Send my roots rain


Photo by Nicole King on Unsplash


As I write this, it is raining.

For a few days in June the UK basked in a glorious summer. After a cold but sunny April, and then a very wet May, true summer seemed to arrive in June, and for a while the summer was everything a summer should be … glorious, golden and hot. The roses bloomed in all their lushness, the peonies broke out in all their pink, frilled glory, the wisteria and laburnum dropped their golden and purple rain.

The scent of cut grass fills the air. The blackbirds sing at dawn and dusk, the summer migrants – swifts, swallows and house martins – arrive. Puffy white clouds swim through a sky as blue as forget-me-nots. This is everything a summer should be. And now it’s raining. We need it. The heat was welcome, yet enervating.

We can expect steady rain, even thunderstorms, over the next few days. It’s a relief. There are few things as heavenly as the smell of the earth after rain. During the heatwave of 2018 my heart broke when I saw the satellite images of Britain from the air – a burnt, brown island, not a green, verdant one, as no rain had fallen for weeks and our fields, meadows, parks and grass verges turned brown. It was such a blessed relief when the rain eventually fell and those hard, yellow-white patches of parched earth began to sprout again with fresh green grass. It seemed like a miracle. It was a miracle.

For months now, I have been feeling dry and parched. There have been little spurts of growth here and there, the odd green shoot poking through the dry, caked soil. But I am aware that this feeling of dryness, emptiness, numbness has been with me for a very long time … even before the pandemic.

Little shoots of writing have broken out. Two sermons, a brief bio for the church magazine … this post. Everything else seems to be lying dormant. Like parched grass waiting for the heavy, scented summer rain to fall. Like a wasteland gasping for a monsoon. Like a deer panting for water in the Judean desert.

Perhaps a lot of us feel like that.

So my prayer for us writers is this …

That the Holy Spirit would fall on our hearts, and minds, and spirits, bringing us all the cleansing, the refreshment and glorious beauty of God, awakening in us a desire to write for his glory, satisfying our deep thirst to serve him as writers, releasing our creativity, and lead others to the same, deep, refreshing pools where God brings us, and bathes us, and makes us anew, again and again and again.

My heart is dry, and parched, and barren. Fall on me, Holy Spirit, drench me through and through, in the life-giving waters of the Lord.

POSTSCRIPT

Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of my favourite poets, suffered from terrible depression. In this, one of his wrenching sonnets of despair, written just a few months before his untimely death in 1889, he struggles with deep disappointment and frustration. Yet through the poet’s anguish, his terrible feeling that God has abandoned him, that all his work as a Jesuit priest is for nothing, that he isn’t good enough for God, the Holy Spirit speaks through the very creativity he gifted to Gerard … and so this powerful, agonising, electrifying poem can pierce our hearts.

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum; verumtamen justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.

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 hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd 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: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)



I work full time for the United Reformed Church in their education and learning office. I’m also a licensed lay preacher in the Church of England. I wrote a devotional for the anthology ‘Light for the Writer’s Soul’, published by Media Associates International, and my short story ‘Magnificat’ appears in the ACW Christmas Anthology ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’.

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