The sweltering Alabama August was weighing heavily on my heavily pregnant body in 2006. The swirling thoughts and emotions common to every expectant mother about to pop were part of my daily existence. How? How was I going to do this? How much longer? I had done it before, but that didn't seem to matter right then. The fact was that I was going to have to do it again.
Hard to think about anything else.
I waddled on.
One Sunday evening, my almost 3-year-old daughter and I got out of the car in the church parking lot there in Opelika. She hopped out, I rolled out. We could smell the dampness on the pavement from the clearing rain. She grabbed my hand and we began to walk together. There, up in the sky before us, was a rainbow stretching down behind the steeple. She looked up and said to me, "God knew we needed a rainbow."
Oh yes! How He knew. The promise, the sign. The sign to all the world. And a sign to my own heart. I kept it and never forgot it.
The very next day, our first son was born.
Almost nine years later, my family and I stood in another wet-smelling parking lot, this time in Oxford, Alabama, this time with another little son in tow. We were celebrating my husband's birthday at a restaurant there, and we had walked out at sunset time, happy and full of steak and potatoes, with the clappy, embarrassing birthday song of the servers still ringing in our heads.
We gasped. A bright, enormous rainbow - stretching end to end all the way across the sky, right there over Target and TJ Maxx - said hello to us. With a double band of color at one end as a bonus. You had to gasp at its glory. People around us pointing up, strangers smiling at each other, everyone pointing camera phones upward (because that's just what you do now), everyone reveling together in those sunset-soaked moments of God's sky painting.
"Glory to God," I said quietly.
A woman standing nearby must have heard. "Amen," she said. "Thank you, Jesus." I turned to my right. She had beautiful black skin and was dressed in white.
"It's a sign," she said. "It's a sign we need to come together."
I looked right in this stranger's eyes. "Amen," I said, still quietly, holding her gaze. I knew exactly what she meant, and she saw my understanding and agreement. This is Alabama. These are trying days that our nation is experiencing. There's history, there's baggage - but look - there's a rainbow up there. There's the Lord. He did that for us. He's the Way.
Kermit sang it in The Rainbow Connection, "All of us under its spell...we know that it's probably magic." It really was the rainbow connection. How else could two strangers stand together in a parking lot, share very brief words, and just get it?
"Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me..."
Rainbows only last for a little bit before they fade away like an ember. You have this bittersweet feeling that you wish it would just stay there plastered up in the sky forever, making TJ Maxx look infinitely more awesome, but you know it's going to be gone in minutes. A bubble that floats away and pops. Melting Alabama snow. A butterfly you can't catch.
God designed rainbows to be that way. I'm sure he has his own reasons for making them last moments rather than hours or days. Look up - this is special. Look up - this is important. Look up - pay attention. Pay attention right now, or you will miss it. Look up - this is my promise.
And he says it with loudly brilliant, silent, temporary color. A declaration that doesn't even have to say a word.
That's the rainbow connection.