Life just wasn’t making sense that day. I’d yelled at my kids, spoke harshly to my husband, and couldn’t seem to chip the resentment off my heart. I was weary, blindly stumbling and stagnating in a haze. I needed fire in my belly, a total rebirth. I needed light in my eyes.
I told my husband in my best closed-for-negotiation declarative voice that I needed to go on a bike ride. “Looks like rain,” he said. I didn’t care. The screen door had barely slammed behind me when I set off. I pedaled furiously over the blacktop of the rural county road where we lived and headed away from town, into the wide open vistas of the eastern Colorado plains.
I could never quite get used to this landscape, having grown up in the woods of Missouri where I waded in the creek and hid among the trees with a child’s delight. Here, there was nowhere to hide, from God or man or coyotes. These plains were somehow more wild and savage than the forest or even the mountains.
I rode and rode. And then I started to complain. At first it was aimless, to no one in particular, just to myself, I suppose. And then I started railing against God.
The sky blackened along with my mood and I rode on, a breeze at my back. Where are you? I asked God. Can you show up just once, tangibly, unmistakably, vividly? Why do I feel this way? Why has the joy been siphoned out of motherhood, my sense of wonder deadened, the color leeched out of my life?
A car roared past once or twice, but otherwise I was alone. After half-an-hour of desperate raving into the silent air I gave up. This is futile, I told myself. Pointless. I’m going nowhere.
When I finally decided to turn back it was suddenly upon me: stinging drops of rain propelled by an unforgiving wind, assaulting me as the effort to pedal the bike increased tenfold. Lightning rifted the map of the sky like a white river and the torrent began. It was like I’d turned my face from day and immediately been hurled into the night. I cursed as my leg muscles began to burn and stopped every 30 seconds to wipe raindrops from my glasses. I was going to get sopping wet and there was nothing I could do about it. I was nakedly exposed on those shelterless, barren plains, a good three miles from home with torrential rain crashing down on me.
I couldn’t believe it. Was this my answer? It felt like a challenge, and I was all spite and anger and bitterness. I laughed at the absurdity of my predicament, while at the same time tears of sorrow poured down my cheeks.
I was so busy squinting at the road ahead of me that I didn’t see it until it was fully formed, vivid and color-saturated, but at the same time ethereal and otherworldly. It arced above me, framing a heavenly dome over the road ahead. I braked my bicycle, planted my feet on either side and stared up in awe. In the span of a few seconds, the torrent had been tamed to a fine sprinkle.
And there it was: a perfect double rainbow. Two perfect curves, linking treasure to treasure, wedding heaven and earth.
I stood there wonderstruck. A few times I looked around for any other signs of human life, incredulous that no one else was there to witness this marvel. There was no one. A few cattle ruminated lazily in the field and a few birds tentatively sang. Just nature and me: living and breathing in the majesty of the one who made us.
We are the made-in-the-image ones, the remarkable beings called “human” who can reflect, can know, can marvel, can wonder at the deep mystery and majesty of it all. This was my rainbow. Mine. I felt like I had just been baptized. The world exploded anew with prismatic color. I felt the shedding of the callous husk that had been suffocating my heart. I smiled and laughed and awed at this undeserved extravagant gift bestowed on me when I’d been nothing but ungrateful.
Without wonder, our souls grow faint. We desperately need the refreshment of our own personal rainbow. Sometimes it comes from the stars, the sky, the ocean. Sometimes it comes from within our most treasured relationships. And sometimes it comes in completely unexpected circumstances, halting us in our grumbling, belabored steps. Although it is indeed a gift, and we don’t necessarily control when it befalls us, I believe we can cultivate our hearts to receive it.
At the core of this wonder is hope – not even directional or specific hope, but pervasive hope, wild hope, indestructible hope. A hope like that can only flourish when we listen to the call of wonder – a call that says stop, be still, look around, listen. There could be a double rainbow right in front of you, calling you home.
Ashley Lande is mama to Israel (6) and Arrow (4), as well as one big dog, one little dog and a small flock of chickens. She feels most safe in a library and is an astoundingly good dancer. Her artwork is at ashleylande.com.