Life in the In-Between
Summertime throughout my childhood was marked by make-believe play, tv, drinking pop and afternoon thunderstorms. Mom and Dad both worked, and when we were old enough we were left in the capable hands of ourselves, under the supervision of my older brother. I have so many memories of those summers, but the thunderstorms stand out the most.
Day in and out, thunderheads would form high in the sky above us. The landscape would grow darker and darker as one set of menacing clouds joined another, forming one gigantic storm. The Rockies would change before our eyes, becoming less majestic and more foreboding. Then the thunder would begin with its powerful rumbles signifying the unleashing of the weather upon us. Bolts of lightning would light up the interior of the thunderheads and at times, shoot down beneath the cloud cover to strike where they may.
Our German Shepherd would fight his way into the house and into the bathroom tub or down into the basement. He and I shared the same sentiment: "Get me out of here!" I'd run to the large window of our walk-out basement, facing the rolling range of the back acreage, to trace the line of clouds as far as my eyes could see to determine whether the familiar circular motion of a funnel cloud was forming or not. I'd watch the colors, hoping they stayed gray, free of the green haze that came from the atmospheric change signaling the possibility of a tornado.
When I caught a glimpse of a low, straight line along the cloud horizon that seemed likely to form a funnel, I'd run the 30 steps to my bedroom and prepare for the worst. Pulling my comforter, stuffed animals, pillows, Bible and a flashlight into my closet, I'd shut myself in and pray. Where were my siblings? I have no idea. I'd lose track of the reality that I wasn't physically alone, somehow. At the end of a storm, I'd resurface and trace the lines in the clouds, once again, to ensure all was safe. Life would go back to normal, on that side of the storm.
Growing older, I noticed how my posture towards these storms changed. In fact, I've grown to love and appreciate thunderstorms. There's something about the build up, the anticipation of the storm. When it comes, there's a release. The atmosphere shifts, often bringing cooler temperatures and a deep sigh. No doubt that storms can create damage, but this truth doesn't diminish the reality that there's something awe-inspiring about them. When they're over, I've seen how I have fresh perspective and appreciation for my life—just as it is.
I've been thinking a lot about storms as they pertain to our lives this week. We're standing in one piece of land for a time, then a storm moves through and gives us the opportunity to reflect on what we want, what we value. The aftermath has this way of revealing what we internalized in the middle of it, in the waiting. We see our lives and the land differently after waiting out a storm.
Yesterday, a friend shared another metaphor with me— this one, involving archery. She shared how the arrow has to be pulled back to the place of greatest tension before it can be released in order to hit its target. When it's not pulled back far enough, it lacks the momentum required to make it to the bullseye. And, when a person isn't lined up correctly and releases the arrow too soon, it also results in a miss. Tension and timing are everything.
Often, we don't want to experience the tension, or the storm for that matter. It's uncomfortable to stay put, so maybe we jump in too soon or hide away hoping it'll pass. Maybe we don't embrace the tension to the fullest extent because it's just too hard to stay in it. Mixed metaphors aside, today, I'm encouraging us to stay.
New "seeing" awaits us on the other side of the storms we face in our lives. Perhaps we have the new ground in clear view, just ahead. Maybe we're wondering what it takes to cross the threshold, but we're experiencing the tension of being pulled back tightly in the waiting. We don't want to release the arrow too soon. We want it to hit the bullseye.
The waiting itself might seem like a storm. But, perhaps things aren't correctly lined up just yet. Wouldn't we rather wait so we might actually hit our target? Waiting can feel unproductive and painful. Believe me when I tell you that I live the reality of this truth regularly. I like to achieve and when I see the green lights in a direction, I'm ready to go. To be held back by a storm, or the appearance of a storm, feels awful. But, then I remember the beautiful aftermath...
The air clears, there's a fresh vitality to the land and all of that build up created space for a wonderful release. Each time I take a step forward from this place, I really do experience gratitude—it's cultivated in me through the process. I find myself saying, "If only I had known..."
So today, I remind you that you do know. You've been here before and you made it. It's not that you didn't struggle or that you walked away without being affected by the experience, but you lived. I think that's the point.
Life is full of tension and storms. What matters is our view of them and what we allow them to accomplish in us. We cannot take new ground in our lives without this tension and without the storms. They actually show us what we're made of and give us the opportunity to authentically live from that place by showing us what we really, really want. Not only that, but they reveal who we really are at the core.
- Where are you experiencing a storm today?
- What do you think about it? What do you feel about it?
- What would it mean for the trajectory of your life if you willingly stayed the course through the tension you're experiencing there?
- Will you?