Thunderclap or Gentle Rain


Some religious believers seem to inherit their beliefs like the inheritance of grandpa’s well-worn sweater. Parents take it from the attic for you, and you’re pleased with the feel and heritage of the gift.

Somehow that seems too easy, at least for many folks. Belief can be hard won, and seem to mature through trial and error. You can imagine a soon-to-become believer pulled this way and that, the outcome of this tug of war being, for a time — perhaps a lengthy time — undecided.

Short of a trial, one might suspect that a basic faith-orientation — most likely a family inheritance — gets amended and refined as one matures.

Or the whole Kit & Kaboodle might get retired, get hoisted into the attic as no more than a dusty curiosity. That seems often to happen as one generation succeeds another. The parents have one density of belief and the kids leave the whole thing to one side.

As my title suggests, belief might also come as a thunderclap. With a BANG one is shaken to the core. Instant Conversion. Then belief is a non-negotiated transformation. Once you’ve been startled to the core, you don’t argue with, or ponder, the reality of the thunderclap.

There are plenty of stories of dramatic conversion — if not thunder, then God descending and knocking you off your horse.

In my own case, there was no inheritance, and no thunderclap. And no process of gathering evidence for belief.

I’d say mine was a process of incremental access to the holy or divine.

That’s the idea of the holy speaking through gentle rain. If the divine intrudes as a thunderclap, there’s no argument, no missing the intrusion, or doubting the event. On the other hand if the holy speaks through gentle rain, it might be overlooked.

It takes a certain sensitivity to absorb the holy through gentle rain.

It’s an incremental access, and nothing as definitive as thunderclaps.

I’d sense the holy in gentle rain, and in the glow of sunset, and in a gentle evening breeze — in the smile of a child. You could say the holy is all around, always, if only we settle into looking and listening and sensing a mist.


One comment on “Thunderclap or Gentle Rain

  1. Ed Mooney says:

    A friend writes: I love your blog post. It made me remember this from many years ago. I was 18 and sipping slow-drip coffee at the beach as I saw a baptism al fresco in the Pacific. A large wave washed over the young woman getting baptized, just slightly older than I was I think, and she rose from the water irradiant, and not just because her skin and long auburn hair glistened like Botticelli’s Venus born again (and oh! It did!). But something about this imagery wasn’t quite right. We often want to imagine redemption happening all at once, like a big wave that soaks us all the way down to our dried up bones, or like a thunderclap as you say. We may be “marked as Christ’s own forever” (as the Book of Common Prayer says) suddenly like a wave, but the way we live into that identity, the way we become ourselves as another’s, is more like the slow drip in my cup that day. It happens little by little, one drop at a time, like a gentle rain or, sometimes, flowing tears. Thanks for helping me remember that image!
    — a friend

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