The Real Thing
In his book, Front Porch Tales, Philip Gulley tells a story about his mother-in-law Ruby. She stayed on the farm after her husband died. One day Gulley was visiting with her and she called him to the window. “Listen to that,” she said. He listened and
heard a bird give five short “whooo’s.” “What is it?” he asked. “A rain crow,” she said. “You hear them before a big rain. I’ve never seen one, but I’ve heard them plenty of times.”
That was news to Gulley, but he wasn’t about to argue with Ruby. If she says there are birds that call out five “whooo’s” before a big rain, birds she’s never laid eyes on, then that’s okay with him. It rained two hours later.
Gulley then relates this story to John’s account of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance involving Thomas. You know, the one where Thomas hears that Jesus first appeared to the disciples when he wasn’t around. And Thomas said that’s a nice story but I will have to see Jesus for myself in order to believe. Then Jesus appeared a week later before Thomas and showed him his wounds and said, “Have you believed because you have seen me?” Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Gulley believes that John told this story to reassure the early Christians that you can believe in something you’ve never seen. Just as Ruby believes in those rain crows she has never seen. We live in a visual society, so seeing things are importance to us. But when it comes to the presence of God, Christ, and the Spirit, these are things we do not see. But when we feel them and experience them they are indeed real to us. Gulley ends his essay with these words, “Sometimes the most real things are things we cannot see.” So yes, our faith is real, our encounters with God are real, our conversations with Christ are real, our movements with the Holy Spirit are real. And even though we cannot see such things, they are indeed the real thing. So the next time it rains, there is a good chance that a rain crow somewhere sang its song, even if no one saw it.