I have always loved the weather, relished feeling the elements. Ever since I was a boy, it has been that way.
I’d go barefoot in the snow, stand in a downpour, huddle in a cave opening to watch sheet lightning rip the skies open, or stand on the bow of a ship in rough seas to feel the salt spray sting my face.
Now that I’m older, I’m a bit more careful. But I still love getting caught in a summer rainstorm. That was my thought this past weekend when, with showers and thunderstorms forecast for the evening, I decided to take a hike with my dogs – Callie, our border collie, and Roxie, our “chug” (Chihuahua-Pug) – along a riverside trail winding through a nature preserve.
It was a five-mile excursion, around 90 degrees when we started out. The shade of the trees and a slight breeze off the river were pleasant. I loved it, the dogs loved it. We were halfway back, about a mile and a half from home, when the forecast came true – and then some.
The winds picked up, the lightning and thunder swept in, the rain – and then grape-sized hail – came as drenching curtains, bending the trees over the trail and shredding foliage.
Roxie, game and yet just seven pounds wet (and she was very wet) was soon up to her chest in the water gushing over the trail. Callie hunkered forward and plowed through, occasionally looking up at me with an “Are we there yet?” look. I was soaked, and some of those hail stones stung. I picked up a shivering Roxie and tucked her under my chin and cap, and slogged on.
If someone (other than the late Mahalia Jackson) had come by singing, “When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high,” I might have thrown them in the river – if I could find it. The wind made staying on my feet a challenge, and the hail and rain were so heavy I could barely see more than a few steps ahead.
It was quiet for a few minutes, even the birds were silent. The only sounds were those of feet and paws slurping through the puddles and the slight murmur of wet leaves being dried by a calm breeze.
Talk to any preacher’s kid, and you undoubtedly will find he or she has a few favorite passages of scripture. Afterall, PKs, willingly or not, are exposed to the Bible from an early age.
There are the usual verses to memorize (John 3:16, of course, is mandatory) . . . but there are some we claim for ourselves for their meaning, poetic imagery, obscurity, or all three.
I chucked, sloshing up the hill to home, soaking wet and my shoulders beginning tingle from my hailstone massage, as I remembered a moment from the Old Testament story of Elijah’s flight into the desert from the wrath of Queen Jezebel. He was discouraged, wanting to give up that whole prophet business. A fine story with lessons both simple and profound, to be sure.
But what made a passage of the book of 1st Kings my own was how it portrayed God – our expectations of and about Him versus how the Creator chooses to touch our hearts.
‘“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
“And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”’ (1 Kings 19:11-13 New Living Translation)
The drama of life – the way it can knock us off our feet, shake us senseless or even burn our best relationships and values into ash – grabs our attention, our emotions.
We somehow expect them to say something to us, don’t we? How many times have we all asked, “Why me?” “What does this mean?” And all we hear is silence.
But maybe it isn’t that there is no answer. Perhaps, we just aren’t listening to the silence, waiting for the wind to subside, for the rubble to stop falling around us, or for the flames to flicker and grow cold.
It’s hard to hear a whisper, but always worth listening.