This past Monday afternoon the strangest storm was brewing over Calgary. Black clouds were fronting the storm with these aqua-green coloured chasers tucking in behind. We dutifully took in the cushions from our deck furniture and got ready for the downpour. I was intrigued and stood on the deck just observing the storm pass over. The darkest clouds, which I expected had all the rain, had pretty much passed by when I heard something that caught my attention. It first sounded like the din of traffic in the distance; getting louder, it became more like a train in the distance and then a wall of sound, like the sound of an approaching waterfall. Then you could pick out the distinct ping of hail hitting roofs, trees, windshields and car-tops.
And then the missiles started. That is what it felt like as bloated golf-ball sized hail (some nearing the size of eggs) came whistling through the trees and pelted us. The sound of it was uncanny – you could almost hear the whistle and hum as the hail stones screamed downward and then the noise of impact – the strafing of foliage, the thud in grass or dirt, the smack on concrete, the crash on rooftops, the ping and thump on cars and the whack on siding and gutters.
It was all a little chaotic but once we realized that there was nothing to do but watch, the kids and I took a sleeping bag (which I had grabbed hoping to put on the car but soon realized I just might be taking my life in my hands without a helmet on), cuddled up on the front porch bench and allowed the storm to blow over us.
I was filled with a unique feeling of gladness and goodness. Here we were, sitting in the middle of a pretty violent summer storm, menacing hailstones whistling down and crashing about us, rain and wind slanting in at angles, but completely protected. A mixture of release (yes, the van was getting dinged up and roof shingles might be getting scraped bare, but what could I do about it now?), security and yet danger too. We were snug and warm yet close enough to the raging storm to get damp.
Interesting how these competing experiences – danger and security – combine together to add up to joy and delight. Why joy? I think because I was close enough to the storm to feel the threat of its dangerous power and yet freed up to actually enjoy the furious life of the storm because I was safe and protected.
There’s always part of us that wants to be on the edge, feeling alive and experiencing all of life not just its safely managed parts; and then there’s another deep instinct to protect and guard our lives. And when you get both at the same time, you’ve got joy! I think it’s like the really crazy rides at amusement parks – you’re spinning and rolling, experiencing who knows what sort of G-forces, but strapped in and secure. And you end up laughing, and screaming out, with delight.
Reminds me of a quote from G.K. Chesterton that greets me every day on my office door: “Every person wants two things in life: adventure and security. Only in Christianity do you get both.”
I think that just might be the secret to living in joy.