When I was flying home last week on a late-night flight, I was awakened suddenly during my mid-flight dozing. As if looking for someone actually awake, a flight attendant caught my eye and said, “Just in time…look over there!”
As he pointed out my window, I turned my head to see that we were passing alongside a massive thunderstorm. Watching the lightning from above was an amazing…and admittedly somewhat jarring…experience. Lightning was everywhere, like the flashbulbs of celestial paparazzi going off in all directions. I was mesmerized with equal parts awe and fear, especially as it seemed that our plane was drawing closer and closer to the location of the storms. But, I couldn’t look away; I had an all new perspective on what storms look like at 20,000 feet. I knew that I was seeing something completely different from I would see if I was on the ground, in the midst of the downpours and thunderclaps that were almost certainly happening on the ground below.
That was several days and four airports ago as I travelled back from my West Coast seminary. Now, I am sitting at home back on the other coast, where the southern summer has descended with a vengeance. It has been at least 90 degrees every day since I’ve been home, and I’ve watched my car thermometer sail over the 100 degree mark twice. Just as we were finishing dinner tonight, the skies began to cloud over and there were faint rumbles of thunder in the distance. Now, a few hours later, the skies are wildly dark, periodically pierced in all directions by flashes of lightning, cutting through the summer heat with gusts of cool and occasional bouts of rain. I am as mesmerized as I was in the plane. This time I look up to the skies and wonder: can anyone see what this looks like from above? And I know, beyond a doubt, someone can.
So it is with our lives. Sometimes we are blessed to wake from our sleep, given the gift of seeing something from a newer, higher, wider perspective. It’s awe-inspiring. It’s life changing.
I can’t sit tonight and look at the lightning the same way. I know there is something more; a vantage point that I never even considered until I caught a glimpse. Right now, the sky is filled with light. I can see every tree, every dark cloud outlined against the momentary lit-up skies. I open my windows and my doors, breathing in the stirring, swirling coolness of air. A huge clap of thunder makes me jump. I could mistakenly think that this storm is here, in my yard and in my view. I might even think of it as “my” storm. But, that isn’t the whole story. I know there is another vantage point entirely that can see the shape and course of the storm; its power and magnitude can be seen from a distance in ways that I cannot know even as I sit here in its midst.
I think about this tonight. I think about it vividly. The experience of these two storms were literal, tangible events in recent days. But metaphors are swirling in my mind as the winds blow through my hair and torrents of water begin to stream down outside.
Even storms are a matter of perspective.