Summer break has officially arrived at our house today!!!
(And wouldn’t you know, it’s raining.)
((So the youngest one is already bored and it’s only 9:20 AM.))
Lucky for me, though, this gloomy weather provides me with the perfect backdrop for what I wanted to write about today: storms.
My sister-in-law captured this great photo from a midwest storm brewing near their house a week or two ago, and I thought it was a great illustration of something that is easy to forget when those more invisible, but equally– or sometimes even more severe–storms start to churn on our insides. Whether it be a spiritual storm that tests your faith, a social storm that tests your integrity, stormy thoughts that test your attitude, or a physical storm that usually tests all three, I thought this photo was a great reminder of something I read in Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love a while back. In it, (and I paraphrase here) I read that in every storm, the sky does not go all black or all gray, the gray or the black temporarily blocks out the blue, but the blue is always there.
Now, maybe you’d realized that before, but I hadn’t really thought about it until just then as I read it. It made me think of the few times I’ve been on an airplane and left the ground in the middle of pouring rain. It’s not long until the pilot pushes the plane right through the storm and finds that blue sky– making it a smoother ride for all of us on board– that I realize the vastness of the sky itself was a calm, constant blue all along! I felt like this photo was such a great illustration of that very thing: you can see the darkness beginning to creep in and cover the bright light, but you can also see that the light really isn’t going anywhere…it’s just getting covered up!
I thought about this as I walked with my family during the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life this weekend. I was privileged this year to be joined by my friend, who has survived (and thrived) after a breast cancer diagnosis 18 months ago, along with her mother, a survivor who has been cancer free for 19 years! I had just gotten to know my friend around the time of her diagnosis a year and a half ago, so I doubt I was much of a “blue sky” in her time of darkness. But, I know of other friends of hers who were. And I watched that process as people flocked to take care and help out where they could. Today, she is healthier, stronger and arguably, “more alive” than ever after her difficult “storm”.
And while it didn’t seem related at the time, as I look back on it now, I realize there were two other events from this weekend that I’ll share because in my mind, they are relevant to this same idea.
The first event was a rather ordinary one for us, because after Relay for Life, we went to our usual Saturday evening Mass (the only difference being that all five of us looked more casual than usual in our flourescent green RFL t-shirts. But, last year on RFL day, we arrived in rainbow tie-dye, so I think the congregation is getting used to it!) At any rate, the homily by our deacon that day was about the miracles of Jesus and the variations in the understanding and explaining of these miracles over the last 2000+ years. I know I’ve heard explanations before that some people feel takes away from the “miracle” of these events– particularly in regards to the feeding of the thousands. That explanation is that it was through witnessing the action of Jesus’ sharing of the loaves and fish, he prompted others to take what little food they had hidden away in their cloaks and share it, too. For me personally, I like this second explanation every bit (or maybe even more!) as much as I like the idea of Jesus mysteriously and miraculously multiplying the loaves and fish himself. Because frankly, to me, whether we are fed miraculously by God, or we collectively come into the heart and mind of Christ to feed each other, a miracle has occurred as far as I’m concerned. The details don’t really matter much to me.
Finally, the third event was the sharing of a story by my husband that one of his co-workers had shared with him. It was a beautiful essay by Robert Fulghum, the author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The essay is a great illustration for learning the difference between an inconvenience in life and a problem. And the essay summarizes the difference like this:
“One of life’s best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump. One needs to learn the difference.”
And in that moment I thought of my friend, a survivor of breast cancer.
And I thought of Jesus working his miracles.
And I thought of my sister-in-law capturing this photo of the darkness temporarily moving in to cover the light.
And I hoped and I prayed that the next time I find myself in the middle of one of life’s storms, God sends me someone (or several someones) to help pilot me through that storm to be an earthly illustration of his constant light for me. Because even though I claim to have the faith to get me through anything, like everything else in a storm, even my faith can become lost in darkness from time to time.
And then I hoped and I prayed that during all the other times– the times of sunshine and brightness and peace in my life–that God gives me the strength and the wisdom and the courage to help pilot others through their storms. To be a pinpoint of light for them in their darkness.
Because when it’s all said and done, whether I’m piloting others, or they are piloting me… being able to weather any storm life throws our way with the support of others?
That’s miracle enough for me.