Man Often Underestimates the Power of God


I was on a lengthy patrol and had been living out of my rucksack for a couple of days already. We were all young and hard, so the discomfort and deprivation were just background noise. This would likely just kill me today.

There is a certain fellowship borne of suffering. The military has raised that timeless axiom to an art form. A single person subjected to abject misery is simply miserable. A small group under identical circumstances becomes a tribe. My little tribe was about to get really wet.

You could smell the rain well before it arrived. The air grew thick and clammy, while the sky darkened ominously. This part of the world was renowned for its sudden onset thunderstorms. This particular one was upon us before we could much react. Once the storm got tooled up, it was like being on the wrong side of a commercial blender.

The rain came down in slabs, and visibility fell to zero. The chaos was so chaotic as to become disorienting. We got underneath our ponchos, but I honestly don’t know why. It wasn’t physically possible to get any wetter.

The patrol leader appreciated that this was about to get sideways, so we made our way to the military crest of the nearest hill, just shy of the summit, and hunkered down. Any lower and we would have to worry about flash floods. Any higher and we’d be lightning bait.

We all huddled together in a modest group. I pulled the drawstring on my poncho such that the hood closed to a small hole. I then wrapped the edges of the thing underneath me, and settled in to wait it out.

Fortunately the rain was warm. However, there was so much of it that it was actually painful through the poncho. The gusts were pummeling, while the racket cacophonous. After a bit the wind died down and the lightning started.

Not unlike artillery, the visceral effect lightning has on the human psyche is a function of proximity. In this case the bolts struck the treeless earth like Mk82 five hundred pounders, splitting the sky with each successive impact. You could feel the shock and smell the ozone. Curiosity got the better of me, so I pulled my hood down so that one eye was able to peer outwards unimpeded.

Though it was only mid-afternoon it was by now unnaturally dark. This particular area had been trod by generations of soldiers, and the detritus of such littered the place. While this meant craters, trenches, and fighting positions aplenty, it also meant copious wire obstacles. Tanglefoot and concertina liberally crisscrossed the countryside.

While I was studying my surroundings, a lightning bolt struck a nearby thick roll of concertina wire. Sparks and white-hot dancing fire lit up the dull gray like a strobe. The rolls of wire, each connected one to another, jumped about the hilltop like some kind of living thing. The cumulative effect was to scare the holy bejeebers out of me.

A moment before I had been a soldier in the army of the most powerful nation on earth, heavily armed and supported by the most advanced killing technology mankind could conjure. Now I felt very small. There was no armor or similar human contrivance that could protect a man from such as that.


Over perhaps half an hour the simply breathtaking thunderstorm dissipated and was gone. What followed was pure blue sky and sunshine. We shook ourselves out, stowed our snivel gear, and continued the mission, albeit now griping silently to a man as we were now soaked and therefore chafing mightily.

Science strives to quantify everything it can about the world around us. There is an entire scientific discipline devoted to the study of thunderstorms and the weather. A typical midwestern thunderstorm carries along a voltage potential on the order of 1.3 billion volts. It lifts some 550,000 tons of water vapor to altitudes of twelve miles or more. A typical thunderstorm embodies around ten to the fifteenth power joules of energy, substantially greater than that released during the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. All of this simply breathtaking chaos is dissipated harmlessly in the atmosphere and, more often than not, doesn’t harm a soul.

Ours is an undeniably conceited, shortsighted species. We study only that which we might conveniently perceive and then declare with assurance that there is no God. Reality is something else entirely.

Subscribe To American Handgunner