It was a Wednesday night, and the rain fell like the world was in the middle of a Noah’s Ark reenactment.
Streaks of water crossed my windshield like zebra stripes. Those were the only colors I could see. Black and white. A night as dark as pitch, a single white line on the edge of the road, and my white lights shining into the void. I’d never driven through a storm this bad, and as the rain poured harder and harder, I couldn’t help but worry.
I had cranked up the radio in an attempt to hear the song over the pelting of raindrops on my truck’s roof. Taylor Swift was doing her best, but what filled my ears was the sound of rain–like rocks hitting a tin roof. I sang the words mostly by heart. Of course, that same heart was beating fast, like it was trying to sing its own cover.
It was the same dark highway I always take home on Wednesday nights when I have my only night class, but this was different. This night, I was scared. Shaking-hands-on-the-steering-wheel scared. Sing-along-as-best-I-can-to-quiet-fear’s-lies scared.
Oh, Jesus, where are You? I need You. Like now.
Sometimes the dark highways we always travel become such a part of our routine that we don’t think anything of them. We get used to the winding turns or the straight-forward telescope tube lanes. We could almost drive them backwards, we know them so well. A classmate that’s not so nice? We can deal with that for one semester. A coworker that always complains? At least we don’t spend all day with him or her. A friend who forgets to call? That’s okay, we have so-and-so to fill in.
Those dark roads become so familiar we forget that they’re even dark.
That is, until it rains.
Then it’s the end of the world. The walls cave in, our hope blows out, we’re left to grope for our way, and we can’t help but think, I was doing so well. What happened? I was holding up. I was surviving. So why now? Why’d everything have to get so much worse?
That’s when we crank up the radio to distract ourselves. We grip the wheel with determined hands. If we can just get through this night, eventually, eventually we’ll get home to our safe little house, our safe narrow driveway, our safe predictably frustrating keyhole in the front door. We’ll slam that same door shut and say we made it.
But what about the in-between?
Is there something I’m missing here, God? Some lesson to be learned in the dark and stormy night?
Could the fear, the sudden unraveling of the familiar fabric of my scheduled routine, the night when the rain isn’t beautiful… could that be the only way God can get hold of me? The only way He can remind me that, yes, I need Him, and that He is waiting there for me the whole time.
Dark road. Slanting angry rain whose only intent and purpose seemed to be blind me. But you know, that dark road didn’t last forever. Oh, it felt like it. It really did. I moved on from Taylor Swift’s song to a slow love ballad to an upbeat chart-topper (which so didn’t describe my mood).
Then the highway crossed my little town and, lo and behold, there was a traffic light. Shining red in all its commanding classiness. I’d never been more grateful to hit the brake pedal.
God, is this what You wanted me to do the whole time? Stop? Even if only in my soul?
The change in speed as I turned off the highway and cruised down Main Street helped me see a bit more clearly. I no longer gritted my teeth, and my windshield wipers actually began to do their job.
Town Square greeted me, the trees tall and glittering and glorious.
Someone had switched on the Christmas lights in September.
Yes, dark highways go on for miles and miles. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to travel them, especially when the rain is anything but beautiful.
But keep going, even if it’s only at ten miles per hour. A red light and strings of the Christmas season’s promise may be waiting just ahead. Immanuel. He is with us.
What about you? What are some lessons you have learned on the dark and stormy nights?