Lightning Strikes

I knew a guy who had been struck by lightning twice.  My dad saw him not long after being struck the second time.  In case you were wondering, he looked like he'd been struck by lightning. 

It blew his shoes off, exploded his socks, and left his hair on end with a bunch of burn marks on him.  Kind of what you'd expect.  

Then he told my dad that it was the second time in his life that he had been struck by lightning, which prompted me to think at the time, "What are the odds of that?"

Your chances of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 15,300. But the odds of getting struck by lightning twice in your lifetime are 1 in 9 million.  I looked it up. 

I got to thinking about this guy because I recently wrote a poem about lightning that took an odd turn as I wrote it.  Poetry is like that for me.  I often have no idea where a poem I write will take me, and I'm often surprised by the direction. 

Here's the poem: 
like lightning
the thunder came with a 
sharp crack, but only after 
the jagged streak of light 
came first, piercing the night, 
startling me, sending shock 
waves through my body  so 
that my hair stood on end, 
and then I  waited for a second 
or two, whispering to myself, 
                        here it comes.
and then the sound of thunder
washed over me, leaving me 
with a pang of excitement mixed
with not a little dread, and then 
i sat waiting for another strike, 
holding my breath as i waited, 
for what seemed like an eternity
before letting it out, and then 
staring into the dark and saying, 
                        never  twice.

If you were wondering, the poem led me to reflect on that old chestnut, "Lightning never strikes the same place twice," which I've heard more than once but never really gave much thought to.  

A quick search on the Interwebs revealed this definition of that saying, which I thought was pretty good: 

“Lightning never strikes the same place twice” is a common phrase you've probably heard before, often used to reassure someone that whatever bad thing has happened, it won't happen again. It can even be used when something good happens, such as winning the lottery, but the underlying truth remains.

The most fascinating thing about this phrase is that it applies to both good things and bad.  

You can have something extraordinary happen to you, and someone could wryly and perhaps even in a caustic and jealous way hit you with it.  "Well, you know," they might mutter as you celebrate  your good fortune, "lightning never strikes the same place twice."

But you can also find yourself comforted by a friend after something terrible occurs, as they put their hand on your shoulder and say to you softly, "At least lightning never strikes the same place twice."  

Here's the rub in all of this, though...  Lightning may not strike the same place twice, but there's a one in nine million chance it might strike the same person twice

As I write this, I am visiting my mom's family in South Carolina for the first time since her funeral here in 2017.  Not surprisingly, I'm feeling pretty vulnerable and small right about now.  

So many of the best memories of my childhood with my mom were made here, and those memories and the emotions connected to them are hitting me all at once. 

No sooner than I arrived here, the lightning strike of acute grief and loss flashed and landed on me with electrifying results. 

And along with it came the vulnerability that seems to attract other lightning strikes from other griefs and losses.  

It works that way, I've come to understand.  The odds of getting struck seem narrowed when standing in a field of emotion, holding the steel rod of brokenness to the sky, awaiting what comes next. 

Which is why my poem makes so much sense to me.  We often live with the illusion that we will never have to experience pain more than once or that when something good happens, we may never feel that again. 

I sometimes repeat a verse in the Bible: "The rain falls on the just and the unjust."  This means that storms and life-giving showers come upon us all, no matter who we are. 

Sometimes the lightning strikes of good fortune land upon us again and again.  And sometimes, some strikes bring us grief and pain, which we experience more than once.  

But through it all, we can find comfort in knowing that the One who walked on weather and overcame the storms on the Sea of Galilee is the One who can overcome even the most fierce lightning storms of our own life.  

So, no matter what the lightning brings, we are held and covered by the love of Jesus, who comforts us and gives us hope no matter what the storms might bring. 

May we all be filled with peace in this truth, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen. 


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