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The Rainbow that Kept Me from Swimming

A Lent Reflection for Sunday, February 18 by Rev. Julie Jane Capel


Lectionary reading for 02/18/2024: Genesis 9:8-17  •  Psalm 25:1-10  •  1 Peter 3:18-22  •  Mark 1:9-15

Selected Passage: Genesis 9:11-17


Read         

Genesis 9:11-17 CEV 

I promise every living creature that the earth and those living on it will never again be destroyed by a flood. The rainbow that I have put in the sky will be my sign to you and to every living creature on earth. It will remind you that I will keep this promise forever. When I send clouds over the earth, and a rainbow appears in the sky, I will remember my promise to you and to all other living creatures. Never again will I let floodwaters destroy all of life. When I see the rainbow in the sky, I will always remember the promise that I have made to every living creature. The rainbow will be the sign of that solemn promise. 


Reflect 

Lake swimming is one of the best ways for me to connect with God, and in 2021 I desperately needed that divine restoration to occur. Sadly, I lived nowhere near swimmable freshwater. So I drove three hours to a small beach hoping to submerge my body and realign my soul. To my dismay, lightning was spotted immediately before I dove into the water. Instantly, the waterfront was shut down to the point that even my big toe was not allowed in! 

 

No rain came but the park did not budge on their 2 hour closed waterfront policy. Thus I sat on the sand, painting and patiently hoping that I would be allowed to swim. One hour and fifty minutes later, another crash of lightning dashed my desires. In the meantime, I had prayed and painted, wrestled with God and named my irritation with the timing of it all. 

 

I was so annoyed that a storm that was not even getting me wet was still keeping me from connecting with God in the way I wanted! Ultimately, I did console myself with the silver lining: at least I had artistically captured an interesting slice of time with passionate frustration. At hour three of sitting on the sand, the sign of Genesis 9:8-17 came into view! 

 

Truly, it wasn’t a glorious version of the covenant promise that God made to Noah. It wasn’t a double, it wasn’t full, there was no pot of gold at the end, and at first only three colors meekly peaked through the clouds. 

 

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. (Genesis 9:13-15 NIV)

 

I rapidly added the muted colorful promise on the left side of the stormy painting. Accurate to life, an individual has to diligently look to recognize it. Relatively quickly the rainbow became more pronounced and then the storm blew over (recorded by the other paintings), but by that point the park had closed and I still was not allowed in the water. 

 

Besides swimming, the other authentic way I connect with God is through painting. Mid way through painting this rainbow, I finally recognized I had done just that. Objectively not the way I had planned, expected or desired but realignment had occurred. 

 

Fast forward to 2024 when a woman was moved by the three part painting series – and she not only bought the triptych but also got her corporate office to sponsor an art show. As we discussed what the paintings stirred in her, she articulated the very real Genesis 9 tension; a common experience for many of us. 

 

Storms in life often keep us from our plans, our hopes, our expectations and our desires. Sometimes tumultuous clouds are metaphorical and of our own doing. Other times the literal or metaphorical floodwaters are completely out of our control. We are just experiencing the effects of earthly chaos. Yet, Genesis 9 says these storms, clouds and floodwaters are not forever and we are not alone in them. God sees and remembers. And sometimes, we are granted the gift of the rainbow in order for us to recall God’s promise to us and to the earth. 



Respond 

Recall a rainbow memory. Potentially you can visualize a double rainbow while you are driving. Or you may recollect how seeing the array of colors at a particularly painful juncture of life inspired/offered hope. Perhaps your rainbow memory was a sign of God’s promise that storms are not forever. Respond by allowing your mind and body to reminisce on your rainbow memory.


Rest 

God, thank you for your promises to never leave us, nor forsake us, nor let the floodwaters destroy all of life. We praise you for granting us rainbows in the midst of life’s storms. Help us to continue to trust your timing and your deep love for us and all of creation. Amen. 


About the Author 

Rev. Julie Jane Capel is a painter, ordained Covenant pastor and community activist. After a decade plus of pastoring and justice work in Chicago, she recently got married (became a dog mom) and moved to Alexandria, Virginia. For this season of life Julie is working as an international impressionist painter.

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Someone else just wrote a troubling post about the Flood, and I have been wrestling with how to understand God in the midst of such destruction. I appreciate your focus on the rainbow. I need a rainbow in my own life right now. What a blessing your writing has been!

Mi piace
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