In the pre-dawn hours of New Year’s Day, I looked into the night sky and saw a shooting star.
I suppose that’s a perk of working the early shift on the farm during lambing season. Seeing the sun rise. Looking up at the stars.
But a shooting star? That’s a first for me. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised though. It’s becoming a trend of natural signs, pointing to … well, I’m not sure yet.
Rainbows are everywhere
You see, over the last few months of living overseas, I was deluged with rainbows.
If you’re thinking, “Melodramatic much?” hear me out.
First, quite literally, rainbows followed me from the foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, to northern Norway. It was enough to make me look over my shoulder and whisper, “Is that you, God?”
The first rainbow greeted me after what had been a rain-drenched September day in Cape Town, as I walked around the Waterfront area (pictured above). The clouds moved in again and then cleared later, and a second rainbow slashed across Table Mountain as the evening sun slanted across the city center.
Cool, I thought. Guess I should run that trail race tomorrow after all.
Fast forward a few days and thousands of miles north, above the Arctic Circle. I’d met up with my mother and we toured a slice of northern Norway, with, you guessed it, sheep people. Oh, yes, we have people.
After a rainy day early in the trip, the sun broke through and, boom, rainbow.
Again, it was another rainy day, after we’d left the Lofoten Islands and sailed along the Norwegian coastline, en route to Bergen. The sun broke through, and, what the-, a double rainbow, spanning the fjord as we steamed along.
Whoa, I thought. Another rainbow? A double one, at that? Huh.
The next day, we’re still on the boat and, here we go, another one.
A day or two later, we were off the ferry, clattering our way southeast on the Bergen-Oslo Railroad. The morning started off gloomy and damp, and then late morning, the sun pierced through the clouds.
I started laughing to myself. Yet another rainbow filled the oblong window, hovering crisply over the rain-soaked countryside that whipped past. In my now extensive rainbow-viewing experience, I can say it was clearest one I’ve ever seen (pictured below).
I’m pretty sure I missed a rainbow or two in those 15 days somewhere. I’m not kidding.
You might think it was a fluke. That is, until the rainbows followed me back to my home in Kenya. In the months leading up to my departure back to the U.S., I saw several more rainbows.
To put it in perspective, a friend said in disbelief after I called her outside to view yet another Kenya rainbow: “I’ve only ever seen like two rainbows in my entire life.”
I’m not a mystic. You can thank a lifetime of Lutheran and Presbyterian influences for that. But living in Africa has taught me not to overlook the significance of things.
And honestly? Before several months ago, I’m not sure when I saw a rainbow last. Then, within a span of a mere 12 weeks, I saw at least nine. Probably more. I mean, after a while, they started to blur together.
I know there’s science behind it. A combination of atmospheric conditions, paired with just the right amount of sunlight refracted through water molecules. Or something.
That many in a row though, in completely different parts of the world? Weird.
Winter in Ohio doesn’t usually lend itself to prime rainbow viewing. So, God just threw in a shooting star instead.
Of course he did.
After the rain
All these rainbows got me thinking about Noah.
Everyone must have thought Noah was nuts, following God’s command, building an Ark in the middle of dry land. But that looks like faith.
Or rounding up all the animals. “There goes Crazy Noah again, leading a pair of … wombats?”
That looks like faith.
And then months on the Ark, stuck with all those animals, nowhere to go. I work in a barn. I know what they smell like. Yes, even that looks like faith.
But I wonder: what must it have been like, opening the Ark door, only to see water for days? And days? And days? I mean, two days on a boat, and I’m climbing the walls.
And then, when he gets the all-clear and walks off the Ark, there’s nothing. He — and his family and those animals — are it. Talk about the ultimate blank slate.
He was 600 years old. I wouldn’t blame him if his faith looked more like a mustard seed than a mountain at that moment though. I’m pretty sure I’d be experiencing hefty doses of doubt.
The Flood was God’s judgment for the world’s wickedness. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like.
Into that insanity comes four words, in the beginning of Genesis 8: “But God remembered Noah” (italics added). It marks the moment the Flood begins to recede.
The next time the word “remember” is used?
The middle of chapter 9, “I have set my bow in the cloud, 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. … When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature …'”
God remembers. He makes promises and he remembers them.
Take a moment to think about that richness of that.
I don’t know what this profusion of natural wonders means. I’ve been back on the farm for almost a month now. The winter lambing is almost over. I didn’t have much time for eating or sleeping at certain points, let alone ponder the significance of trans-continental manifestations of rainbows.
What I do know: If one rainbow means God remembers his promise, how much more comforting are 10 rainbows in a row?