You may have heard that California is experiencing a devastating drought. Sure, we’re using social media to share photos of ourselves cavorting on the beach in Santa Cruz, wearing swimsuits on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday so that loved ones in, say Ohio, will hate us, but things are getting really serious.
Groundhog Day was the only Sunday so far this winter when it has rained in San Jose during our church service. After worship, as I greeted members of my congregation, a man shook my hand and told me he’d heard local Muslims had been praying for rain.
It’s true, and the Muslims weren’t the only ones. Every protestant pastor in California worth her or his salt has been petitioning the almighty for precipitation since December; local Roman Catholic bishops have been directing the faithful to pray for rain, and in East San José a local Aztec dance troupe has been performing traditional pre-Columbian rain dances in the parking lot of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church across the street from my house.
Even my sister, who, last I heard, religiously self-identified as “none of the above” posted on Facebook a photo of her son wearing a raincoat and rubber boots and standing in a puddle. The caption on the photo said “Here’s hoping for a wet February!” That counts as a prayer in my book.
There really is nothing good to say about a drought. In Mendocino County, where I grew up, some communities are likely to run out of water just in time for summer, which will complicate even simple tasks like getting a drink or using the commode–that is, of course, unless all of our prayers are answered and we get a very wet spring.
I am not confident our prayers will be answered, however. Though I am religious, I am not superstitious. I understand that no prayer, however earnest and sincere, is an incantation with a guaranteed result.
But here’s why I keep praying for rain. I like knowing that the longings of my soul are shared by such a wide and varied community. If, in this world so riven by conflict and vitriol, my progressive Calvinist supplications are joined by those uttered by people who pray facing Mecca and Jerusalem and Benares; if Sikhs and Catholics and Buddhists and non-believers all can agree that we need a little bit of moisture from heaven, and if that common desire for rain–or even a heavy mist–can cause us to forget our acrimony, even for a short time, then something like a miracle has taken place.
And I’ll take a miracle wherever I can find one, even if, come August, we won’t be able to flush our toilets.