I stood there, staring out a window from the quiet safety of my home. I watched the destructive chaos swirling just on the other side of that thin pane of glass separating myself from the ‘outside’ world. The wind fiercely tossed our trees to and fro with frightening ease. Rain and hail pounded away at the delicate flowers trying desperately to stand upright against this force. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled, shaking the glass in front of me as if an explosion had just rocked the neighborhood. Repeatedly, the lightning startled me – it was so very close and most certainly stretching downward for something to touch and connect with. There in the safety of my doorway, I gazed at the raw strength and fury of God’s creation unleashed.
An hour later, I drove down streets literally coated in leaves and partially blocked by downed trees. The nearby river had swelled beyond its banks engulfing yards, streets, and parking lots. The resulting destruction was clearly on display, even as the sun gently peeked out from behind menacing clouds to exhibit its rays. Meanwhile, a rainbow also appeared, stretching like a glorious painting across the canvass of a now brightening sky. Birds sang, cautiously giving the all clear signal while anxiously awaiting the sounds of other voices within their community. Some squirrels and birds were already assessing nests lost to tree damage and destruction. Some trees stood, now as only a portion of what they had previously been as a whole. In just a few stormy minutes, the landscape of the world around us had been drastically altered.
I have learned in ministry that the storms and chaos flowing in and out of our lives leave an indelible mark upon us. Sometimes I am left standing in the middle of the storm myself, being blown around by swirling winds and pelted by torrential downpours as all my efforts at control must be abandoned for simple survival mode. Other times I am allotted a chance to simply observe what is unfolding – even if from an admittedly very thin distance. I have even held the hand of a stranger after a storm has destroyed all they have ever known and worked for, or after one of the storms of life has torn their heart to pieces. In those moments, an unspoken unity and love shines its rays into unspeakable pain and darkness. In all these situations, I find myself forever changed by the encounter and left in awe of both the glorious power of nature, and the infinite fragility of life, in God’s creation. I pray never to lose the amazement I experience in the beauty of a rainbow. I pray never to lose the bewilderment I feel as I watch all the forces of our atmosphere loosed and free. I pray never to lose the emotion I feel as I hold the hand of a brother or sister in times of anxiety or immeasurable sadness. I pray that in all storms and in all silences and in all joy – I will always have the ability to feel that moment to its fullest regardless of its outcome. For I know that this is God’s world, and I am simply blessed to be afforded a place to stand, look around, and soak it all in. Thanks be to God! Amen.
-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)