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Send My Roots Rain

(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God...
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to
his face... Now that I have prepared my case, I know I will be vindicated.
Can anyone bring charges against me? If so, I will be silent and die. Only
grant me these two things, O God, and then I will not hide from you:
Withdraw your hand far from me, and stop frightening me with your terrors.
Then summon me and I will answer, or let me speak, and you reply. How many
wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offence and my sin. Why do you
hide your face and consider me your enemy? Will you torment a wind-blown
leaf? Will you chase after dry chaff?

    Then Job replied to the Lord: 'I know that you can do all things; no
plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, "Who is this that obscures my
counsel without knowledge?" Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know. You said, "Listen now, and I will
speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me." My ears had heard of
you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in
dust and ashes.'

    My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving
me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but
you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

    Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In
you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They
cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

    But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the
people.  All who see me mock me. They hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He
trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he
delights in him.'

(Job 13: 3, 15, 18-25; Job 42: 1-6; Psalm 22:1-8 -- all NIV)

~~~

'It's not fair,' my five-year-old daughter used to declare. And I had to
agree with her that life is very seldom fair. But we have the conviction
that God, at least, ought to be fair.  If we serve him faithfully, there
should be the rewards of service, some blessing, some recognition that we
are doing well.  On the other hand, we agree with David that evil men ought
not to prosper. The schemers, the manipulators, the self-seekers ought to be
punished as they deserve.

    Yet anyone who has been some distance on the Christian way knows that it
does not always work out that way. Often our best efforts meet with
disappointment and failure so that others say to us, 'Is it really worth it?
What are you achieving?' I suppose we should not be surprised at this
situation, for Jesus never promised us 'success' as a result of our
ministry; quite the reverse. And there are plenty of examples in scripture
of those who walked by faith, yet saw no mighty 'results'.

    It doesn't make us feel any better about it. How can God treat us this
way, when we have tried with our whole hearts to obey and serve him? Is it
his fault or ours?

    God does not defend himself or answer our complaints. But he does come
close to us and reveal himself to us.

~~~

I struck the board and cried, 'No more;
        I will abroad.
     What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the road,
     Loose as the wind, as large as store.
        Shall I be still in suit?
     Have I no harvest but a thorn
     To let me blood and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
            Sure there was wine
     Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
            Before my tears did drown it;
     Is the year only lost to me?
            Have I no bays to crown it,
No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted,
            All wasted?
     Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,
            And thou hast hands.
     Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit and not; forsake thy cage,
            Thy rope of sands
Which petty thoughts have made; and made to thee
     Good cable, to enforce and draw,
            And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
            Away; take heed;
            I will abroad.
Call in thy death's head there; tie up thy fears.
            He that forbears
     To suit and serve his need
            Deserves his load.
But as I raved, and grew more fierce and wild
            At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, 'Child!'
            And I replied, "My Lord.'

George Herbert, 'The Collar'

~~~

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners' ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
    Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare house more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See banks and brakes
Now, leaved how thick! laced they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build -- but not I build: no, but strain,
Time's eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou Lord of life, send my roots rain.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, 'Thou art indeed just'


Sometimes the establishment of this degree of prayer comes by way of a
painful inward struggle and aridity; what St John of the Cross has described
as 'the night of the senses' -- a period of distress and obscurity in which
it seems to the soul that it is losing all it had gained of the life of
prayer... It meets and must conquer many resistances in the active mind,
must cut for itself new paths; and this may involve tensions and suffering
and the apparent withdrawal of the ordinary power of prayer.

Evelyn Underhill, Collected Papers


The mystics down the centuries have often referred to 'the dark night of the
soul'. This describes those periods when God seems strangely silent and
absent in spite of personal need. We wonder what he is doing, why he is
withholding his presence from us. We pray to him, but the heavens seem as
brass and we feel trapped by the prison of our own dark moods.  'The
greatest test of a Christian's life is to live with the silence of God,'
wrote Bishop Mervyn Stockwood in a letter to me recently.  How far can we
keep trusting God when we have no experience of his love? Is it enough to
take him at his word when we feel no reality behind those familiar phrases?

David Watson, Fear No Evil


It's no fun, Lord, I can't keep anything for myself,
The flower that I pick fades in my hands.
My laugh freezes on my lips.
The waltz I dance leaves me restless and uneasy.
Everything seems empty,
Everything seems hollow,
You have made a desert around me.
I am hungry and thirsty,
And the whole world cannot satisfy me.
And yet I loved you Lord; what have I done to you?
I worked for you; I gave myself for you.
O great and terrible God,
What more do you want?

Child, I want more for you and for the world.
Until now you have planned your actions,
   but I have no need of them.
You have asked for my approval, you have asked for my support,
You have wanted to interest me in your work.
But don't you see, child, that you were reversing the
   roles.
I have watched you, I have seen your goodwill,
And I want more than you now.
You will no longer do your own works, but the will
   of your Father in heaven.

Michel Quoist, Prayers of Life


I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.  You are yourself the answer.
Before your face, questions die away. What other answer would suffice?

C.S. Lewis, Till We have Faces

~~~

Lord, all our lives we have been taught to believe that when we needed you,
you would always be there.  We have grown up with the idea that if we seek
to do your will, you will surely bless us.

But it doesn't always work out that way. It is so hard to understand that we
may be in your will and yet fail. It is so difficult to stand by and see
others riding the crest of the wave while we struggle and flounder. We
confess that we resent it. We blame them. We blame you. We blame ourselves.
We demand explanations.  We sink into waves of depression until we are near
drowning in our own tears.

In our hearts we know we cannot put you on trial. You do not have to defend
yourself. But in your love, O Lord, draw near to us. Fill our emptiness with
your presence, so that we do not need to be filled with the gratification of
success. Make us content to be yours, and to leave the answers in your
hands.

Amen.

~~~

A Benediction

Now may the God, who blesses us in ways we do not always recognise -- who
himself, in Jesus, bore the pain of rejection and desolation, who through
the Holy Spirit draws near to fill our emptiness -- send the rain to seep
through to our roots and bring us to life again.

Amen.

High Mountains Deep Valleys, ed. Rowland Croucher (Albatross/Lion) 
Chapter 6.

 
rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland