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What a rainbow means to me



Sarah Robsdottir - published on 06/02/23

Seeing the colors in the sky brings me back to a car ride when I was about 5 years old ...

In modern times, particularly in the month of June, rainbows have come to symbolize and celebrate certain lifestyles. And while I wish those who identify with these lifestyles nothing but peace and goodwill, a rainbow means something very different to me. 

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the PROMISE between me and the earth.” — Genesis 9:13

I’ll never forget a summer-time car ride with my mom when I was about five years old. The sun was shining bright, yet raindrops filled the sky.

“Look,” she said, as she pointed to a majestic double rainbow, “That’s a sign of God’s PROMISE …” 

She told me the Bible story of Noah; how he was a holy man even though the rest of the world had turned their backs on God. This was an important moment to me, because my mom didn’t talk a lot about her faith. Rather, she lived it. My dad was the talker. He lived out his faith too, which included writing and performing children’s songs about Noah and other Bible heroes. But, hearing this story from my mom in a quiet car ride hit me in a profound way. 

“Every time you see a rainbow,” she said, “Don’t just think of God’s promise to never flood the earth again — think aboutallGod’s promises.”

To this day, I can’t see a rainbow without recalling her wisdom. The rainbow’s message of a promise is a belief Judeo-Christian people have passed down to their children for centuries — a deeply comforting message of God’s love and peace. Yet, I wonder how many modern moms see rainbows and explain the story of Noah to their children anymore; I wonder how many Christians wear colorful shirts celebrating what rainbows mean to them. Because the symbol has come to solely represent something else in these present times. 

The comedian Demetri Martin handled this delicate subject humorously: “I just think it’s weird that one group took refracted light.”   

He makes a good point; he also reminds us to have a sense of humor and to be patient with one another, especially because scientifically speaking, no two people see the same rainbow. We’re all looking at any one particular rainbow from different angles and the raindrops (hence, the image in the sky) is constantly moving. 

So, my rainbow is not your rainbow. All the more reason to heed the call presently shouted in the public square — to be inclusive and tolerant — when I explain what rainbows mean to me and what they’ve meant to people of faith for centuries: Rainbows are a symbol of God’s Promise. They are and always will be. 

[NOTE: Something else worth mentioning — a rainbow is not a bow. Rather, it’s a circle, reminding us of our God’s eternal promise and love. The bottom half of the rainbow is merely masked by the ground or horizon.]  

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