As we talk about learning to embrace our struggles, temptations, and trials not as enemies but as potential teachers on our journey, I can’t but help think of my own journey to learn this lesson. I recently wrote a poem about this experience, which I hope opens you up to this process in your own life.
Your progressive redneck preacher,
Sitting, as I am apt to do, upon my porch
I hear the music of the rain
It falls all around,
unceasing as time,
ever-present as breath.
I not only smell that freshness of rain
but taste ozone, electric upon my tongue.
Hearing you, storm, I am amazed.
You sound like earthquakes on the San Andreas fault,
your unending vibration shaking ceiling above
causing wall and window to rattle.
You are as violent as the rat-a-tat of guns
echoing like bombs being blown up at Fort Bragg, the background music of my boyhood,
sung by someone else’s sons and daughters
being taught war like it was hide and seek,
some game to play with friends,
not the terror that stalks by night
which, like a monster under your bed,
is always there, just outside the corner of your eye,
even when every gun is laid down.
Yet, unlike that specter of war
those returned soldiers described to me,
the sound of you, storm, does not steal my sleep.
Rather, it quiets my soul,
causing me to sleep like a babe in his mother’s arms.
Your water music rocks me,
a lullaby to my battered heart,
baptizing me with new life.
I cannot help but think of when
Jesus and his own lost boys
went out upon deep waters
and how, silly storm, you put him to sleep,
while they woke in terror to your song.
It teaches me, though I do not want to hear,
that the difference is not what pummels my walls
but how I listen to its song.
I remember your voice
when rain did not assault my window
but heartache was the wind howling through my world
and the trees of my hidden grove shook
so their leaves rattled
their bark broke.
At first I too shook with terror,
a little boy lost amidst tangling vine,
certain you meant me doom.
Then, for a second, something shifted
and in your storm, without it ceasing,
I felt a stillness beyond the roaring noise,
a cool breeze within your unending gale.
In that moment, like the crowd upon whom the tongues of fire alighted,
suddenly what sounded like threatening babble clearly whispered my name.
I heard your voice.
Now, once threatening shadow,
I know your name too: “Teacher”