Bitter, I quickly gathered my camera and journal, shoveling them into my backpack and stretching the rain cover over my bag. I settled in, trying my best to get comfortable. I still remember the cool smell, and the misty fog that hung upon the air as the waves of rain came pouring down. I sat quietly, Indian style, on a concrete bench that ran along the outside of the school. I fidgeted with my hands in my lap, quickly rolling my thumbs over one another.
“What a waste of time,” I thought to myself.
I could hear laughing and the shuffling of feet in the dirt through the thin bamboo wall I leaned against. Slowly the women trickled out of the schoolhouse, one-by-one, until they too were all sitting on the bench alongside the wall. Again, silence. Nothing but the sound of rain, as it sharply dinged off the metal roof and smacked against the robust Ugandan canopy of tree leaves that floated above us.
To my right, I heard a slow and nourishing intake of breath, followed by an even more fulfilling exhale. To my left I heard the same. And again. And again. And again. Each exhale became just barely a hum of satisfaction.
I picked up my gaze from my hands and glanced at the women around me. Annette, Elizabeth, Esther, Hadijjah, Susan, Lofisa, Mary, Sarah, Ruth, Irene, Agnes, Grace: all smiling. Some with their eyes and others softly with their lips. I guided my eyes forward, curious at what brought them such bliss…
It was breathtaking, almost as if I were seeing rain for the first time, as it brought the picture in front of me to life. The way the sun, just past the clouds, shone through the raindrops and reflected off the wet leaves, leaving a mist of rainbow colors floating in the air.
It was heavenly.
It was then that it hit me, I had been in such a hurry for the rain to end that I never stopped to appreciate its beauty and its purpose.
I couldn't help but wonder, “why?”
Why was I in such a hurry for the rain to end? Why was I so inconvenienced by the rain? And better yet, why couldn't I admire the rain for all that it was doing?
Now, 4 years removed from living and working in Uganda, I still remember that rain and its symbolic meaning in my life.
As Americans, we live in a culture where we steer away from discomfort and turmoil. Metaphorically, we dodge the dark clouds and storms because we look at them as untimely disruptors in our bright and sunny lives. But in reality, rain is a part of this amazing world that God created. And no matter what we do, only He can start and stop the rain. So, what's my point? Well, I have a few.
To illustrate what I'm about to say, I'll use my own experiences as a roadmap.
In my own life I've survived many storms–some might even say hurricanes. My biological father left when I was very young, my brother was killed in a car accident when we were in high school, and I was brutally raped and beaten by a man who helped me change my flat tire.
Although I survived, I was in a state of complete wreckage.
I chose to look at these chapters in my life, these storms, with bitterness–the same way I looked at rain. That bitterness turned into anger towards Jesus, and ultimately myself. What followed each traumatic event was an even more devastating reaction as I retreated into a hole of self-deprecating thoughts and behaviors. I gave-in to eating disorders and battled with mental health conditions. Desperate not to feel the hurt, I numbed myself.
I was self-imploding.
At the age of 19, I ended up in a hospital with alcohol poisoning, where I flatlined and was brought back to life. But it didn't stop there. Three years later I found myself in a jail cell after a night of drunkenly assaulting two police officers. This is what I refer to now as my “concrete bottom.”
It was then that I realized if I continued on this path of resentment I was going to die in this storm. So I made a choice. I could either allow these broken chapters to become my whole life's story, or I could salvage this wreckage and use it for good.
I chose the later. Now, nearly eight years after hitting my concrete bottom, I'm a professional speaker dedicated to empowering audiences to find opportunity in their struggles rather than opposition. I also provide education on the topic of sexual assault prevention and recovery. In addition I'm the founder of Love Conquers Photography, a social enterprise dedicated to ending forced child marriage. And lastly, I'm a wellness coach, soon-to-be author, and a photojournalist for women's organizations in developing and conflict countries.
I use my story to demonstrate the beauty, growth and opportunity that come from our most severe storms.
I've learned that God has a purpose for all rain. I mean, all we have to do is revisit Genesis to see that. I've also learned that we have to trust and live by faith that He will work every storm out for the good. But before we get there, we have to be open and willing to appreciate the rain.
Looking back now, I can see that God allowed me to experience storms in certain areas of my life because that's where He had intended purpose for me to bear fruit.
He states in Leviticus 26:4 “I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit.”
You see, God's intended purpose for these seasons of rain is growth, for what you don't water won't grow. He aims to see growth within ourselves so that we can be a gift to others.
Once we see that rain brings us opportunities to love and walk with others in the same storms we experienced, we can be grateful for its existence in our lives.
I think ultimately, that's what my dear friends in Uganda knew all along. That although they faced some of greatest struggles imaginable, and although their storms were harsher than most, they still made the choice to be grateful for each season.
What rain or storms in your life are you running from?
In what ways can you find growth through your suffering?
How can you walk with others who have experienced similar pain?
Written By: Brittany Piper