Yesterday was the beginning of the end. I began my long 30 week journey into Greek with my first trip up to southern Maryland for class. It was somewhat appropriate that I began Greek the day after my daughter was born. She is the only one of my children with a name found in the New Testament. Also, I started Hebrew just a week after my second son was born. I guess you could say that I am a glutton for punishment.
This was also the first trip to class that I have taken since my mom died in July. The last 3 years that I have been driving north to class, I have spent the first hour of my two hour ride home on the phone talking to my parents. There was a little anxiety in me as I anticipated what my ride home would be like, but I needed to get up there first. Easier said than done!
Northern Virginia is never a good place for traffic, especially on a Friday afternoon. Virginians also drive as if the rain is snow and should they see flashing lights on the side of the road, they need to slow down to a crawl or near stop in order to assess the situation. Maybe it's unfair to say that it's Virginians only, but that's my current context, so they'll get the brunt of the blame.
For the three years that I have been making these trips, I have always allowed myself enough time to get to class with time to spare. Yesterday was no exception. I thought for sure that I would be in the clear as it usually takes me just under two hours to get to class from my house. I was wrong.
What had been a mostly light rain all morning and early afternoon had turned to a torrential downpour during parts of my trip. Surprisingly, those were not the places where I encountered the most traffic. But the rain had sufficiently slowed people down enough that it has a domino effect. By the time it manifested its impact on me, I was only 20 minutes from home. And so, my journey began.
I was already tired, having had little sleep from the birth experience the day before. I was doing my best to be around for my boys, which meant up at 5 AM. I had stopped by the hospital a few times to check on my wife and daughter and finally had the chance to hold my little girl. When I finally got myself together to get to school, I was pretty tired. There was the emotional exhaustion of having experienced the birth of my daughter (I know, I know, my wife was the one who did the most work, which I already acknowledged, she was incredible) and this first trip without having a two-way conversation with my mom.
The traffic hit me like a ton of bricks. I was hoping, and somewhat expecting, a fairly smooth trip to school. I had no idea that it would take me nearly twice as long as it should take. Sitting in traffic was complicated by my need to go to the bathroom after drinking half a liter of water and my lack of air conditioning in the car, resulting in fairly foggy windows. As the traffic conditions worsened, so did my attitude. I quickly updated Facebook with my best attempt at a pithy statement and the texts and phone calls began...that's usually what happens to me when know that something's going on.
To avoid allowing everyone to hear my frustration, I avoided the phone calls. After all, did I really want anyone hearing me verbalize my frustration. In began to wonder what the next 29 weeks would hold if this was only the beginning. Had it really been worth this? Would it be worth the trips in the end? The end was in sight, but what was I going to have to do to get to that end? What would be sacrificed?
How overly dramatic was I going to be? It was just one bad traffic day, was I really going to blow it out of proportion? Of course I was, isn't that what happens when there is a convergence of sleep deprivation and emotional exhaustion? But really, I was getting pretty frustrated over something that was completely out of my hands. I couldn't will the traffic away, frustration with other drivers was going to get me nowhere.
Thankfully, Maryland was pretty wide open. There was little to no traffic and I was able to sail smoothly to my class. As I sat there in my driver's seat, back sore from not having changed position for some time, I began to feel the guilt of my frustration. People were experiencing difficulties far greater than my inconvenience and I really had the audacity to think that my inconvenience was important enough to have gotten all worked up about?
I got closer to school and realized that the sky was pretty clear to the west, in fact, I could see the sun. It was still misting where I was, but the contrast was becoming more and more apparent as I neared the church where my class was held. It dawned on me that this combination of sun and rain should result in a rainbow. As I got out of my car in the parking lot, I looked up to see a full double rainbow. I began laughing to myself for a few different reasons.
I first thought about the significance of a rainbow. In Genesis 9, after God has spared Noah and his family from the flood, the sign of the covenant that God makes with humanity is the rainbow. God promised that he would never again flood the earth in its entirety. The rainbow signifies God's promise of provision and protection. It represents new beginnings, a constant reminder that God is with us.
Back in July, I had a conversation with a friend who had lost her mother to ALS a few years back. As I saw the rainbow, I recalled our conversation. She had mentioned that the rainbow was pretty significant to her and was a constant reminder to her of her mother. Considering this my first trip since Mom had died, I smiled as I thought about her. God was still there. He was still in control. After the rain, there was the rainbow.
Finally, I laughed as I heard myself say, "Woah, a full double rainbow!" It reminded me of a YouTube video that I had seen, actually shown by my friend at one of our chapel sessions out at Bethel Seminary. A man, who was most likely stoned, was at Yosemite National Park and took a video of a full double rainbow. He is basking in its magnificence and beauty and even begins to cry as he says, over and over again, "Oh my God!" His use of the phrase "Oh my God" may be seen as offensive to some, but I see it as giving credit where credit is due, regardless of whether he was conscious of it or not. If you feel like watching it, it might make you laugh and you might understand why I chuckled, but it's not essential. The link to the video is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQSNhk5ICTI
I was pretty ashamed of myself for having gotten so upset about traffic. But God's grace met me where I was. I'm not self-centered enough to believe that the rainbow was there all for me, but I considered myself a guilty bystander, encaptured by the beauty of God's promise. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. Even when I'm a heel, God is still there. The rainbow was a great reminder of God's grace, and it came just in time for me to dive into Greek. What a long, strange trip it's been...and it's not over yet.