There are some nights which stand out against the backdrop of past memories even as they are happening. There are some nights where nature and time and thought seem to swirl together consuming everyone and everything as they tear through the woven fabric of feeling and experience leaving countless ripples and eddies of unanswered questions and undigested observations. There are some nights when you’re tempted to thoroughly flog your brother and sister-in-law for deciding to drive from St. Louis to Ft. Worth in the middle of a July midnight thunderstorm.
My one year old nephew, whom I only call Skeeter when his parents aren’t paying attention, and I were playing a new game we’d invented in the back seat of my brother’s minivan, trying to make the best of our hostage situation, held against our will by his authoritarian parents who threw our safety to the very strong wind of the storm outside in taking this cross country overnight jaunt. The game was a fun one, it involves me holding my hand at the level of his head a few inches in front of him, just barely in his reach while strapped into his car seat. When he stretches to touch my hand and just barely makes contact with a tiny finger or two, I gently tickle his palm which makes him drop his hand and smile a little just before he repeats the process. This game is awesome for two reasons. First, it’s quiet, which anyone on a ten hour roadtrip with a 14 month old will understand as the most important feature of any game. Second, it makes him stretch over and over, which is a guaranteed way to put a tired quiet baby into a fairly deep sleep.
With Skeeter resting peacefully surrounded by his baby blanket and wind up little lamb chirping the tune to “Jesus loves me”, I settled back to try to block out the storm and count a few sheep myself. The storm was quiet, the lightning for the most part was confined to the clouds, and the rain was not pounding the window next to my head. My ears were ready to sleep, my eyes were not. The sky visible from my side of the van was lit up in deep blue and violet, direct flashes of lightning hidden by the dense billows of thundercloud. It was, in a word, beautiful.
Of course, it was also scary, and my sister-in-law, though impressed with the raw power of the storm, hardly found the comfort or beauty in the light display I was enjoying in the back seat. It was constant, and when the lightning did make its occasional front and center appearance, bright, intimidating, and frighteningly destructive.
And then a thought, as though carried on the wings of one of these electric bolts, flashed through my mind. I wonder if the clouds and lightning and wind outside were anything at all like the pillar of fire God used to guide the Israelites on their 40 year roadtrip in the wilderness.
God was leading us home.
Now wait a second, before that wave crashes down on your mind and carries your heart away in its negative vibe, I only want to ask, which proposition is more incredulous: that God decided to bounce a few thousand volts off menacing clouds because we’re his children and he wanted to make sure we got home safely, or that God decided to turn away as his son was brutally murdered because we’re his children and he wanted to make sure we got home safely.
Make no mistake, God is in the business of displaying his power. But do I really think he lit up the night sky as we drove just so that we’d find our way home? No, of course not.
We had a map, and tons of caffeine and three legal drivers, and a baby who was very willing to perform a very long impression of a fire alarm. We had driven the way before, and we had lots of cds and stories and a gameboy advance graciously donated to the save-Fuwjax-from-a-fate-worse-than-boredom by a friend’s generous mother. We had more than enough to entertain and stimulate, plenty of things to keep us awake and alert on the drive home. I don’t think God started a forest fire in the heavens for our benefit.
I think it was for yours.
I knew God was leading me home before the storm. I know he’s leading me to my eternal home now even without all the trials and difficulties he’s tumbling my way. He wants to make it painfully obvious to you, so overwhelmingly undeniable that he’s leading me home, that for just a second the flash of lightning that went through my head will go through yours.
He’s leading you home. Will you go?
Yesterday, the pillar of fire passed through a conversation with a treasured friend.
Friend: it would have been terrifying, I think, to have a pillar of fire in front of you and know that the God of the universe was in it
Fuwjax: I think it would be far more terrifying to have the pillar of fire in front of someone else