The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise ~ Jeremiah 33: 14
Yesterday, I tried God’s patience a little. He must have a lot of it, even for me. Because He didn’t rain down fire upon me. Instead, He has returned several times to my heart, when I least expect it, pressing small flowers into its soreness.
Yesterday, I told a friend that while I didn’t doubt the power of God, I could no longer bear to hope for change in my work and work place struggles. God has made it clear to me that I am to remain where I am to shine the light of Jesus. If I leave, there’d be no one else simply because there are no Christians in this place. This is not a Christian community, and will likely always remain so.
I accepted that, but not in the joy of saints. I accepted it the way one would a life sentence. You just have to cope. You just have to go on. Beat your head against the metal bars when it gets too much. Grit and bear solitary confinement. Live in wary alertness, sometimes, fear, against attacks on you and your loved ones by your prison mates.
I thought a break away from work would help but it hasn’t. What it has done is to heighten the deep heaviness within as the return to work looms closer. A mere glance of my heart in the direction of my work place, sears and hurts sharply. When I try to tug my heart towards prayer for the place, the people and the environment, my spirit recoils. The only remedy for it is to straighten my spine, stiffen my lip and get back to work.
But not allow hope in my heart.
Because, as I wrote my friend, hope is suddenly too painful to bear. It’s easier to return to work if I didn’t light the candle of hope within me.
Hours later, my husband and I hurried on an errand to a town 40 miles away. We crested a hill and came down into late evening sunlight, curtained by the silver beads of rain.
Deep in thought, I was unprepared for the massive, vivid rainbow before me. Huge, wide, in a kingly arc through slate grey skies, it stretched in a victor’s triumph from sky to road.
Never in my life had I seen a rainbow as big and as strong as this! Despite myself and my grey thoughts, I burst into smile at the beauty of that surprise.
And then, in a flash, I remembered one day, years before. I had just emerged from a terrible confrontation with my father. Only the grace of God had saved me and my family from a worse ending. I had the strange feeling of having been touched by the breath of death. My whole being was gasping and clawing for air – as if in those terrible moments earlier, it had been deprived of it.
Hours later, my father gone, we were safe once more. My children were in the backyard. They excitedly called out to me to come and have a look at new shoots coming out of a plant. I was trying to defuse the earlier encounter of its hideousness by trying to hold myself together and prepare dinner. To keep things as normal as possible for my young children, to not allow my parents’ poison to find its mark again in our home and hearts again. But I was struggling. I couldn’t remember what to do. Kept forgetting ingredients. The last thing I wanted to do was to go and look at a plant.
But my spirit had strained against me.
Life! Seek Life!! it called out.
So, I left the kitchen and went to my brood gathered by that plant. There was honestly no happiness or even life in me, but I was determined that nothing of my inner turmoil should touch my children’s pure happiness in those new shoots. So, I sank myself into their joy. As I angled my head to get a better view of the new leaves, I had to look up the waning rays of the setting sun.
Stretched before me, in the breast of the blue~gold skies wreathed by orange and pink cloud~ribbons, was a little rainbow.
On a day when I had been so frightened, rushing to lock my gates and doors and windows, a macabre smile fixed to my face so as not to upset the kids, on a day when shaking from head to toe I fought to secure my home, God filled me with a spill of exuberant joy.
That day, like a gurgling brook, joy tumbled and tripped goldpearls into my heart as I recalled the rainbow that marked God’s covenant of hope with Noah.
God said: This is the sign of the covenant that I am making between Me and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come: I set My bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. I will remember my covenant between Me and you and every living creature—every mortal being—so that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy every mortal being ~ Genesis 9: 12 – 13, 15
The bow in the sky. The promise of Never again.
Now, 4 years after that awful day, on a day when I was feeling that to be strong was to not allow hope, a rainbow had appeared again. Mightier than ever, with a power that took my breath away.
Once more, I remembered the Noah rainbow. I thought of the promise, Never again.
But this time, hope did not flood back in. The wound was too deep. What does the rainbow signify this time, Lord? I asked dully. My attempts at saintliness had been puny and futile. I didn’t see a way out of my work woes – short of replacing my superiors and co-workers with angels and saints.
And then, in weariness, I wondered if I was mad. If I was trying to make a rainbow more than it was. If I was trying to read my future in it – when it was just a rainbow, even the most beautiful of rainbows. If the discernment of every marker hitherto had been wrong. If they were all just stones and sticks. And just rainbows.
As my husband navigated a sweeping turn in the road, the rainbow disappeared. Despite myself, I peered longingly at the rain~misted skies. Even if I didn’t believe it meant anything, some part of me just wanted the rainbow to smile on. Just to make life a little more bearable.
What does it mean for me? I tugged at God’s robe again. Another turn, and suddenly, it was there again. I almost felt the gorgeous bow giggle at me. On a whim, I reached for my phone to snap a photo. Is it just a rainbow? Or is it a sign – for me? I asked God as I readied to snap.
At that moment, I touched something on the phone and it switched to selfie-mode. I never take selfies so I’m not adept at switching between modes. Although after some fumbles, I can normally revert it to normal mode, this time, desperate to take a picture of the rainbow before it disappeared once more, I couldn’t figure out how to undo it.
When I finally reverted, mere seconds later, the rainbow was gone. It didn’t want to be photographed, I moaned to my grinning husband.
Then it hit me. It was a sign – not just a rainbow. God didn’t want it on my phone, to be looked at over and over, till its significance was diminished. That’s why it was ‘taken away’.
The king~bow was gone but now ribbons of quiet happiness had wound themselves around my heart. I went happily to the remaining hours of the day.
This morning, Christmas edging closer, house cleaned and cleaned yet looking like we hadn’t started on it yet, I felt very tired. My thoughts skipped towards the rainbow of yesterday. I no longer doubted it had been a sign for me. But now I wanted to know what it meant.
I busied myself with cleaning again. A short while later, stopping to catch my breath, the lines of an old Advent reading I see every single day came before me once more. Every single day, my eyes pass them and they have never paused my stride.
Today, a sudden light pulses out of them, stopping me.
The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise.