It was a Sunday, in the spring of 1998. I was 23 years old. I was driving on I-435 outside of Olathe, Kan., on my way to I-70, returning from a seminar that changed my life. But I wasn’t thinking too much about that at the moment. I’m plenty familiar with I-435 north of I-70 on the Missouri side, but I’d never driven the southern portion of I-435 before. I hate driving on Interstate highways during a storm, and the rain was coming down in buckets. I hate driving in unfamiliar areas when I’m low on fuel. My orange gas indicator was lit and my car had dinged at me a time or two: “Feed me, you dingaling!” it was saying.
Finally, I found a sign that indicated a service station. It was a couple of miles off the highway, but I took it. Better to take something you know than to take chances when you’re low on fuel. The road twisted and turned, and I didn’t know if the gas station would be on the left or right. Finally I found the station, on the left. I pulled in, swiped my credit card, fueled up, and found out once again that my 12-gallon tank actually held more than 12 gallons. Meanwhile, the storm continued to relentlessly pound the earth. I got back into my car and realized I didn’t completely remember which direction I’d come from. I took a chance on my hazy short-term memory and turned right, out of the station, praying that I’d run back into I-435 because I had no idea where the unfamiliar road would lead if I’d turned the wrong direction.
Finding I-435, I continued on my journey. The road twisted more than I liked, and when I continued onto I-470, conditions didn’t really change. But as I approached I-70, the storm lightened a little. I saw a rainbow, then another, then another. Three rainbows. No matter how the road twisted and turned–which seemed like a lot at the time, even though I had a new set of Michelins and I’d already had one opportunity to find out just how good they were–those rainbows stayed directly in front of me. The storm picked back up and the rainbows faded. The storm relented some more.
It was a good metaphor for my life at the time. I was attending a church that was simultaneously admonishing me to use my talents for the glory of God and telling me that serving God in its ministries was a right that had to be earned. My ex-girlfriend was sending mixed signals at a rate of a million a minute any time she came around, which was often. Meanwhile I fought an internal battle. I wanted her back like the desert soil wants rain, yet I knew more and more with each passing day she wasn’t good for me. On top of all that, some of her friends and acquaintances seemed to be eyeing me up, making me wonder if they weren’t trying to figure out what was wrong with me that would make her leave, and whether they were wondering if I’d be good enough for them. Some of them had just ended relationships themselves, while others hadn’t had one in a long time. I wasn’t especially interested in finding out–I was gripped by a mortal fear that they’d do the same thing she did in the end. And if that wasn’t enough, my career was falling apart. I had computers breaking left and right, no budget to replace them outright, and heavily-used spare parts that were more than three years old. For lack of anything else to use, I was routinely deploying three-year-old systems to do things they were never designed to do. Things weren’t working well and I was taking the heat.
I considered all of this, looked out at the storm, and at the rainbows beyond. A thought came to mind. “If you want to chase rainbows, you’ll have to weather a few storms.”
I didn’t catch all the rainbows, but I caught some of them. And the storms are different today. Some of them are smaller and others aren’t. But the things that got me through those old storms haven’t changed.
And some of today’s rainbows are cooler than the rainbows were then.