“As you can see, everyone,” the voice crackled over the intercom, “we’ve been circling here for a while. There’s a storm below with high winds, so we’ll be in this holding pattern for a few more minutes.”
The unwelcome news broke through my thoughts like the stubborn sun which currently emerged between angry clouds outside the window. Cramped and tired after a four and a half hour flight—my fifth trip to Florida in six months—I didn’t want to be in a holding pattern tonight. We’d been in a ‘holding pattern’ for weeks, two thousand miles away from the normalcy of our lives, and now we couldn’t even put our feet on the ground. It seemed like another parallel to the “life without control” where we’d lived most of this summer.
Suddenly, a collective gasp sounded from the left side of the plane. I quickly looked out our window and saw, moving over the right wing of the plane, a rainbow, slowly sweeping across our perspective until it vanished from sight.
My heart lifted a little. Rising up into the clouds again, our pilot did his best to make us dizzy, flying donuts in the sky while we waited for the “all clear” below. A silent calm engulfed the cabin as we rose and fell, staging in the sky. Then another excited murmur spread along the left rows of passengers as the rainbow made an encore appearance. With each loop de loop of our flight, we tunneled through the center of this colorful, persistent arch, miles in the air.
Face to face with a rainbow—37,000 feet up. Who needs a pot of gold when you’re encircled by the promise of God?
Eventually, our plane was cleared for landing, and our holding pattern ended. It was the final poignancy, mirroring the end of a months long holding pattern in our personal lives as well.
Throughout the storm of a family illness, we searched for hope and purpose in heartbreak. We begged, pleaded, wept and desperately tried to understand the silence of God. We never doubted His love or wisdom or goodness. No storm changes Who He is. But as day followed day, I struggled with our circumstances. Finally in the trial of this last year, I began to see that God’s answer is His promise to be Emmanuel – God With Us. And having God with me is enough. Just as our pilot never left our plane, Jesus never left me or my family. We just kept circling through angry clouds together until we could see God’s promise again.
On the last time around, in a stunning finale, the clouds were parted by a double rainbow. A double promise.
“For God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not leave you helpless nor let you down (nor) relax My hold on you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
“I will be with you always, even to the end of the world,” Jesus said.
Even to the end of a life lost. Even in the face of financial hardship. Even in the silence of a holding pattern. Even to the end of the world, Emmanuel is with us.
Because He promised.
(Photo courtesy of oclipa photostream at flickr.com)