One afternoon, my five-year-old daughter Hazel and I were on Highway 25 on the way back to Jackson, Mississippi. We stopped at a gas station for a quick break and to get a snack. As we walked out of the station to get back into the car, the skies were dark, overcast with low, charcoal gray clouds. It looked like someone had dimmed the lights, and the scary music was implied. Clearly a storm was coming, which was quite a surprise because just a few minutes earlier, the skies had looked pretty harmless and the sun had been shining.
Hazel and I talked about the skies and the coming storm. As we pulled back out onto the highway, I said to Hazel, “Sometimes when the skies look like this, you can see a rainbow.” I drove the car to the median and stopped completely, so we could look around in the hopes of doing just that. All I can say is the Lord was purely showing off that day. That rainbow was magnificent, seriously stunning! I could see the red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet so vividly. Usually, I consider myself lucky to see a glimpse or small stripe of a rainbow, but this one was fat, shimmery, and full of sass. It seemed like I could see the entire semi-circle, and the only things missing were a couple of dancing leprechauns and a pot of gold.
Hazel and I just sat there for a few minutes soaking in the beauty. I’m not sure who was more amazed, but I’m pretty sure it was me. I couldn’t help but think that we almost missed that spectacular rainbow performance. All the right things had to take place at the right time:
- the two of us in the car
- stopping at that moment
- the clouds
- the correct sunshine/cloud combo
- the willingness to stop (for me, being still is more rare than finding leprechauns)
- the willingness to look for something that might be there
This applause-inducing rainbow performance makes me wonder what other gifts from God I have missed because I didn’t stop, slow down, and look for his light amid the dark. I’m primarily thinking about the people I may have dismissed because I just perceived dark and didn’t look for the light. Dark is hard. Dark is scary. We don’t know what is coming in the dark, and we assume it will be bad.
Yet, there isn’t a person I talk to who can’t tell me a story of God’s amazing blessings that came out of their own personal dark period. There isn’t a married couple that doesn’t talk about intense conflict and struggle. Yet they made it through and are stronger as a direct result of the conflict. Libraries full of research tell us that organizations that refuse to handle conflict will die. Our own parents and grandparents who lived through depression and war talk about how resourceful they became due to the hardships. How many tantrums do toddlers throw at the grocery store? Parents handle them, and the family is stronger for it. I could go on and on, and so could you.
We are only strong because our relationships have withstood conflict. And we can only grow from the conflict if we are willing to engage. So the choice is ours: engage or withdraw.