Lord, when you send the rain think about it, please, a little? Do not get carried away by the sound of falling water, the marvelous light on the falling water. I am beneath that water. It falls with great force and the light Blinds me to the light. ~James Baldwin, “Untitled” from Jimmy’s Blues
The good Lord sends what He knows we need even if we don’t know we need it. Then we’re puzzled and not just a little perturbed, especially when it doesn’t fit our plans, our timeline, our desires, our hopes and dreams.
Anyone ask for this year’s chaos and grief? Can I see a show of hands?
No one I know sent up prayers for a viral scourge to sicken 40 million and kill over a one million in a matter of months, or for ever-widening political divides and disagreements, or increasing distrust and less cooperation between nuclear powers, or devastating unemployment and economic hardship, or triggers for riots in the streets, or being unable to visit my 100 year old aunt in her long term care facility.
Maybe, just maybe, we are too blinded by the force of this deluge pounding and battering us to acknowledge the nearly-drowned soaking we bring upon ourselves.
Maybe, just maybe, the Lord thinks a bit about what He sends, just as He has done before and has ever promised to do: a Light in the midst of the storm, that Marvelous Light, if only we would open our eyes enough to see it.
God put the rainbow in the clouds, not just in the sky…. It is wise to realize we already have rainbows in our clouds, or we wouldn’t be here. If the rainbow is in the clouds, then in the worst of times, there is the possibility of seeing hope…. We can say, ‘I can be a rainbow in the clouds for someone yet to be.’ That may be our calling. ~Maya Angelou (Harrisburg Forum, November 30, 2001)
Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray. ~Lord Byron
Painting the indescribable with words necessitates subtlety, sound and rhythm. The best word color portraits I know are by Gerard Manley Hopkins who described what he saw using startling combinations: “crimson-cresseted”, “couple-colour”, “rose-moles”, “fresh-firecoal”, “adazzle, dim”, “dapple-dawn-drawn”, “blue-bleak embers”, “gash gold-vermillion”.
My facility with words doesn’t measure up so I rely on pictures to show the hope I see when I look at the sky. I keep reaching for the rainbow hiding within the clouds, searching for the prophetic promise that preserves my days and nights forever.
After all, in the beginning was the Word, and no one says it better than He does.
Still and calm, In purple robes of kings, The low-lying mountains sleep at the edge of the world. The forests cover them like mantles; Day and night Rise and fall over them like the wash of waves. Asleep, they reign. Silent, they say all. Hush me, O slumbering mountains – Send me dreams. ~Harriet Monroe “The Blue Ridge”
I live where the surrounding hills circle like wagons, strong shoulders promising protection, lying steadfast day after day, while the palette of sky changes with the season.
These are friends in whose shadows I sleep; they will be here long after I take my rest, but I will remember, even in my dreams, I will long remember how light emerges hopeful over the crest at the breaking of dawn.
Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, beneath our religion or lack of it, we are all vulnerable both to the storm without and to the storm within. ~Frederick Buechner – from Telling the Truth
This past month’s storms have been tumultuous on the outside: heavy winds toppling a large tree into our friends’ bed room at midnight narrowing missing the bed in which they slept, unexpected regional snowfall, torrential showers, dark threatening clouds on the horizon.
Yet March’s storms are not limited to just the weather: hundreds of thousands of people sickened by a virus that can kill within days or simply be spread by unwitting asymptomatic people, businesses shut down, hospitals and clinics overwhelmed, hoarding behavior resulting in shortages of products addressing basic needs.
And storms inside my cranium: at times I feel fearful for myself and my extended family living far away, my words fly out too quickly, my anxiety mixes with frustration, my tears spill too easily, I am immobilized by limitations on where I can go and who I can visit.
This past month and the months to come may well be filled with continued hardship, but I won’t blame the calendar for what has happened. I am not so easily excused from responsibility. I end up lying awake at night with regrets, wondering if I should be doing more than just telemedicine from home, yet wanting to hide myself and my M.D. degree under a rock until this unending storm blows over.
While the storm rages on, a miracle of grace is happening in many places: generous people are making a difference in small and large ways all around the world. Some take enormous personal risks to take care of strangers and loved ones. Some work endless hours and when they come home, they remain isolated to avoid contaminating their families.
