After this morning, I have now had the experience of running in a storm three times. This morning was fairly mild, catching the storm right at the beginning, so it really just a lot of blowing, a little rain, and occasional flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. Regardless, I firmly believe that there is no more effective way to realize your fragility than being outside during a storm. It’s equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. As far as I know, that’s the best physical experience of “awe” that’s I’ve ever had. It’s beautiful and exciting but fills you with at least trace amounts (if not large quantities) of fear and the sense of “this could really end me if things go bad here.”
Part of the lore of Martin Luther, an influential Christian reformer in the 1500s, for whom the Lutheran denominations get their name, is that he left life as an aspiring lawyer to become a monk during a storm. He was traveling to Erfurt to begin his law studies when he was caught in a storm that was so bad he called out to St. Anne and made a bargain that if he survived, he would leave his studies and enter a monastery to become a priest. He survived and the rest, as they say, is history. It can’t really be verified, but it’s a story that has stood the test of time.
I have only ever been running in one really bad storm. It came on quite suddenly. I left when my in-law’s house on and overcast, humid day and, in a matter of 15 minutes, a crazy pop up thunderstorm blew up. Suddenly, I went from a confident marathoner, out on an easy-paced, training run to a man who ran half crouched as bolts of lightning streaked across the sky above me and I was pelted with rain. I remember one moment, in particular. I was running with my eyes down most of the time but, as I looked up briefly, I saw a ribbon of lightning break the sky immediately above me, streaking from left to right and resulting in a clap of thunder so loud it shook the ground I ran on. There I was, in awe, both powerless and feeling equally scared out of my mind and fully alive.
I think life is changed by moments like these. We all have storms we run through, some physically, but most have other storms. As miserable as they can be, they are the times when we often experience times of intense growth. Maybe it’s because we are made to experience awe as a means of growth. Maybe it’s because times when we feel powerless, however hard we try to avoid them, are opportunities to realize where our true power lies. I can’t say why, I suppose, but times when I’ve experienced these storms have made me who I am. We aren’t meant to live storm free and none of us do go through life without weathering some storms. How we approach them (or don’t approach them), can change the way we experience the rest of life’s storms, effectively changing our lives. So go out and learn to run with thunder every once in a while.