Zigzag Lightning


When my brothers and I were little, my mom used to tell us there were two kinds of lightning: “sheet lightning” and “zigzag lightning.”
Cause that’s what you tell elementary kids and toddlers who are too young to understand that the scientific terms are “intracloud,” “cloud to cloud”, and “cloud to ground.”
Calling it zigzag lightning is so much more vivid and exciting anyway. Sheesh.
Now, years later, I still refer to lightning the way my mom taught me to. And tonight I saw some of both.
My friends and I went out to IHOP pretty late, and then drove back to one of their houses and played with the family’s hound-mutt puppy and then raced each other in this colorful bouncy smash game called Battle Block Theater.
One of these friends is a guy that I’ve gotten really close to in the past year. He is the person that has helped me out THE MOST since May. He lets me rant  to him about all kinds of things, sometimes just listening and other times comforting and giving advice. Sadly, he’s moving in two weeks, and because I’m really going to miss him, our college buddy group is trying to hang out together as much as possible.
At any rate, I was driving tonight, praying to God that me and my neighbor would make it home safely. Rain was pouring from the sky. It was 11:15. I could barely see the yellow lines….or the white lines…or the grassy median. The windshield wipers wouldn’t go fast enough. Back. Forth. Blurry. Clear. I hit a couple standing puddles of water and my car lost traction. The newly paved roads in my neighborhood looked glassy, like mirrors. The signs reflected in them, yellow and neon orange, blurry floating colors on the slick black asphalt. When other cars appeared, I felt my car swerving towards them, the oncoming headlights drowning out the scenery, and all I could do was scream to myself, “Keep to the right! Right! RIGHT!”
We drove past the airport, and right there, a streak of bold, instantaneous, sky piercing, darkness rending lightning reached from the highest cloud all the way to ground zero. It was awesome. Bright yellow. Like a glowing wire. The biggest “zigzag lightning” I’d ever seen. It made my skin tingle. Shiver. Goosebumps.
Unbridled power displayed…lights on, flash…lights off.. in one moment.
All I saw after that was sheet lightning. A flash. Here and there. Irregular. Less brilliant but much brighter. Less awe-some and more steady.
I’ve made the assumption that people are like lightning to those around them. Sometimes we are a flash in the dark–bold and bright and beautiful–and other times we are the steady, flickering, patient glow while the rain pours down and the thunder rumbles around those we love.
There are people in my life who have been flashes. Those who have impacted me deeply, given me the greatest joys and the greatest pains, and changed me. Miraculously. Amazingly.
There are others who are more behind the scenes. They may not be in my daily business, may not know my deepest, darkest secrets and struggles, but I know they are there for me. And always, always will be.
There are others who have been both…these are the people that I am tied to for life, my life is knitted together with theirs, and just as they would die for me and I would die for them, so we also live every day for each other….with and without each other….remembering and loving and pressing on together.
My parents have been that for me…both a warm glow and a strike of correction…both which I appreciate…
My brothers have been that for me…especially my oldest younger brother…he has been following me around since he was in diapers. He looks up to me, and that alone has been a flash of light, a streak that has changed me into a person…a different person than I would be if I didn’t have others shadowing my footsteps.
My ex-boyfriend has been that for me. The person who, hands down, taught me more in four months than I learned the rest of my life before that. And even though we can’t really talk and be friends right now, I know he’s there…now a glow instead of a flash…but still always there…just as I hope I am for him…
There are a couple friends that have made zigzag lightning flashes. Lasting impacts. My friend that I mentioned above is one of those. My former best-girlfriend coworker is one of those. My childhood bestie who lives several states away is another one. My mom’s best friend, who helped me to understand salvation, is another.
I want to be influential in the lives of people around me, just like the people above have been for me. Sometimes, I will be a flash. An intervention. A rescuing hand. A bandage to bind up a bleeding wound. A powerful, impacting, beautiful, ray.
Other times, I will be a glow. Probably forgotten, just like we tend to forget the sheet lightning in favor of the bold zigzag streaks. Just a hand touching those students in my art class, those people who I help to register for college, church members, the family that I saw at the memorial service today, students at tkd, customers at my new job ( yayyyyyyyyyyy!!!!), my grandparents, my coworkers, my classmates, strangers in the mall, strangers at the beach, strangers on the side of the road late at night…
But whether zigzag or flash, whether small impact or big, it’s still lightning.
It still does something to pierce the darkness.
It still has a purpose.


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