Saturday, June 19, 2010

God on the Greenway: The Storm

Many of life’s most memorable moments are the things that are spontaneous and unexpected. Whether it’s a pleasant surprise out of nowhere, or an ugly mishap that tragically changes your life, these are the moments that impact your entire being. 

Today, I had one of those moments. It was totally out of the blue; rather, out of the gray. The atmosphere was starting to get stormy and windy and there I was - running on the Greenway. I had been pushing my hardest because I’m hoping to run the Swiss Days 5k again this year (and beat my time). I was proud as peaches to run a mile in slightly under twelve minutes (usually, I’m thirteen or more). All total, I ran three miles in just over thirty-five minutes (I’m hoping to run it in thirty-five or less). I was REALLY pushing it and working hard to get as good as I got! 

However, that wasn’t my “big moment” of the day. Not even close! My moment was when the storm started to come in. I could see the white sky behind me and nothing but clouds in front of me. I had no idea that we were even expecting a storm, but I was rather excited about it! For some reason, I always hope for it to rain when I run because there is just something so refreshing about it (especially when you’re hot, pouring sweat, and your clothes are clinging to you!). However, I always think to myself that God has a sense of humor because He usually doesn’t let it rain for me. Sometimes, that frustrates me because I have actually prayed for rain lots of times when I ran. The irony always is, it rains before or after.  

As I neared the end of my run, it was getting extremely windy and dark. It didn’t look pleasant, but I had peace. I didn’t feel scared, even though it nearly looked like tornado conditions. There was even a car that stopped and a gal rolled down the window and said, “Melissa, get in.” I was pretty sure that it was my friend Patty, but I couldn’t see very well (come to find out, it was my friend, Lora). I didn’t stop and I kept going and told her I was just parked up ahead (thanks for offering though, Lora!). ;) I just couldn’t give up; not when I was that close! I had to persevere and push through! I knew He was with me and that I was going to make it! I had no doubt!

I finished my run and walked around the parking lot to cool down and bring my heart rate back to normal. I felt accomplished, victorious, and relaxed as I waited for the rain to make up its mind. I was still hoping to get caught in a downpour as a sort of celebration. Gently, it started to rain a little. I love the smell and feel of rain! It felt so good and calming and I was grateful for it; but wishing for more. It was so light and I felt like the drops were falling harder all around me except for ON me. I smiled as I thought of my friend Amy and how we always talk about “dancing like retards in the rain”. 

I also felt the crazy urge to be like Lieutenant Dan in “Forrest Gump” and scream, “YOU CALL THIS A STORM?!!” I desperately wanted more because a while back, I had begged God to let it rain on me to show me that he was weeping with me (in regards to some personal pain I don’t wish to disclose publicly at this time). I didn’t get a drop that day, and it killed me. Though, I felt as though while I was begging for rain, somewhere there might have been a person who was begging for it NOT to rain. “Ok, God, I’ll give you that,“ I had said. I know that sometimes, we don’t even know what we’re asking for anyways and tonight, that totally dawned on me while I was walking and having my Lieutenant Dan moment. I had never really understood WHY God would only allow it to rain before or after my chance to go outside and run. I thought He was being a little funny with me by withholding what I wanted (or thought I wanted). You know what the reality is? He could give us exactly what we want (or deserve) but He holds back. He restrains. He disallows. Not to be mean, but to spare us and show us mercy (just like with Job and how He set limits on Satan and what he could do). Though, what turmoil He DOES allow develops our character. 

Everything suddenly seemed so obvious to me. He was saying, “Do you realize you are ASKING for a storm? A downpour?” Sure, I had a calm in the storm, but why ASK for it? What God really wants is for me to be sheltered and safe; to protect me. He will allow what He allows, but will not give us more than we can handle. He has withheld the rains and the storms (literally and figuratively) for reasons that only He knows. He has spared me from myself and who knows what else!!

All of these times, I would be thinking of Superchick’s “Stand in the Rain” song, or Michael W. Smith's “Healing Rain”, "Let It Rain", or any number of songs that celebrate being drowned in Jesus and overcoming pain. Yet, I was missing the clear message that God was sending me: You’re not alone in the storm. I will be your peace and your calm. I’m holding back the damage that can be done; the damage that sometimes you even ask for or bring on yourself. Why ask for the storms? There will be plenty of them to deal with and embrace without having to ask. 

