Today I went for a walk in the rain. I looked outside early on when the storm was brewing up, and the rain just called out to me. I used to have to walk in the rain and I didn’t like it much. Then, I was slogging a shoulder pouch full of newspapers and if they got wet people would complain. The rain was a complication to the need of getting something done. Still, there was something magical about watching a storm come up, happen, and then disperse. Watching it in solitude can do something to your soul.
This happened on a camping trip once. A friend and I were in a canoe on a lake, when a storm blew up. Being on open water in an electrical storm is not highly advised. We had not made camp yet so we had to beeline in to shore and make for some high ground. We hastily put up a tarp and perched the tent on a cliff overlooking the waters down below. By the time we pitched the tent, the rain was coming straight down in sheets and buckets.
Here is where a camera never really catches things. The electrical storm was legendary. We watched the free show as if from corporate box seats. Seeing all of this in open nature without the mediating effects of street lights and civilization, was awe inspiring and beautiful. It reminded us how fierce nature can be.
When I lived in Calgary, the particular geography of that place pretty much guarantees a storm every day. The mountains trap the belts of hot or cold air, and a storm just bounces back to Calgary not far away. It seems to happen every day around five o’clock so if you are smart you won’t be golfing or playing tennis then.
Jesus talked about the sky a lot. He talked about the state of the world in terms of storms, the red sky at night, and all other such things we already know about. Jesus also told us to WATCH the skies because the sky tells you things. Being aware of the weather, is being basically aware of the state of the world, where things are going, and where things are like to end up. I think Jesus was suggesting that you didn’t have to be a genius to figure out some basics about good and evil, and that you should watch for it.
It’s no surprise then, that the big weather event of the Bible is that story that everybody knows: Noah’s Ark. Noah was that guy who became the object of ridicule when he went against the flow of popular culture. Noah resisted the happy insistence of all his neighbours that the party would go on forever and there would never, never be any blowback. What happened to Noah reminds us that following God’s advice will always make us stand out as the idiot in a group.
It’s a pretty apocalyptic story. It suggests that changes in the weather can also be life-altering, and world-changing. Extreme weather can have you wake up knee-deep in a mess, trying to tie down your floating couch. Still, the other side of the story is the persistence of the rainbow and that is also what I saw out walking today. As much as the storm looked fierce, it also burst into a bright rainbow once it had blown out its fury. The rainbow talks of a passionate God who really hates evil because of what it does to the human soul, but in the end is willing to give us a second chance. The rainbow is the assurance that no matter the circumstances God will never again destroy the whole world. The story of Noah, is an early image of the Good News. God would provide a solution down the road, in the form of a Cross and a Saviour who would take on our sins and give us a leg up. The rainbow is the promise of a fresh start.
It just occurred to me that I have become the cliché. I am the guy in the ad who says I like to walk in the rain, which means that somebody else out there must find the idea romantic. What’s romantic to me, is that buried in a rainstorm is the story of God, Mankind, and forgiveness all rolled into one. Reinhold Niebuhr noted that true justice demands you will pay. Forgiveness on the other hand, is a romantic idea because it is a suspension of reality. Forgiveness is also a pretty sight, set against the sound of falling raindrops.