There’s almost nothing like the smell of rain. As the first water droplets hit the parched ground, the air is filled with an earthy fragrance.
The scent that permeates the air has a name: petrichor. Petrichor is the combination of oils exuded by different plants and of geosmin, the metabolic by-product of certain types of bacteria living in the soil. (Geosmin literally means “earth-smell.”) When raindrops fall on the ground, the geosmin and plant oils are released into the air, conjuring that pleasant aroma.
I look forward to the first thunderstorm of the season so I can once again experience its aroma—and be filled with the sense of possibility it evokes.
If hope had a smell, it would be petrichor.
When I smell rain for the first time in spring, I am filled with hope—expectant hope of the year to come and the blessings that will follow. Winter has lost its icy grip and the dry season is over. With the end of the fallow season, it is time for the farmer to prepare the soil bed and sow new seeds. A farmer who sows nothing will have nothing but a field of weeds, so we plant seeds each spring without fail, not knowing what the season may bring. Will there be drought? Will there be hail?
We plant crops with the hope and faith that God will ensure that enough rain will fall and that the harvest will be bountiful. We take heart in the words of Isaiah 30:23 (NIV): “He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful.”
As churches, we should be sowing seeds in our communities in the faith and hope that God will send the rain that will allow those seeds to germinate and grow with vigor. Who knows what words we say or what activities we do will reach someone who is thirsty and in need of drink? What chance encounter could lead to something more, if only given enough water to sprout?
The next time it rains, take a deep whiff of the hopeful scent. Ask yourself: Can you “smell rain” in your church or community of believers? Do you smell hope? Have you prepared the soil? Are you planting seeds?
Lee Moltzahn is an agrologist and a deacon at Monarch Reformed Church in Monarch, Alberta.