Summer in Abilene and throughout West Texas is the time to ask friends where they have been or where they are going. Friends don’t let friends stay in the heat until they have asked what’s wrong with them or taken them to get a brain scan, or both.
Those who stay behind for work begin to pray about this time of the year: for a break from the heat and for rain to refill the lakes. I’m not sure how God feels about all this. It makes almost as much sense for resilient settlers to move into the Alaskan interior and pray for a warming trend, for the snow to stop, and more daylight in the winter. After all, we were the ones who decided that living in the desert was a good idea—okay, the hot arid wilderness. Though it was not actually us but rugged settlers who thought it would be a great idea to move out West where there was wide open land to build ranches for their cattle, sheep, and goats. And then, about the middle of May after they had built their bunk houses, they built churches so they could pray for a break in the heat and pray for rain to fill their stock tanks (ponds). We were the ones who came along later and decided to build a Christian university in Abilene—why not three? Though that was not actually us either. We didn’t come to Abilene for another 75 or 100 years after being tricked by employers who interviewed us for jobs during the ten crisp days of Fall or the twelve warm, green days of Spring—and after we read online that Abilene was among the hottest places in Texas for singles, families, and retirees to live (but failing to read the fine print). So, we came, moved in, and the next Sunday dutifully found our way to church to pray for rain, ask everyone we met where they were going this summer, and thank God for central air conditioning.
Back to my point (I think), this past weekend I ran away with Dana to a resort on Mustang Island, Port Aransas for a TACTE meeting (Texas Association of Colleges for Teacher Education). Physicians go to Hawaii or the Bahamas. Attorneys go to Vegas or the Big Apple. Deans and directors of Teacher Education programs go to Port Aransas (go figure).
Back to my question (again): what does God think of our tendency to move to a rain forest and pray for the rain to stop? Or move into an arid wilderness and pray for rain? Does God get frustrated with us? “Look at them. They’re doing it again. Can you believe this? What do they want me to do—reverse the poles, cause a massive earthquake to create a mountain range and change the weather patterns?” Or does God understand what it’s like to have the spirit to carve out a place for life in a harsh environment—like the time God took all the chaotic forces that stood against life and one by one brought them under control, making a place for life to exist (Gen. 1). Or when God planted a garden in the middle of a wilderness (no less without rain) and put people there to tend the garden? (Gen. 2:7-8). Or after the people rebelled and had to leave the garden for their own good (Gen 3:22-24), and God was already looking out for them, providing for their needs (Gen. 3:21). God knew about the harsh land in which they would be living, even if they didn’t, and God helped them.
We don’t have anything in the Bible that explicitly tells us what God thinks about moving to the wilderness and praying for rain. And, at the same time, the more I think about it, the more I think God understands the pioneering, make life out of no life spirit.
In the for what it is worth department: there were a lot of hits on the entry last week regarding Numbers 5 and abortion. I am still curious if you have ever heard this text within a sermon or lesson (or anything) that dealt with this difficult, close to the heart subject. Do me a favor? Now that you have finished reading this blog post, scroll down a click “Leave a Comment” (or something like that), type in “Yes” or “No,” and then post your comment (click another button). Feel free to add whatever comments you may wish, but a simple poll would be revealing (and I’ll share the results in the next midweek musing). And please, comment here rather than Facebook (it makes it easier for me to keep up). Thanks.
Glenn Pemberton is a minister turned professor turned writer. After serving churches in Texas and Colorado, Glenn completed a Ph.D. (Old Testament). He then taught at Oklahoma Christian University before coming to Abilene Christian University in 2005, retiring as professor emeritus in 2017 due to a severe chronic pain. Glenn now spends his time writing for the church. Along with short essays he has published four books, including The God who Saves: An Introduction to the Message of the Old Testament (2015), and Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms (2012). Glenn and his wife Dana continue to live in Abilene, Texas.