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Giant Arrows Pointing the Way

(a Steve Orr Lent reflection)


Sometimes we just need a sign. 


But a sign in and of itself is not enough. For a sign to be useful, we must also grasp its meaning. What good is a stop sign if “stop” has no meaning for us? 


There are several puzzling signs scattered about the USA—giant concrete arrows—their meaning not readily apparent. 


First placed on the Earth in the 1920s, they are part of the Transcontinental Airway System. It was designed to aid airmail pilots in their flights across the United States. Lacking the level of technology we enjoy today, those pilots could easily get lost. At the time, it was a perfectly reasonable navigation aid. 

These arrows, each more than 68 feet long, were painted a bright golden yellow. At the center of each was a tall tower with a rotating beacon boasting a million-candlepower light. It was possible to see them from the ground, but they were designed to be seen, and are best seen, from the air.


At their peak, there were more than 1,500 of these "ground beacons" stretching from New York to San Francisco, one every 10 miles or so. Day or night, pilots could find their way across the country and back. Their makers intended the arrows to serve as a kind of covenant between themselves and those who had to depend on the arrows for essential, often vital, information. 


Today, they seem a little simple. 


Kind of like the rainbow in this week’s passage from the book of Genesis.


After a rain, we see a rainbow arcing across a portion of the sky and feel a little jump of elation, an appreciation of its beauty. Few of us stop to reflect on an essential truth: rainbows are anything but simple. 


Without the rain, no amount of sunlight striking our atmosphere could produce a rainbow. For a rainbow to appear high up in the sky, there has to be a brilliant light source, and there have to be millions upon millions of rain drops to reflect and refract that light.


To Noah and his family, the appearance of a rainbow was brand new. Before the Flood, it had never rained. Whatever God used to change our atmospheric composition to bring about that first rain, it remained in place after the flood. And it produced, for the first time, the conditions necessary for a rainbow. 


Technically, you can see a rainbow from the air, but it doesn't look quite the same; it can even appear as a circle. Where you need to be to see the phenomenon as a bow is on the ground, with rain before you and the sun behind you. 


God placed His bow "in the clouds" so that, for all generations, we could be assured that God would never again destroy all flesh by a flood.


The rainbow is just one of the covenants God has set between Himself and us, signs we can see on our spiritual journey. When we understand them, they point the way, keeping us from getting lost. 


Whether it's bows or arrows, the intent is the same. If you want a successful journey, look for the signs along the way.




(Plus, want to know if any concrete arrows are near you? Check out this website)



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