On Gutters and Grace

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The gutter above my patio is broken.

I live on the first floor of a two story apartment building, so the broken gutter just looks like a small, sporadic waterfall over one corner of the patio when it rains.

For a while, that corner was where I was keeping my cilantro plant, until it not-so-spontaneously died because of the floods it endured. But now that I’ve moved the pot (and planted some new cilantro), every few minutes when it rains I hear a strange whoosh and see buckets of water pour down briefly before everything dries back up.

I put in a maintenance request about it, but it’s pretty low priority as it isn’t causing damage to anything (other than my poor cilantro). The gutters are simply meant to direct water to a place where it can be absorbed. It appears, as far as my apartment complex managers are concerned, that the water is still being directed to a place where it can be absorbed (though not, perhaps, my favorite spot), and therefore the gutters are not broken.

I think the gutters are broken on my life.

Most of the time, I really believe that we live in a world where grace rains down like April showers, where God is in the air among us and filling up the cracks beneath our feet. I see miracles in the everyday: babies born healthy, children learning to forgive, friends falling in love, the budding and blooming of spring. If grace is raining down, it’s been 100% humidity my whole life and it is the only reason this world is ever alive and vibrant.

I’ve spent years learning how to look for it, straining my eyes to see the miniscule drops against the streetlights.  I can see it from my patio, but I can’t feel it on my head.

But every once in a while, a deluge dumps down on me, all at once, and I can’t help but wonder if this has been stored up in those gutters for months, waiting until I was beginning to doubt the drizzle I saw, waiting until I had finally dried out from the last bucketfull.

The past two weeks have been a grace-dump. I’ve rested well and the sun has been shining and work has been good in all the important ways. I have laughed hard and stayed up late and planned for a future I’m excited about. I have been singing in the monsoon and soaking in every drop, but there is a small and growing seed in my mind wondering when this too will dry up.

I gave up doubt for Lent, decided to consciously choose what I thought about, to avoid topics I knew led me down rabbit holes of circular reasoning without productive outcomes. I chose to feed my faith, to read my Bible and pray, to talk to others about God and to look for God’s work in the world.

As Easter came and went last week, I laughed a little imagining what my feast day could be after a fast from doubting, and I realized that I had no desire to end my fast. When I started, I told others that I couldn’t avoid the questions forever, that it wasn’t feasible to entirely skip reading most of the Old Testament and a sizeable portion of Paul’s letters in the name of not asking too many questions. I planned to go back to doubts and questions after Easter.

And yet, after 40 days of looking out the window and seeing grace rain down, I can’t un-see it. It doesn’t matter if I have questions about heaven and hell and who’s in and who’s out, questions about genocide in the Old Testament and women’s rights in the New.

It is raining grace in this big un-forsaken world and none of those questions can make that less true.

I know, it’s easy for me to say when I’m in the middle of a big old gutter-flooding grace dump that could end at any minute. Maybe when the gutter starts spreading that grace to places that can absorb it better I’ll feel differently. I hope not.

Maybe you’re in what you hope is the tail end of a long drought and this feels glossy and fake. I’ve been there, sister, and your gut is right: everything published on the internet is a little bit glossy and fake. Take it with a grain of salt, but don’t let that keep you from scanning the horizon for a few rain clouds.

I’ve kicked off my rainboots and am stomping around in this puddle barefoot, barely able to contain my excitement at the God who is around, in, below, and before me. And I’m ready to look at those questions I put away for a season again, because I have a profound new place to stand in:

The gutter is broken and the deluge of grace may never end.

And it is enough to remake and redeem everything in the whole world.

Enough, even, to remake and redeem me.

Photo by Joel Telling, via flickr.

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