Saturday, Shaun and I traveled north to help my brother and sister-in-law move into a new apartment. Thunderstorms began to roll in around dinnertime. As we started to return home, we could see that we were paralleling the edge of another front coming in. There was clear sky to the north, on our left, and a wall of thunderclouds to the south, on our right.
We turned right, crossing the leading edge of the storm and heading straight into the mass of dark clouds. There were a few moments of peace in the darkness, and then the rain poured down like a waterfall. Thunder cracked and lightening flashed. I turned the windshield wipers onto their highest setting, but after a few moments, even that wasn’t fast enough to clear the water away. Unable to see the lines on the road, I pulled over, and after a few minutes, Shaun and I switched places so he could drive. Just the few seconds it took to run around the car was enough to soak us both.
We continued on, Shaun steering us carefully but confidently through the deluge. The rain continued to come down hard almost the whole way home. At times, the noise of the heavy drops pounding on the windshield made my ears hurt. The road ahead was blurred by water. I sat in the passenger seat and prayed, and several times suggested that we pull over and wait for the storm to pass. I do not like thunderstorms. But soon, my prayers for safety turned to prayers of awe.
We were driving through a corridor of storms that stretched south as far as we could see. Away to the east, we could see the edge of its line, ragged against the a clear evening sky. The deep blue eastern edge became purple-gray ahead of us, in the thick of the storms. To the west, the gray clouds melted into the orange and gold sunset. At times, through the black shadowed trees, we could see the majestic orange-red sun setting in the distance. Lightning flashed continuously as we drove through the pelting rain, jumping from cloud to cloud and from cloud to ground.
At some point, I became more interested in the beauty of the storm than in its terrors. I marvelled at the eerie colors and the power of the lightening. As we passed through one of the darker areas of the storm, where neither its eastern or western edge could be seen, I spotted a dim rainbow to the east. It was a strange rainbow, a storm-and-sunset rainbow of red and orange and green against the livid thunderclouds. As I watched, a bolt of lightening lanced through its arc.
“Now you know why I love thunderstorms,” said Shaun, smiling as wonder edged out my fear.
After almost an hour, as we neared the end of the storm corridor, its western edge began to break apart, leaving gaping holes in the clouds. The sunset blazed through, and I captured some very poor pictures through the rain-flecked window.
It was a welcome sight. The rain began to ease, and finally ceased altogether. The clouds continued to dissolve and lost their menace, awash in the colors of the sunset. The moon rose in the east, large on the horizon and rust-red. As we drove home under the remnants of the storm, I pondered. It had been frightening, and awesome, and beautiful and surreal, sometimes by turns, sometimes all at once. Now on the other side of the storm, I was glad that we drove through it, for the fear and the risk was worth the awe.
There is an akathist from which I have quoted before, and I will quote it again here, with new understanding:
The storms of life are not frightening to one in whose heart shines the light of Your fire. All around the weather is bad–there is darkness, horror and the howling wind. But in the soul of such a one, there is peace and light. Christ is there!
And the heart sings: Alleluia!
How great You are in the power of thunderstorms, how visible is Your mighty hand in the blinding curves of lightening, amazing in Your greatness. The voice of the Lord is over the fields and in the sound of the forests; the voice of the Lord is in the birth of the thunder and rain; the voice of the Lord is over the many waters. Praise be to You in the thundering of volcanoes spitting fire. You shake the earth about like a garment. You lift up the waves of the sea into the sky. Praise be to You Who humbles human pride, drawing out the repentant cry: Alleluia!
When the palaces of earth are suddenly lit up by lightning bursting forth, how paltry seem our ordinary lights afterward. In just such a way You suddenly light up my soul during the times of deepest joy in my life. And after the brilliance of Your light, like lightning, how colorless, dark and unreal these moments seem. And my soul rushes in pursuit of You.
Glory to You, beyond the limit of the highest human dream!
Glory to You for our tireless thirst for You,
Glory to You Who has inspired in us dissatisfaction with earthly things,
Glory to You Who has enveloped us in the delicate rays of Your light,
Glory to You Who has broken the power of the spirits of darkness, and Who has doomed to annihilation every kind of evil,
Glory to You for Your revelations, for the happiness of feeling Your presence and living with You,
Glory to You, O God, unto ages of ages.
~Akathist of Thanksgiving, by Metropolitan Tryphon