I still laugh at some of the things that we used to think and believe when we were little. I remember being about 7 years old, I was at school, it was very close to home time and the skies became really, really eerie and dark. My friends and I were tidying up, getting ready for home time and then we heard it. A slow, guttural rumbling sound coming from the heavens. A flash of light. A mixture of fear and excitement. A thunderstorm was about to begin. A few of the children screamed every time they heard the thunder. I didn’t. I’ve never been afraid of thunderstorms, or lightning. Their yelps of fear simply confused me. How could you be afraid of something so beautiful? So rare? So powerful and awe inspiring?
One of the boys in my class noticed that I was standing still, transfixed, listening to the rumbles in the sky. He sidled over to me and nodded sagely, clearly acknowledging a kindred spirit. ‘It’s God moving his furniture around in heaven. That’s what’s making all that noise!’
I thought carefully about what he said. It seemed like a perfectly plausible explanation to me. ‘Yes,’ I agreed. Then decided to add my own spin. After all, why should he be the expert on thunderstorms and I be left out? ‘Yes, he’s moving the furniture around but he’s also angry. That’s why there’s lightning!’
I’m not sure how long our conversation continued but both of us carried on adding to the story that we had begun about an angry God, moving his furniture around, getting cross in heaven. I remember other children trying to add their own twopence worth into our story – and depending upon whether we liked them or not, we either accepted their contributions, or derisively rejected what they said. Another child mentioned that the sound of thunder was actually the sound of God’s stomach rumbling. I remember looking to see who had dared to offer their own alternative explanation, and I was pretty sure that it was one of the screamers from earlier. How one of them had the audacity to offer up a theory after their performance, I did not know. Neither my friend or I gave that theory our stamp of approval. Because we had become the official experts on why thunderstorms happen, nobody dared to challenge our authority…
To this day, I still have a fascination for thunderstorms. I pride myself on being able to predict when one will happen. I feel a pressure in the front of my head which only eases when the storm has passed.
Of course, as an adult I know why thunder happens. I understand why we see the lightning first and hear the thunder afterwards. I know how to count the intervals between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder to ascertain how far away the storm actually is. Despite knowing all the science behind storms, when I’m actually at home, in my back room, listening to the rain drops pelting against the glass roof, seeing the unexpected and unpredictable flashes of light and listening to the furious, unpredictable claps of thunder, I revert back to my 7 year old self. Wondering silently to myself, what specifically had made God angry this time?
One of the other reasons why I absolutely love thunderstorms is because it is one of the times in my life when I am absolutely, genuinely fearless. I would be happy to go outside, stand in the middle of the rain, feel the violent drops of rain pierce my skin, look up to the heavens and marvel at how small, insignificant and helpless we are compared with the might of nature. We humans, we’re so used to being in charge aren’t we? So used to controlling all aspects of our life. A thunderstorm reminds us there are forces more powerful than us – and it is good for us to remember that.
However, the best part of the storm is…watching how magically everything goes back to normal again. There is a calmness and sense of relief – as if the anger, resentment, bitterness that had been causing the conflict – all just drift away. We start afresh. The fear has dissipated. We go back to our normal business – as if nothing had happened at all….