it isn’t a thunderstorm

by hilarysherratt

I left him a message early in the morning yesterday, trapped as we are in this moment in the pull of telephone lines and frayed Internet cables. With all that we have to say to each other, with all the questions the pour out and the long pauses that pour back in, I wonder some days if we are causing power outages in hometowns somewhere along the highways that separate us. Town after town, momentarily offering up their electricity so that we can have just five more minutes, just one last smile on Skype.

I keep thinking about this new season, after driving through the early, easy morning with my mother, talking about how we know the things we know, and how surprising it can be when we know more than we think we do, or think we should, and I think to myself that knowledge no more obeys me than you or anyone else.

I shouldn’t know so certainly as I type the tiny letters into the tiny box on the screen too small to carry the amount of love I need it to, should I? I shouldn’t, because we live by a calendar of boxes of days, because we think there is always an acceptable line running through time, because for every story we have the one we think it is supposed to be.

In my head love was always a thunderstorm, violent and wild and untamed. In my head it was like the ocean and you in a canoe, paddling until your sides ached and you let yourself be capsized, let yourself become lost, let yourself be overturned.

The story I told myself about how love must work was that kind of hurricane weather and a purple sky and the smell of rain hurtling over the fields emptied of other people and with the wheat bending down in deference to a wind. That’s how it would be real – a chaos of love and lightning.

There isn’t a thunderstorm.

This unnerves me. So I go running, yell at the afternoon, where was the hurricane, by which I would know? Where was the thunder across this landscape, the wild and chaotic arrival of love? How did I miss it? Wasn’t that how God would tell me?

When I stop moving, the gentle breeze comes off the water with its early summer taste and there is the sun that last year reminded me that all time is about belonging to Jesus, and the water so wide and still my whole self grows small in its presence. No, it will not be in a thunderstorm. It will be in quiet. 

I look for God in fire and cloud. I look for clarification, for certainty, for a knowledge I could stand on, in a wild and obvious sign. Not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire – no, but behold I am standing on the mountain before the Lord and I hear a still, small voice.

Love is not in a thunderstorm or a bright, blinding hurricane: it is morning coffee and holding hands in the car just to be sure of each other and the pause before we apologize, and the way our conversations bend back towards grace even when neither of us want to, and how he asks me to pray and doesn’t care if it rambles its way towards God in the Mexican restaurant with the girl’s night out next to us and our food growing colder, how we let the kids that have become like nieces and nephews to me clamber over our nice Sunday clothes and try on our sunglasses, how we do dishes together, how he knows just when my voice is about to tremble and says into the phone, “Hil. Calm your heart.”

I stay by the still water for a long time. And then I call him, just once more, and we both hear peace.


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