It started raining yesterday in the morning, and then it didn’t stop.
It rained. And rained. And rained. Not thunderstorms, really, though I heard the occasional rumble of thunder. Just a straight, heavy rain that lasted literally all day. We received flash flood warnings, and I checked to make sure our basement was dry, but otherwise I paid little mind. We’ve gotten them before and we’re not a terribly flood-prone area.
At noon, I looked outside to see that the wetland/swamp behind our house had turned into a little pond. Two hours later, I looked again and it had turned into what resembled a small lake. As I stood there watching in surprise, three minks shot out from under the surface of the water and made a break for tree cover.
At that point, I noticed that there were flashing blue and white lights on the four-lane road at the entrance to our subdivision and, like any good rubbernecker, I went to go see what was going on. I strolled down a couple of blocks and noticed a few other neighbors doing the same.
When I arrived at the entrance, I saw that there was no road.
I mean, there was a four-lane somewhere under all the rushing water, but I couldn’t see it. Mailboxes barely poked their heads out over a tide that seemed to be coming from everywhere. And what was strangest to me about the scene, aside from the fact that a highly-used state route had been plunged underwater over the course of a day, was how alien it all looked.
I’ve driven that road a thousand times if once, but nothing about it seemed recognizable. The water rendered the familiar suddenly alien. Familiar landmarks had all but vanished. Separated from each other on opposite sides of the street by the water, my neighbors and I stood on the sidewalks and yelled our surprise at each other: “Have you ever seen anything like this? Isn’t this wild?! Stay dry!”
Later, my husband and managed to escape from our house via another road, and what we found in our city was a completely foreign landscape: lakes where parks used to be. Signs and mailboxes and entire patches of land buried. Birds and hawks and all manner of wildlife going to town everywhere.
We come to depend strongly on our externals. On our neighborhood always looking like our neighborhood. On our family always being exactly like it is right now. On our friends group and our church group and our lives always being landmarked by the same people and places. We draw comfort from that familiarity. We draw strength from it. And, a lot of times, we draw security from it, too.
But change is inevitable. Not a natural disaster, maybe. But an unexpected something. A loss. A conflict. A sudden event. An occurrence that, much like a flash flood, renders the landscape of our life suddenly unfamiliar and no longer navigable. And those moments remind us that we can’t depend on our draw strength from the external things around us. They, too, are temporary.
That’s why I take so much comfort in Hebrews 6:19, which reminds us with a deft metaphor that our hope in Christ is “an anchor for the soul.” And Hebrews 13:8, which reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” God is the constant in the topography of our shifting world. When the landmarks disappear, when what we know has been rendered foreign to us, He will remain the same. He will be the road where we find our way.
I’ll close with the Bible verse that popped into my head yesterday while I looked out at all that water, Isaiah 43:19:
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Water is always an agent of change in the Bible. God uses it to restore, to renew, to nourish, and sometimes to destroy – but always in the expectation of creating anew. In the times when our map of the world seems to turn on its head and streams and rivers appear where they weren’t before – when what we depended on for comfort and navigation disappears below – we are often tempted to despair and to sadness, but God presents the act here as a source of joy.
At some point, we all have to confront our own flash flood. But as we stumble around and realize that everything around us has changed – if only temporarily – it’s worth remembering that we are anchored and secured. More than that, it’s helpful to hold in our souls the knowledge that, regardless of the present circumstances, our situation is going to be transformative…and joy waits just around the corner.