Saturday, June 5, 2010

Awakening to Thunder

The farthest Thunder that I heard
Was nearer than the Sky
And rumbles still, though torrid Noons
Have lain their missiles by –
The Lightning that preceded it
Struck no one but myself –
But I would not exchange the Bolt
For all the rest of Life –
Indebtedness to Oxygen
The Happy may repay,
But not the obligation
To Electricity –
It founds the Homes and decks the Days
And every clamor bright
Is but the gleam concomitant
Of that waylaying Light –
The Thought is quiet as a Flake –
A Crash without a Sound,
How Life's reverberation
Its Explanation found --
~Emily Dickinson, #1581, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

I woke at 3 a.m. to a thunderstorm and saw a flash of lightning and counted the seconds until the thunder crashed. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. Crash!!! It was close—less than a mile. I got up and took the fans out of the windows and closed them as the rain started and the thunder and lightning marched through.

What do you tell your children when it thunders? Are they afraid? Are you yourself afraid of thunderstorms? Or are you fascinated by them? What explanation do you use or understand? Are thunderstorms a sign of an angry God, or one of nature's amazing spectacles? Are the gods bowling in the skies? Or as Emily Dickinson suggests, can we understand lightning as a metaphor for a flash of inspiration and understanding, something that jolts us out of our usual thinking—that illuminates our lives for a moment?

Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.
The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
Psalm 77: 13-14, 17-19

I grew up in western Colorado where there wasn't much rain (annual rainfall of 10-12 inches/year) and you could see the horizons for 50 or more miles away. My father was a farmer and we cared about rain. Watching rainstorms and thunderstorms is something I remember fondly, because my father would go out driving to the top of a hill, often with our company, and see where it was raining, and judge if it was raining on our crops on the "north forty" or on the neighbors somewhere else. He sought knowledge and understanding in watching the rain and lightning, and I think that this was also one of the times that he was close to God.

Then where does one find wisdom? Where is the place of understanding?
It is hidden from the eyes of the living. It is hidden from the birds of the air.
Perdition and Death say, "Only a rumor of it has reached our ears."
Only God knows how to get there; for God is where it is; for the Most High looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens all at once.
When God gave to the wind its movement, and measured the breadth and depth of the waters, and made rules for the rain, and designed paths for the lightning, God beheld Wisdom and named it, confirmed it and tested it.
Then the Most High said to us all: "Reverence for God—that is wisdom! And to shun all evil—that is understanding!"
Job 28: 20-28 (translation from The Inclusive Bible)
How do you seek wisdom?

This morning while I am heavy eyed from not much sleep, the air is fresh washed and the odor of honeysuckle is heavy in the air. I remember the rain and lightning, and just sit, listening to the birds that are singing without seeing Wisdom, but knowing its presence nonetheless. May we also find God's presence and the beginning of wisdom in the thunder and lightning and in this morning of creation.

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