It was about time. This morning, with little warning beside the amber-hues of doppler graphics on the local news, the clouds erupted in a chorus of water and growls, as if in the pains of labor and giving birth right over our heads.
How about that for a mental image?
I watched the rain come down, the clouds sprint south and east, the lightning rapidly appear and hide again, and of course the rolling thunder that my daughter called "a rock rolling."
There are lessons that storms can teach us, mainly because when we describe our own journey we often refer to difficult times as "storms." Times when we are in chaos. Times when there is all of the labor and none of the birth. Times when we sit unable to move, alerted to powers beyond us in ways that are tangible and stark.
Here are just a few musings on storms that I pray give some light to your story today.
1. Storms bring rain. At least the good ones do. Regardless of your opinion on the wet stuff, it is essential for life. The greens and blooms that we enjoy are starving for the water that comes from the storm. In the storms of life, the water that comes has it's own unique character: it is the water of faith, of trust, of renewal. When the storms of life bring rain, we can incline our heads like children and stick out our tongues, and even if in protest we'll come to know what it's like to live in a "dry and parched land where there is no water."
2. Winds clear out the dead branches. Even though there are storms strong enough to tear off healthy, vibrant branches (this is an entirely different blog post for another time) most strong storms will tear out the dead or weak pieces of a tree. It is the natural method of pruning - maybe even the divine method of pruning. The storms we face in life typically have the power to root out attitudes, habits, and priorities that are out of line with God and would be unmoved without the force of the storm. Granted, God didn't send the storm but instead works with the winds already blowing to shape us and make us into those who He desires us to be. As the divine vinedresser, He knows how to trim and prune so that we have brilliant, life giving fruit (see John 15) emerging from our lives.
3. The force reminds us... There are few storms that you can watch and NOT come away with the understanding that there are powers beyond comprehension at work in our world. The brilliant terror of the dark-colored clouds, the sweet cutting edge of high winds, and the beauty of a torrential downpour call out "You are not the pinnacle. You are witnessing that which is out of your pay grade, my friend." There is comfort there. At the end of the book of Job, a destructive storm of a book, Job gets an audience with God Himself in which God firmly and clearly indicates that "I am God, and you are not." Job's response is classic:
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know...My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. (Job 42:4a, 5)
If you are in a storm now, or have recently passed through, know that the God who waters and prunes and reminds is gentle and redemptive. He is the God who draws us to peaceful places, like sheep to green grass who stuff their wooly innards so full that they lay down right in the middle of a perfectly good lunch (Ps. 23).
The storm will pass. The clouds will clear. And you will have been in the clear and brilliant care of God, though perhaps unknowingly.