The Rainbow Connection and the Inconsolable Secret

For some reason “The Rainbow Connection” popped into my head a few minutes ago, and I got to thinking about some of the questions it asks.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side?
What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing,
And what do we think we might see?

Now, of course there are standard Christian answers to some of these questions–“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1), and the rainbow is a sign of God’s promise, particularly the promise to Noah that He would never again flood the earth (Gen. 9:13). But that’s not really what the song is asking about. Instead, the real answer is something more like this:

“Listen to me,” cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis. “Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front—”
–G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

And that, as C. S. Lewis explains in “The Weight of Glory,” is indeed what we’re searching for in the rainbows and the stars:

The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory meant good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.

… At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

Yes, we do (or should) feel awe at God’s handiwork when we stargaze and gratitude for His promises when we see rainbows, especially unexpected ones. But what keeps drawing us back to such things, resisting those who would tell us that “Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, / And rainbows have nothing to hide,” is that sense that we are seeing only the back of the world, the wrong side of the door, the inconsolable secret that we were made for something beyond this world, that our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

And thus I say, with apologies to Williams and Ascher:
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,
We lovers of Jesus–you’ll see.

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