I just couldn’t stop pondering and taking it all in. Even so, I felt numb; like I couldn’t even feel it. I wanted more, even though I was already drenched. It really was coming down (and I was soaked) but it wasn’t enough. I reached my hands high to the sky as if reaching for His presence. I knew that my heart’s longing was much deeper than a yearning for rain. It was about intimacy and presence; fellowship and assurance. I wanted to absorb it and drink it up. I wanted to experience something much deeper than what I could put my finger on.

By that time, I knew that I had stood outside for an efficient amount of time and that God was urging me to the safety of the van (He signaled with a soft thunder roll). I kept wanting to just stand there and be - I don’t know - washed. However, I felt like He was saying that it was enough and that He wanted me safe and out of the storm. So, I sat inside the van for the longest time; not really doing anything. The fire trucks that I seen and heard were reminders that there was danger in the storms and I prayed that whatever was going on, the people involved in the emergency would be ok. 

In the depth of my heart, I felt like I needed a bigger release. I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. For the most part, the tears just wouldn’t come. Either I have forgotten how to cry or I have conditioned myself enough lately to stop wasting tears that I can’t even see the need for it anymore. Even as I type this, I feel that I’m on the verge - but nothing is coming. Well, Solomon said there is a time for everything. Even though I was alone and had the opportunity, it just wasn’t the right “time” after all. I think I was just crying on the inside; it didn’t necessarily have to “show” on the outside. Or, maybe I have already grieved and moved through its stages more than I thought and that’s why I have kind of a sad calm. 

As odd and strangely painful as it seems, all of it was a beautiful moment and I will never forget this run. What stands out most in my mind is something I heard once (I can’t remember where): ‘Sometimes He calms the storm. Other times, He calms His child.’ No matter how the wind blows, or how the rain pours, there is safety in the storm. He wants to get you to that place; He always provides it. Sometimes, you will boldly “Stand in the Rain”, just like the song. Though, you will always have a shelter from it. You don’t have to brave it alone and when God says “enough” you’ll rest in His refuge and He will cradle you in His loving and merciful embrace; drying you off from the downpours of life and wiping away your tears. He’s always right there. 

Grace and peace be with each and every one of you through all your storms! Our Father is our strength, our comfort, and our refuge! God bless you!  


Shane Gilreath said...

I looked forward to reading this blog, because I always find something useful to my own life in your Greenway entries - and I'm always awed by your level of faith and how it interweaves itself into all facets of your life.

Lately--in fact, for some time--I've felt, for the lack of a better term, lost. Not lost in a religous sense, but without direction and as if I needed change in life's routine. That I'm not living the life I'm meant to lead. That I missed my opportunity and passed up a fated door somewhere along the way, and rather than seize a moment, I shrugged and waited for it to come back around. Of that, I'm sure. So, I think you're right: there is a time, but I'm just not sure what happens to a life when man, in all his frailties, chooses to let it pass without action. It's the question of the day. What now?!

Melissa said...

Thank you so much, as always, Shane! :) I always appreciate how supportive you are of this series of blogs. Please, keep bugging me to get on the stick with making it into a book lol.

I can TOTALLY relate to what you're saying - and wow, that's deep!! Though, I don't really know how to define my sense of "lost" because I feel as if I am moving in a new direction - and a better one. I know that I'm on my way to where I need to be going in life and that despite the "roadblocks" I have an odd sense of peace and assurance. I think it's because I know I have best friends like you that are always there for me. I just don't worry about anything. :)

Melissa said...

Oh, and I hope and pray that you find your new direction too! You are SO incredibly talented and smart, Shane (even if you do stick your finger in a blender). ;) You are meant for great things too. Get out there and be you!!

Shane Gilreath said...

I'm very proud of you for taking the necessary steps, in your own life, to move in that direction. It's been a long time coming! I imagine this road you're travelling down will be like any other road after a storm: for the first few miles, they'll be branches in the path, but the further away you get, the clearer the road and the clearer the sky! I wish that for you.

Melissa said...

Listen to know what they say about people who talk in metaphors, Shane!! ROTFL! ;) However, what are we if we aren't metaphorical? I think this is one of the things we've always appreciated most about each other is the ability to be creative and intelligent in our conversation. It would be rather ordinary if we didn't have something insightful to interject in a very metaphorical and meaningful way. It creates depth, and I am definitely a person of depth! So, I thank you for your comments, my good gentleman! :)