It had been a fabulous fourth so far. I woke early Monday and went for a good run on my town's pretty waterfront path. Added perk: The 4th of July parade floats were lining up, so I got a sneak peek.
Wrapping up my run, I staked my claim to a prime viewing spot with a chair next to a Vietnam vet and his lifelong wife. I then met a friend for coffee at a second-story, open-air cafe overlooking the parade route. Afterward, I took my seat and enjoyed the parade for an hour, solo, since my boys don't much like parades and were with their dad anyhow.
I got home in time for a meaningful 11:30am call with a West Coast friend. As we hung up, my boys came over for lunch, then I headed to the pool, the boys bringing up the rear with a posse of teenage buddies. I chatted with a few neighbors, talked to friends on the phone, and read poolside for hours, enjoying the boys horsing, having a blast.
The day so far had been the paragon of perfection, my heart was brimming. Without my usual hurried micromanagement, everything went smoothly, satisfying encounters, and loads of effortless fun and joy. (Imagine! Maybe the earth can orbit without my help!) I was looking forward to the night ahead. My neighbor friend and I had plans at 6:30pm to ride our bikes to the waterfront for our town's spectacular fireworks, stopping at a popular deli along the way to grab to-go dinner. We'd park our bikes at the library and enjoy the show.
All day long the sky had been a cerulean blue with giant puffy cumulous clouds, appetizingly dense enough to eat with a spoon. But this is Florida and it's hurricane season. Late afternoon promises showers most days, but they normally pass and quickly too. About 4:30, the pretty, puffy clouds started churning and suddenly morphed into a menacing dark mass. Poolside, my phone chirped storm and lightning warnings. I rounded the boys up to head home from the pool, expecting the storm to pass quickly.
We got home as it started spitting as the first distant booms of thunder sounded their warning. Unfazed, I toted the big kids to Wal-Mart to get their festive fourth gear, loads of laughs.
As we got home the thunderous booms got louder, the sky now seamlessly dark. My phone chirped more warnings. The teenagers were making plans, negotiating rides, rendezvous, and sleepovers. Still more warnings, my 6:30 scheduled departure time coming and going. Now there were weather service alerts, detailed summaries of the hours ahead; wind, rain; lightening, more lightening. The predicted ending was being pushed back later and later into the evening with each passing update. I studied the radar on my weather app--obligatory skills for Floridians--another menacing mass was just northeast, bullseye on us.
The booming outside grew impossibly loud. Shake the rafters and intestines loud. The crashing noise finally gave way to the crazy rain one only finds in Florida and other tropical locales. Sheets and sheets of water. The kind of rain that prompts immediate flooding. Unlike our usual summer showers, this wasn't abating. Not looking good for fireworks, much less bike rides.
I wasn't giving up just yet, even as the hours ticked by. I swapped texts with my buddy about contingency plans. Maybe Uber to town if it cleared late? Maybe settle at home for a patriotic movie and whip up a little pasta? Maybe lie on the sofa and read for an hour? I was mostly OK with any of it, though my hopes had been high.
Moments before 8, the sky cleared. My friend texted, "Wanna go?" The boys' ride arrived just as I hopped on my bike, beach chair on my back.
We still had time to pick up sandwiches at the deli. I went inside to order while my friend secured the bikes, stepping back out to wait.
"Look!" my friend cried pointing as I emerged. Up above was a spectacular double rainbow.
The rest of the evening was lovely. We weaved through our quaint town, dodging cars and pedestrians streaming toward the waterfront. We parked at our sweet library and made our way to the beautiful expanse, festive and slightly less crowded, thanks to the storm. The sky was beautiful and bright. The fireworks spectacular. The ride home effortless and fun.
The storm had come up suddenly, even though the skies had been clear and blue. It had been much worse than usual, very threatening. It lasted longer than expected. The radar and weather alerts were dire, predicting persistent storms and indefinitely. And just as suddenly as the forecast turned dark, bright skies emerged and we were back on track, even better than before, with scaled back crowds and a breeze.
Sometimes life can be going swimmingly, and we have that sense of being in the flow-- effortless, energizing, encouraging. All the lights are green and the weather is fine.
We feel hopeful, comforted by the serendipity. This is especially true if life has been hard and we've persevered through thick and thin. We hope that maybe, finally, the tide has turned in our favor.
Maybe we had a vision that's coming into focus, our destination finally in sight.
It all seems to come to an abrupt halt. We run into a giant storm, what seems like an insurmountable obstacle, or one of those dastardly detours that appears to totally derail the plan. Your plan.
At first, we remain hopeful, confident we'll get through it. Maybe we can even chillax in the midst of the uncertainty. Until it goes on too long…by our standards.
Maybe we start looking for answers or having been to this rodeo before, we may have the wisdom to slow down, pray, and wait, more or less comfortably. Sometimes even this goes on too darn long. Then we start to get discouraged, so discouraged we eventually give up. Or maybe if we're more faith-filled, we get to acceptance, course correct, and embrace plan B.
That's a lot of maybes. A lot of uncertainty, which is just the very worst really.
Sometimes, in the midst of the storm, just as we've given up all hope or once all hope is done gone, God sends us a rainbow or even a double rainbow to urge us onward in trust that it's all going to be ok.
Noah’s rainbow was a sign we’d never drown by punishment again. Maybe a double rainbow is even more auspicious.
A quick Google search yielded this encouraging double-rainbow interpretation: "your journey is going to transform, and you are in the process, too."
I want to say hold on for the storm to pass, for the breakthrough, for the rainbow that transforms our circumstances or more typically, us. Hold on as you gnash teeth or pace waiting for the world to settle down, for that problem to be solved, for that promise to be fulfilled, for that storm to pass.
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, who doesn't require outstanding strategizing or performance or perfect timing or perfect faith or perfect weather. In fact, He shows up in the worst of the storm, when we're giving up, or making new plans resigned to plan b, or crying out for relief.
Jesus is serenely resting in the midst of the unexpected squall, present and available. When we cry out, "Don't you care if we drown?" as the disciples did in Mark 4:35-41, He quiets the storm with words and delivers us safely to our destination.
I love, love, love That Jesus was the one to suggest a boat ride in the first place. (Selah.)
He is both Grace Himself and gracious toward us, in the storm and safe on dry land or in heaven.
Or at waterfront fireworks.
Grace, peace, joy & love in Christ,