During the last decade, two extended periods of drought afflicted the area where I lived in California. Water was so scarce that residents were required to ration their use of the precious liquid. Watering lawns, gardens, and landscape vegetation was limited and finally stopped altogether, along with washing cars. Even activities such as washing dishes and brushing teeth were done with a minimum of water. Church members and others who were mindful of the Lord’s benevolence fasted and prayed for relief.
During the first drought, I purchased four 50-gallon drums to store drinking water. Fortunately, they did not have to be drawn upon. Unfortunately, I learned little else concerning water storage.
The second drought was longer and more devastating. At times I wondered if it would ever end. I remember clearly that one evening my family and I enjoyed a small rainstorm. I was so overjoyed for the blessing of a brief storm that I could not remain in the house. I ran outside, raising my face to the cool rain, quickly becoming soaked.
Looking around, I noticed a constant stream of precious water draining from a rainspout, running down the driveway uselessly into the gutter and down the street. I was struck with the realization of the waste of this valuable, free resource. I had to do something!
Dripping wet, I drove to a hardware store and purchased a dozen five-gallon buckets and a couple of 30-gallon trash cans. When I returned home, I cut the rainspouts short so the buckets would fit underneath.
Infrequent rainstorms followed, and over the next two years as the drought continued, my total rainwater storage grew to nearly 400 gallons. My family and I brought our shrubbery back to life; the difficulty of watering by hand was a minor sacrifice considering the results. I noticed that even though the opportunities to replenish our rainwater storage were infrequent, it was never entirely depleted.
I began to see other opportunities to gather water. On one occasion city water department officials made minor repairs to the main water line under our street. When the repairs were completed, they flushed the water main through the fire hydrant. It was not potable water, but it was sufficient for the garden. I brought out all the empty buckets I had and filled them from the hydrant.
My neighbors, who had nicknamed me the “water baron” after observing my rainstorm water-storage system, soon followed, and we stood in line taking turns collecting the water. Perhaps through my example, they had begun to realize there were things they could do to preserve this precious resource. Certainly there must have been others who began their own rain bucket collection.
In a heavy March rainstorm, the rain buckets at the rainspouts were filled in less than one minute! I changed the buckets and continued to collect the water, and within minutes our rainwater storage was filled to overflowing. I was disappointed because nothing was left to collect the rain, and yet it continued in torrents.
As I thought about the deep gratitude I felt for the simple blessing of rainwater, I recognized that it had become so precious because it was so scarce. I realized that my efforts at gathering and storing the wonderful water had reinforced the joy and thankfulness I felt for this gift from the sky. My preparation had brought blessings, and with those blessings came a deep gratitude for what I had received.
I thought about how many other areas in my life might be applicable to this. When I know that I am lacking blessings from the Lord, I have wondered, could it be that he is willing to grant them but I have not adequately prepared to receive them?
We are often reminded of the promise “prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10; emphasis added). But how often do we make room to receive those blessings?
My California drought experience taught me the importance of simple things. I will always remember my sheer gratitude for simple drops of rain, and I strive to be thankful for all blessings in my life, both large and small. Thus reminded of the Lord’s goodness, I hope to always be prepared with the rain buckets necessary to receive his choice blessings, whether it is water during a drought or recognition of the Spirit in my life and other blessings that quench my spiritual thirst (see John 4:14).