up a sniff of suspicion. What makes them so sure? What they hold may be good, but if their presentation makes me feel I must climb a higher tower, achieve a hero’s stance to save the world, I back away. 

when I look at nature, there are no heroes. That’s what I told my sister when she called yesterday, worrying she wasn’t enough, as we all do at some time or another — not mature enough, not spiritual enough, not close to God enough, not filled-with-the-Spirit enough like that sister over there. 

I reminded my sister of a tree she planted when she was a child. Now it is an adult tree, grown tall and slender as a young woman — as my sister herself — but still with many layers of wood to add to wood, many green leaves to shoot forth as it matures. 

“Like that tree, you are perfect in your season,” I told my sister. “Not -perfect as in finished, with no growth left. But perfect as in what you should be in this season now. Growth comes from God and is not something you can achieve. You can only open to -receive it. That’s how growth comes.”

The work of the Holy Spirit in a life is gentle, like rain in its season. But for all its gentleness, there is nothing so sure, steady and relentless as growth in fertile soil. Our job is to open and wait. It is God who gives the increase.  

Lucinda J. Kinsinger

Lucinda J. Kinsinger writes from Oakland, Md. The author of Anything But Simple: My Life as a Mennonite and Turtle Read More

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!