Are you waiting for that lightning bolt?
One of my favorite sayings is “A lightning bolt will come down from the heavens”
This is a phrase I learned from my high school music teacher, Helen Bush, who taught the choir at Patterson High School in Baltimore. She, along with band director Clarence Wroblewski, was instrumental in shaping my musical interest from the start. Her passion for teaching was unparalleled and the school produced some really fine musicians, some who like me, entered a music career.
I had always wondered about that phrase “A lightning bolt will come down from the heavens.” I think from early on I interpreted this as a caution to watch myself lest I feel God’s wrath for a wrong note performed or for any bad behavior.
Lightning has long been associated with the gods; Greek mythology shows lightning as the chief weapon of Zeus, King of the Gods, who often depicted with lightning bolts in his hands, ready to strike down people and buildings that displeased him.
Some modern religious leaders believe that Acts of God (a legal, not theological, term) are divine retribution for mankind’s wickedness and immorality. Lightning is mentioned in the bible no less than 50 times. “His lightnings lit up the world; The earth saw and trembled.” Psalms 97:4 In Exodus 9:23 “When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt.”
There is much symbolic meaning to lightning. From fear to good luck, lightning can mean many things. The Celts considered lightning as a sacred sign. To Native Indians, lightning is a symbol of honesty, truth and morality. In Chinese myth, lightning is a symbol of fertility.
Certainly old Benjamin Franklin knew of the power of lightning. His experiments gave him the ‘bright idea’ that lightning was one-in-the-same as electricity. From these experiments, Franklin eventually invented the lightning rod, which protected early homes from being struck by lightning.
In Bernard Malamud’s baseball novel “The Natural” the lightning bolt image is found on the bat that was fashioned by protagonist Rob Hobbs from a tree that was stuck by lightning. Hobbs, like the knight Percival in Arthurian legends, uses his bat Wonderboy like Arthur’s Excalibur. This is the mythic use of the lightning bolt theme, as it is a metaphor for rebirth and rejuvenation after a tragic event.
I still use the lightning bolt reference at rehearsals if we misplay music written by one of the masters. And, of course, I have said it to try and alleviate a tense moment. But always with making one step to the right, just in case….
In 1983 I attended Kent State University for my Masters Degree. The team was the Golden Flashes with a lightning bolt as their emblem.
As I grew older, I realized Mrs. Bush meant that each of us is touched by God in one way or the other and that “lightning bolt” is the message given to us in our daily lives. In Jeremiah 10, it is written, “It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, And brings out the wind from His storehouses.”
I believe that we get signs every day and how we choose to accept or ignore them guides us through our day to day existence. Our lives can be changed with the ringing of the phone, an email, or even a delivery of a letter. Those signs can be interpreted as our lightning bolts. How we choose to accept them and act on them is up to each of us.
Over the course of my life I’ve been the recipient of lightning strikes (metaphorically not literally), the biggest one on January 6, 1994 (Epiphany) which changed my life. I live each day as if that next one will strike. And I grow stronger with anticipation.
Thank you Helen Bush for that wonderful saying and for making a difference in so many lives.
Where will you be when that lightning bolt strikes and will you answer?