For more than twenty summers, I have spent at least a few days at the ocean in North Carolina. This year, with so much turmoil and all the cancellations due to COIVD, I wasn’t sure I’d get to the beach.
But I realized how much I needed one familiar thing in this miserable year, and with all due precautions, I rented a house on the Outer Banks. I’ve not been more than an hour’s drive away from home since early March, and the trip itself felt invigorating. There’s a moment on this well-traveled route that lifts my heart every summer – when, after hours, I round a bend on the mainland and drive onto the Wright Memorial Bridge to cross the Currituck Sound. The bridge is low to the water, it seems almost as if one is skimming blue waves surrounded by nothing but sky. A thin strip of land beckons from the far side, with woods of oak and pine hiding the wide beaches just beyond.
This week, the drive was mostly cloudy, and it rained a bit along the way. But the sun came out toward the end of the trip. As I rounded the anticipated bend, I was surprised by a rainbow across the sky, forming a prism archway – marking welcome to this place that holds both my memories and dreams.
The rainbow, the promise, the arc in the sky that never fails to make me look up in wonder – to be greeted by a rainbow in 2020, this summer of all summers, made me weep.
I remembered Genesis 9:
God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’
A covenant, the primal pledge of God’s enduring protection. The rainbow is a wonder, yes. And it is a token. We are not left alone. Even amid the flood, God loves the earth and all its creatures. When the waters recede, new life comes forth.
In these days, when we fear we are drowning under the waves of the pandemic, the crisis of racial injustice, economic unraveling, and the climate crisis, we might remember the ancient sign of the bow in the sky – that sign of what Nigerian poet Jenim Dibie calls, “the unrelenting hope for rainbows,” the promise that draws our eyes to the beauty of light breaking through the darkest clouds.
I needed the rainbow this week.
We colour the world,
Not with the darkness of our past
But with the rainbow of our hope.
- Jenim Dibie, The Calligraphy of God
“…when humans experience something as powerful as a forest or a rainbow, it is not crazy to assign its existence to a Greater Intelligence.”
- Anne Lamott, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope