My husband and I recently took a trip to New Zealand. One of the sights I was most excited about, one which I was told was a “must see” by many, was Milford Sound. Milford Sound is not actually a sound, but a fjord. It was carved millions of years ago as a glacier scraped its way towards its eventual end in the Tasman Sea leaving behind sheer cliff faces that plummet into the watery inlet.
It was a 4-hour drive away from where we were staying to Milford Sound, so one morning we got up extra early to begin the drive towards our afternoon cruise. As we started our trek the sky began to darken as it filled with clouds and then heavy rain. I felt myself tense up, frustrated and upset that there was a storm on the one day I really wanted it to be clear! I found that my eyes were solely focused on the storm – relentlessly watching to see if I could find one little sliver of sunshine popping through. As we climbed higher into the mountains the clouds and rain engulfed us even more. We could see hints of grand landscape but our sight was so limited by the clouds. I knew I was missing something spectacular. This feeling of missing out, which many of us feel all the time, became my single focus. Oh, how this robs me of so much in life.
As we got closer, we suddenly saw hundreds upon hundreds of natural waterfalls all over the rain-soaked mountains zig-zagging every which way because of the rain. Our view was still partially obscured, but no doubt it was beautiful! Stunning! Yet, a little part of me kept focused on how magnificent it would look if it were a clear “perfect” day.
We arrived for our cruise, and wouldn’t you know it, the clouds lifted entirely. It was magnificent! It was more than magnificent! There were rainbows in places the captain had never seen before. The waterfalls were full and rushing, the mountains sparkling, the air clear and crisp after a good rain. It couldn’t have been better.
As we drove home I thought about the day. I thought about how much time and energy I spent needing it to all work out perfectly, the way I imagined and expected. I spent a lot of the ride out worrying and fretting. All that did for me was keep me from experiencing fully the beauty that was happening around me, in the storm.
The drive home was clear. We saw everything I thought I missed. And you know what? It was pretty. But it sure wasn’t all that I created and imagined it to be in my head. In fact, what Chris and I talk most about now is the hundreds of waterfalls we saw and how we have never seen or experienced anything quite like it. The waterfalls that we saw were gone on our ride home, only there because of the rainstorm. Had we not had the rain, we would never have known the waterfalls. I did not realize this at the time. I was so focused on the outcome that it kept me from experiencing the now.
I do this a lot. The perfectionist part of me has a way I want things to work out, want things to look. This part of me keeps me from seeing. Seeing the good in the midst of the “imperfection” or “undesired” situations. In fact, often seeing the better.
This metaphor is applicable in many big and small parts of my life. God is teaching me, and perhaps you, to live in the present, to experience the “what is” in all its fullness instead of the “what if’s” and missing out on the ride. I’m being stretched to open my eyes and look around instead of always looking backwards or forwards. To begin to open my hands instead of having such a tight grip on what I need the outcomes to be.
Thomas Merton writes, “We cannot see things in perspective until we cease to hug them to our own bosom”
Who knows, there might be tremendous beauty in the storm if we can open ourselves up to see it. And maybe, just maybe, a spectacular rainbow that we never expected at the end.