The Sky Stands Still

It was an unusual morning because we were woken up by a phone call from a friend. He called to tell us our flight the next day might be delayed. Little did we know how true that was.

It was a Tuesday morning– much like this morning. We were living in Tacoma, Washington at the time and were due back in Michigan the next day for my brother-in-law’s wedding that weekend. It would be the last summer weekend before I started classes the next week.

But the phone call was confusing–something about a plane crashing in New York. We roused ourselves out of bed and immediately turned on the news where we, like the rest of the world, watched as the rest of the horrific events of that day unraveled. And we knew it wasn’t something about a plane crashing, but everything.

With eyes glued to the news, we began talking how we were going to get back to Michigan in time for the Saturday wedding. We still weren’t convinced that we wouldn’t be able to fly, but after a couple of hours of discussion made the decision to make the 2,000 mile trip in our car.

We packed and were on the road after lunch. A lot had already happened that day, but there was too many miles to put in before we could stop, and the drive gave us time to process. We kept the radio on in the car, continuing to listen to the reports of what was happening, of what had happened, of what would happen. There was a lot of conjecture. Nobody really knew.

When we got to Spokane to refill the gas tank, I made a couple of phone calls to see whether planes were flying again and whether we could reschedule our flights. We had no idea that it’d be a while before there was public air traffic. We still had no idea of the broad sweeping effects of that morning.

It wasn’t long before we were in Montana–big sky country, where you can see for miles and miles and the sky is bigger than you could ever imagine. And it was there that the devastation of that day was finally made so apparent to us: there were no planes. Not one. For the hundreds of miles that we had driven, we had seen no movement in the sky. It was eerie. The stillness was sobering.

It was as though the sky itself was mourning the loss.

We’d grown up so accustomed to the noise and the sight of air traffic. Never in my life had there been a day without the sight of multiple passenger jets carrying people across the country or a private plane gracing the local scenery.

Those days were filled with uncertainty. Would we make home in time for the wedding? When would air travel begin again? Would New York City recover from this tragedy? Would the nation? Were we safe? When would things be normal again?

And for that entire 2,000 mile trip, we never saw any sign that things would ever be the same again. No planes. No movement. Just stillness.

But it was in the stillness that we found of all things, peace.

In the days when we face incredible uncertainty, it’s natural to be filled with fear. Sometimes it’s little things that cause us to fear the very worst. But sometimes it’s the monstrosities. When towers tumble and fall, it seems the world itself is caving in. And like Chicken Little, I think I thought the sky would follow suit.

Four planes had been hijacked. The twin towers had fallen from the sky. Thousands of people had lost their lives. And a nation was on it’s knees, crippled from the weight of it all.

The sky stood still. The lack of movement was odd, but also reassuring. Though there were no planes, no vapor trails, no movement, the sky itself wasn’t collapsing. The insidious attack had not upset the constant and faithful supervision of a God who held creation together.

Of course that tragic day still brings many questions about the goodness and presence of God, a God who was seemingly absent . . . and silent.

But the sky stands still. It has not buckled under the weight of it all. There has been grace. There has been healing. We have seen life and growth.

It was the absence of one thing that brought the recognition of another. Loss is incredibly difficult and uncertainty can be paralyzing, but God continued to prove Himself faithful in that the universe itself did not collapse in on itself.

Though the sky stood still, it was comforting that it was still standing. There was so much uncertainty that day–of what was, of what would be–and what we did know was pain. But the pain itself was a reminder that we were still here. And so was the sky. And so was the God who had made it all.

In the midst of the unknowable, we chose to trust the One who could sift and work through the rubble to bring life and restoration.

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Rainbows, A Place To Hang Our Faith

My family and I had a cool experience the other morning. There, outside the slider door, was a beautiful rainbow just off our deck. Well, it wasn’t exactly just off our deck, but it did seem close enough to touch.

It was incredible. And it actually developed into a double-rainbow. I don’t care who you are, a rainbow is always amazing. The mere sight of one turns us all into kids again. We holler for everyone to take a look and we quickly grab our cameras–even though we’ve seen hundreds before.

Why is that? It’s because we don’t see them every day. And they’re beautiful. And they remind us of God’s promise to Noah. It isn’t that most of us have actually ever feared God judging the world again through a world-wide flood, but it is a kind of sentimental reminder of God’s faithfulness. We take the rainbow as a reminder for all of God’s promises. And that’s just reassuring.

But the rainbow thing got me thinking . . . and looking at that passage in Genesis again. And I saw something there that I hadn’t seen before.

We all see the ark. We all see the animals. We all see the rain, and the dove, and the olive branch. We all see the rainbow. But there was a connection that I didn’t see before.

It’s when the rainbow appeared. Think about it for a minute. As I’m writing this, it’s a relatively sunny day and I’m sitting in my backyard enjoying the sun, a slight breeze, and even the shady break that the clouds give when they pass by the sun. But there aren’t any rainbows. Why not? Because rainbows don’t happen on clear, sunny days.

Rainbows happen when it’s raining.

Well, duh. That might seem really obvious to you. But it wasn’t obvious to me every other time I’ve read that passage in Genesis. God used a rainbow to promise Noah (and the rest of us) that He would never destroy the earth again through a flood. That meant that He promised while it was raining.

The rain had stopped when Noah and his family finally and safely exited the ark, built an altar to God and offered a sacrifice on it. It was then that God spoke to him and gave the sign of His promise: the first rainbow.

I don’t usually have that kind of faith. It had rained for 40 days and 40 nights. The earth didn’t need any more watering. If I were Noah, once the rain had stopped I would’ve been more than happy to not see another drop of rain for the rest of my life. I would’ve been thrilled for God to take me to an arid place and say:

“Here’s the Gobi desert, Noah. It exists as a sign to you that I won’t ever destroy the earth through a flood again.”

That kind of sign makes sense to me. But that isn’t the kind of sign that God chose to give.

God’s promises come with a place to hang our faith.

Noah’s sandals were still wet and the sound of pouring rain was likely still in his ears. But his faith was sure. It would have to be. That’s the way God often works–He doesn’t just deliver us and set us in a place that is ‘safe’ without any risk. No, He calls us to a place where our faith is liable to get wet and our doubts are as real as the mud between our toes.

Noah, if you are truly willing to trust what I’m about to show you, you’re going to get wet . . . again.

God doesn’t call us to safety. He calls us to Himself and asks us to trust Him through the storm for true safety. It’s a theme we see throughout the Bible: Israel at the Red Sea, and again at the Jordan; Jesus with His disciples in the boat in the storm, and again at the cross.

Rainbows remind us that we can trust God not to destroy us with a flood while it is still raining . . . but the sun is shining, too.

Where is God prompting you to step into the rain and trust Him?