The Smell of the Earth After Rain

-Bethani Thomas, Opinions Editor

I can look back on my life and specifically remember the hard cries I’ve had—hard cries meaning sobs that shook me and choked me. Some date back to years ago, others fairly recent; but each time I’ve cried so heavily I remember the refreshing breath of air inhaled and exhaled slowly, as a release, once it was over. I vividly recall the feeling of a physical weight being lifted from my back as my body resumed its rhythmic constant of in… out… in… out…

One of my favorite words is petrichor, meaning the familiar scent that arises from the ground after a long hard rain. The use of the word “ground” here in my definition should awake a slight confusion as to what kind of ground. There are two types of ground that come to mind when I think of rain and this unique scent that follows—soil and pavement. Both of these respond in almost polar fashion to water being poured upon them.

Soil immediately absorbs the water and disperses it to the roots of flowers and trees, as well as to the depths of underground caverns that create natural springs from which some of the purest water in the world is found. It also gives back to the atmosphere every morning with tiny droplets that are evaporated back to whence it came.

Pavement, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. It is a mixture of hot tar and gravel and is made to repel water instead of absorb it. The pavement steams and fumes as it rejects the water and blocks it from reaching the ground beneath. It also becomes slick and dangerous for those who tread on its surface. It smells like sulfur, dust, and trash.

But after the rain has hit the soil, all that it touches flourishes and emits a raw earthy fragrance that smells a little bit like dirt, but even more like growth and new beginnings.

Petrichor is the smell of growth. Every time I cry hard, I take a breath to remind myself of the process we, as Christians, all love, and hate: growth. I remind myself that God is doing a work in my life, and sometimes, if not most of the time (2 Timothy 3:12) it’s going to be hard.

Torments come to us no matter what we do, and we have the option of how we will respond to them. Our heart’s surface will fall into one of two categories: receptive or rejecting. We can absorb the benefits of the rain, no matter how damaging it feels at the time, and allow it to sink in and nourish our souls to produce beauty and development, or we can remain as hard as stale, stinky pavement, fuming and steaming when the rain touches our calloused shell.

In Genesis 8 the flood begins to dry after Noah and his family had been rained on for 40 long days. The Word says in verse one, “But God remembered Noah… and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth.” As soon as they stepped onto the precious dry land, Noah made a sacrifice to the Lord, thanking him for the restoration of his family to the earth. The Lord smelled the aroma of his sacrifice and he was pleased (vs. 21).

The petrichor of our lives is pleasing to God. He sends the rain, and when we open up to accept the waters, it will not be in vain. He rewards us with growth and an outpouring from our lives of pure water that reflects a heart of purity, cleansed by the flood.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Acts 3:19


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