Storms are magnificent and frightening beasts, sometimes they’re over and gone before you know it, and other times they last so long you get used to it. When a storm comes, it comes because of atmospheric instability- humidity, warm and cold air meeting, the build up of pressure. The storm creates a release; the rains clean the ground, the air clears, the lightning discharges some of the built up electrical charges.
A storm isn’t always pleasant to be in, and sometimes, there are unexpected casualties- a tree might be felled, even part of your house might cave in. If it’s a sustained storm, and there’s a lot of rain, there could be flooding. These things all change the landscape of your area and in some ways your life.
Our metaphorical storms function in a lot of the same ways. I’ve been thinking and ruminating on this for a couple of weeks now. A few emails I received one day all referenced storms, and the fact that they will pass. That often, storms clear up some of your mental landscape. That storms will come, and storms will go, and all we get to decide is how we deal with them. A storm won’t pass you by just because you run away… in fact, it usually chases you. I know that when I face storms head on, I have a much higher chance of creating a positive outcome- if the lightning strike hits a relationship I thought was solid, I had my eyes open, and I can deal with it. If the rain floods the basis of what I thought was true about my theology, I can get the sandbags out and examine the cracks, strengthen it for the next storm (because it will come). If the dark clouds seem to obliterate the light in my life, I know that behind them is the sun, waiting to break out, and for now, I have people to sit in the darkness with.
One of the greatest things about a good storm is that it gives us a new vision. The dust is cleared away, everything is sparkling, and you get a new perspective. The broken things can look beautiful, a way is sometimes cleared where there wasn’t one before. There’s a freshness to the air that speaks of new beginnings, new promises. Of course, sometimes it seems like the storm just created more problems, but in that moment- when it’s all blown away and you get to breathe in fresh breaths… It feels like maybe anything is possible.
You know that moment, though, when everything is calm, and the storm is over, except the light is still kind of weird? Or that relationship still feels a little off… like there’s more to come? That feeling of relief followed by oh, no- this isn’t over. The eye of the storm is a tricky place, one that almost has the promise of a new beginning, but in fact is just a temporary respite. It’s easy to get caught here (metaphorically) because facing the rest of that storm sometimes feels like too big a task, with a payoff too small. (It’s pretty good here, there’s been some clearing and cleansing. The catalysts that caused the storm are almost burnt out, and they’re certainly changed. There’s been some resolution, it’s not perfect, but it’s okay.) I know, I kept myself there for too long. Yet, my experience has been that stepping out of the eye, back into the storm, letting it finish its work is way better in the long run that sitting with something not quite right. That weird pressure just makes you sick.
My best storms have been weathered right next to people. It’s the reason (well, one of) that K is tattooed on my thigh as a storm cloud. She’s sat with me through the storms, laughing into the darkness. (There’s also a seagull in that tattoo which makes sense, because M pulls people together, like gulls circling tightly during a storm. She helps us seek safe places, spaces and people.) I think God teaches me through my storms and allows me space to question and to rail against who God is during them. I’ve become more and more aware through weathering storms that God is big enough to deal with all my questions, my doubts, my fears, my inarticulate ranting. It’s a lesson that I needed to learn in order to sit with others, friends and young people. It’s a lesson I was slow to learn, that took many conversations on kitchen floors, more than a few arguments, many tears and a lot of grace to learn.
I’m grateful that I had folk beside behind and ahead of me in that process.
contained controlled a mass gathering
the liturgy is well known, we gather
and slowly roll into place.
our huddled gathered selves split open.
the noise of the trumpets and
the sound of the cymbals
this mass is noisy
to us it is joyful
we split ourselves
we divest ourselves of extraneous weight-
(that which creates our darkness)
we pass to you
(in clearest crystal)
our darkness feeds your hunger
our darkness waters your fields
(our divestiture maintains your livelihood)
and though we, gathered, low-lying darkness
bring premature night
and loud cymbals
and cracks of golden light
(might obscure your sight,
blot out today's plans)
we also bring you cleansing
a fresh start
see, when we gather, we pull everyone together
we bring in all the [various] pieces like us in
our rages do not last long, and we go
where we are needed.
to bring nitrogen
hydrogen and oxygen
to replenish and regenerate the soil.
we are artistry and we are the artist.