Such grace only happens when the storm is confronted head on by the brilliant light of sacrifice, when the heaviest most threatening clouds begin to weep from illumination that creates a rainbow dropped from heaven.
So we know God cries too. His wept tears light the sky in a promise of salvation. He assures us of this because He won’t leave us in the darkness: His Light will prevail and this storm too shall pass.
God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us where we are. ~Tim Keller
In Summer, in a burst of summertime Following falls and falls of rain, When the air was sweet-and-sour of the flown fineflower of Those goldnails and their gaylinks that hang along a lime; ~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Cheery Beggar”
Open the window, and let the air Freshly blow upon face and hair, And fill the room, as it fills the night, With the breath of the rain’s sweet might.
Nought will I have, not a window-pane, ‘Twixt me and the air and the great good rain, Which ever shall sing me sharp lullabies; And God’s own darkness shall close mine eyes; And I will sleep, with all things blest, In the pure earth-shadow of natural rest. ~James Henry Leigh Hunt from “A Night-Rain in Summer”
Sweet and sour extends far beyond a Chinese menu; it is the daily air I breathe.
I am but a cheery beggar in this summer world, hanging tight to the sweetness of each glorious moment yet knowing it cannot last:
the startling twilight gold of a July rain, the intense green of thirsty fields, a rainbow suspended in misty haze, the clouds racing to win the day’s finish line.
But as beggars aren’t choosers, sweet rain ruins hay harvest and berries turn to mold on the vine.
The sky stooping to kiss the earth may bring mud and flood.
I breathe deeply now of petrichor: the scent of raindrops falling on dry land as if I could wear it like perfume on those sour days of drought.
What follows the light is what precedes it: the moment of balance, of dark equivalence.
But tonight we sit in the garden in our canvas chairs so late into the evening – why should we look either forward or backwards? Why should we be forced to remember: it is in our blood, this knowledge. Shortness of the days; darkness, coldness of winter. It is in our blood and bones; it is in our history. It takes a genius to forget these things. ~Louise Glück from “Solstice”
Today we stand, wavering, on a cusp of light and shadow~ this knowledge of what’s to come rests deep in our bones.
We’ve been here before, bidding the sun to return.
We can not forget, as darkness begins to claim our days again.
We remember, He promised to never let darkness overwhelm us again.
Guarded within the old red wall’s embrace, Marshaled like soldiers in gay company, The tulips stand arrayed. Here infantry Wheels out into the sunlight. What bold grace Sets off their tunics, white with crimson lace! Here are platoons of gold-frocked cavalry With scarlet sabres tossing in the eye Of purple batteries, every gun in place. Forward they come, with flaunting colors spread, With torches burning, stepping out in time To some quick, unheard march. Our ears are dead, We cannot catch the tune. In pantomime Parades that army. With our utmost powers We hear the wind stream through a bed of flowers. ~Amy Lowell – 1914 “A Tulip Garden”
April ignites an explosion: Dazzling retinal hues Singed, crying Grateful tears for such as this Array of floral arms- A rainbow on Earth
Transient, incandescent Brilliance hoped for. Remembered in dreams, Promises realized, Housed in crystal before shattering.
Night is drawing nigh. How long the road is. But, for all the time the journey has taken, how you have needed every second of it. ~Dag Hammarskjöld
It is easy to be grateful for the pretty times of life: those picture-perfect moments that end up on Christmas photo-cards and in detailed descriptions in holiday newsletters. What we want others to see and what we wish to remember does not always reflect the experiences of the whole journey. We are naturally programmed to concentrate on “The Best of…” rather than surveying the whole shebang, warts and all.
It isn’t all glorious sunsets, rainbows and happy endings. We don’t usually take pictures of the potholes, or celebrate the obstacles and flat tires along the way. It is rare to acknowledge and honor the failing grade, the chronic illness, the rocky relationship, the mortifying mistake, the tragic accident.
Yet it is all a part of the journey, every second of it, even the moments we try hard to forget are worthy of our appreciation. Even the difficult times move us a little closer to our destination, perhaps looking bruised and scraped, still making our way slowly, shakily yet surely.