Late one evening, not long ago, it began to rain. I thought nothing of it until the next morning when I opened the front door to let the dogs out. What I saw caused me to stumble backwards.
The tiny river and adjoining stream that run through our front pastures had flooded and the muddy waters were edging close. For an hour, I watched as the river rose visibly before my eyes. In my head, I heard the plaintive, rustic plea of Johnny Cash recalling a childhood flood in Arkansas.
“How high’s the water, Mama?” he sang.
“Five feet high and risin’.”
I did not wake Tink. There was nothing he could do and if trouble was coming, I figured we’d deal with that later. For the time being, I’d let him get his rest.
Our house is on a hill so I wasn’t worried about it reaching us — though the stream washed over the driveway and reached a foot high — but I fretted about Mama’s house across the way. Anxiously, I watched as it rose. In the back pasture, the horses huddled at the barn, uncertain of the water that was covering their land.
I prayed. Because I believe in its power.
In that little house across the way, I grew up. Occasionally, I had witnessed the creek “get outta banks,” as we called it. It happened after days of relentless rain, not overnight as this had happened. A few times, it had risen to about 25 yards from the house. This time, I did not know what to predict.
I pulled on a raincoat, hat, and knee-high waterproof boots and headed down the drive where I found a couple of beavers paddling around in the midst of our driveway. I sighed heavily and looked over into the distance toward my childhood home. I could not recall a time when either Mama or Daddy had worried that the waters might reach them. They turned it over to the Lord and rested in that assurance.
There was a calm I found in recalling their peace. “Consider the lilies, how they neither toil nor spin,” makes me think always of how effortlessly they trusted a higher power. It would never have occurred to them to worry as I was doing on that gray, overcast day. My discomfort grew when I learned that eight miles away, another creek had flooded my brother-in-law’s barn and they were scampering to save a hard summer’s labor of hay.
Daddy faithfully quoted the scripture that promises, “The angels of the Lord encampeth around them that feareth God.” After Daddy died, whenever someone asked Mama if she was afraid to live there alone, she’d reply, “Not one iota. Ralph always said that angels are camped around and I believe they are protectin’ me.”
It is necessary to point out that I had not recalled this belief of my parents because I was too busy being carnal and worrying. For that reason, I can tell you that I had not planted that thought in my head when I looked back toward the little house and saw — in the flash of a second — three or four mighty, large angels lined up at the back of the house. Only then did it come to mind, the confidence of Daddy’s and Mama’s words promising heavenly protection.
Relief encompassed me and I knew that little house would be all right. Not because of my prayers but of the ones they had prayed.
It was amazing. The water menacingly rose toward us but spilled sparingly from the other bank. The little house was never in danger.
A few hours later, the rain stopped and the water began its retreat. Relieved, I went into the laundry room of the house, safe on the hill, and discovered that the washing machine had flooded.
God, it appears, has quite a sense of humor.