I have lived in Texas every summer of my life. Sometimes, I am sure this is purgatory on earth, or at least a forewarning of how much hotter it will be in hell. (A statement pointed enough to suffice for an entire homily for Aggie Catholics a couple summers ago!) Other times, I think this must be God’s way of convincing me to move somewhere else… a place where they enjoy all four seasons, and summer doesn’t drag on forever. Lately, though, I’ve found myself being thankful for the summer and the sun, for more reasons than long days, swimming pools, and not-pasty skin.
It’s surprisingly easy to get acclimated to the heat if you’re outside enough. Even after working at a summer camp the past two years, I’m shocked to hear myself admit that it’s not as bad when you get used to it—I literally wore my hair in a ponytail every day until the seventh grade because I was always so miserably hot if I wore it down. I have never claimed to be someone who loves summer… I am far more of a cold weather person, and I know it. So, when I was looking at the weather this weekend, and realized that it wasn’t supposed to get above 90 degrees here next week, I was thrilled. Until I got nervous.
I think I learned to love the heat this summer. It was 110 degrees, I was sweating in places I didn’t know I could sweat, and I was loving it. I know, I sound like a crazy person. I got used to it and comfortable in it, even as uncomfortable as it usually was. Now that I’m back to the “real life” of living inside, I get cabin fever really easily. I miss feeling the sun on my skin, and I miss that almost-stifling warmth of summer heat radiating off the ground. I miss smelling the rain before it arrived and watching the dawn creep up over the trees. Living in it made me love it!
There is one thing I don’t have to miss. Even if I’m only outside for a few minutes, there is always that feeling of being totally enveloped in heat. As I was praying in the adoration chapel last week, I asked God to reveal Himself to me in the simple things in my life. (I’m convinced that if we increase our awareness of His presence, we automatically increase our awareness of our call to holiness. But that’s for another post!) The thought that kept returning to me was about the heat and how God wants me to know Him through it. So I started thinking…
I thought about supernatural graces, how they are poured on us with abundance. I imagined “entering into” the joy of heaven and how we must become part of it, rather than it become part of us. If we were to try to take in that joy, it would burst with force from us—our capacity will never be enough to take it all in! I meditated on what it means to be wrapped in Mary’s mantle, enveloped in her arms. My heart skipped to think of how we are covered with the Spirit and experience a feeling of such total immersion at times. Finally, I considered how God’s presence surrounds us, despite our awareness or feelings.
I have been struggling with spiritual dryness lately, and I think we are quick to label ourselves “in the desert” and far away from God. We imagine that we have somehow put ourselves far from the Spirit; that we don’t feel near the River of Life that comes from Him. We become more irritated and discontent as we trudge along, our hearts feeling as if they are hardening in the blazing sun. Sometimes, I become convinced that the desert will be forever, and I forget to hope for a change in season.
God’s simple reminder and reassurance to me this past week is that He is the warmth. And while it is likely that we will walk in our own deserts, it isn’t much different from a hot summer afternoon. The warmth envelops us, and the heat consumes us. We breathe it in and out; we cannot escape it because it sustains us. Our journey may take us through areas we would rather not travel, and we will struggle with our discomfort and despair. But He is with us. Not only with us, but He is the heat that radiates all around.
On hot days, we are grateful for the wind. I remember afternoons at camp, saying aloud, “Praise God for the breeze!” Even if it does nothing to cool the temperature, it stirs the air and rustles the stillness. Even if we aren’t looking for it, we are grateful as it passes through. And even in the desert, the wind still blows. Similarly, the Spirit will move in our lives. He will move, rustle the stillness, and inspire us—sometimes bringing us relief in the desert. If we want to appreciate Him fully, we have to be waiting for the wind and grateful for its arrival, seizing the immediate opportunity to give thanks.
God’s presence may always be a mystery to us. We might be in the desert, we might be unable to feel anything, and we might wonder why He won’t reveal Himself to us. The truth is that He makes it perfectly clear: we are constantly in the presence of a God whose love radiates and envelops us like the heat we can seek, feel, and embrace.