When I got in the car to drive home I saw lightning in the distance. As I drove home on the interstate, the northwest sky was a deep purple. Without warning a giant, white ribbon of light ripped across the sky-tearing it all the way to the horizon.
Normally these flashes are quick and seem to dance all over the sky, so fast you can’t always dart your eyes quick enough to catch a glimpse. But tonight, these ribbons were cut differently. They lingered in the sky for moments, almost begging to be stared at. And as they flashed, they didn’t continue ripping from one end to the next, they simply glowed. The sky behind the light almost moved as the black and blue faded into deeper purples with every pierce and flash. Over and over again in what seemed like the same position–these ribbons appeared. Not signaling an on-coming storm, but almost to simply get my attention.
So I studied every flash of ribbon as best I could–without driving off the road. I turned down my radio and tried to listen for thunder. At first, I heard nothing but a few rain drops and I turned the song back up. No sooner had the chorus played when the ribbon ripped the sky again–this time with a massive crack shortly followed by the roar of a lion, or the sound of a stampede, and avalanche, or waves piling in on a boat at sea.
My eyes were glued to the northwest horizon. I was driving north but I never seemed to get closer to the light, but the sound continued to grow. By the time I entered town the stampede was roaring and cracking so loudly my car rumbled a bit and I thought the sound was hovering directly above me. It scared me. Honestly, I jumped a bit even though I was belted to my car.
Like most children I used to be terrified of thunder. Within seconds of a massive crash I was out of my bed, down the stairs, and into Mom & Dad’s room, where usually, they’d let me sleep on the floor until the storm was over. Ironically, my room was on the northwest side of the house–and to this day I will swear the thunder is loudest in my room.
Remembering other thunder storms I endured as a child away from home, I recall being comforted with odd sayings such as, “God’s going bowling and Jesus just got a strike!” or, “There’s a 3-leg race in heaven…” or something to that effect. When I finally learned that thunder was notin fact the Almighty being one-uped by the second member of the Trinity, I was quite puzzled and disappointed. Were those sayings really supposed to comfort me? Because they didn’t. So when I found out the other side of the truth I struggled with what to do with my old way of thinking.
Why do we cover up for God? Why do we write off and seek answers that will quiet the questions and quickly/simply calm and comfort?
Thunder is a massive and mighty act of nature that is truly a wonder to behold and be moved by. Standing outside near trees (although not the smartest idea) is absolutely awesome. The entire tree is shaken during the sound of light, heat, and air combined. From the rustling leaves, swaying branches, down to the rumbling stump and roots–the tree is at the mercy of the sound.
In our search to define the Almighty in easy to understand terms we often overlook or completely ignore the character of power, might, and magnitude that the Triune possesses. What’s worse is we cover up these characteristics-and if and when the day comes our children are able to see the other side of the truth-what will they do-what will we do when exposed?
Do we go back to the stories, accepting that no, they are not completely accurate, but do a good job. How much more difficult is it to stand in the open air be shaken by the roaring of the hand and voice that has been given to nature? How terrifying to stand and tremble and move as we are moved, to express our fear and awe, and complete amazement at what we behold? How difficult to embrace and accept the mystery-and allow it to be mysterious?
It shakes us, moves us, pounds the earth on which we stand until we can feel it in our chest and our veins. It is beautiful and terrifying. It is life-giving and life threatening. And it cannot be defined or understood. It is transcendent.