This week, God has been brought into the discussion about the weather rather a lot.
I understand it. When tragedy strikes, we want to better understand why. So we look for someone to blame for the horror or someone to thank when that horror is escaped. And while God seems like the perfect scapegoat or hero, I can’t help but wonder if that’s not the most helpful way to deal with these situations.
If God sent the storm as punishment, then that seems both arbitrary and non-helpful. What is the lesson? That God hates school? That God isn’t a fan of family homes? Most parents will agree that if you need to discipline a child, that lesson needs to apply to what the child has done wrong. The most effective lessons tend to be those that are directly linked with the undesired behavior. Throwing something out and seeing if it sticks is a poor way to parent. If I am to believe that God is a good parent, then how does this random display point to that?
But God as hero doesn’t do much for me either, if I’m completely honest. Though I am not an atheist like the woman interviewed by Wolf Blitzer, I don’t know if I could thank God for sparing me and my child from the storm that may have injured or killed my neighbors. If, as a mother, I randomly rewarded one child while simultaneously bringing pain to another, I believe my children love one another enough to recognize that as abusive.
I don’t believe that God in uninvolved in these situations. However, I believe that involvement may be seen in ways that are less flashy.
In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus says, You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends. If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about that? Don’t even unbelievers do that? But you must always act like your Father in heaven. (CEV)
The sun, the rain. Nourishing, life-giving things, provided for all.
We often shake our heads at the childish notion of God living in Heaven, up in the clouds. We smile and sigh and explain that no, God isn’t “up there,” God is here in the midst of us. And yet, this past week, we have behaved as though the idea of a God in the clouds is truth.
But we should not look for God in the clouds, because that is not where God is found. Not in a haphazard punishment given without warning and without explanation, but in a kind act offered to someone who drives the car with the bumper sticker that pisses you off the other days of the year. Not in a random sparing of life or property, but in the intentional giving up of a treasured toy to offer comfort to someone who has lost everything.
In compassion and sacrifice and service.
In sun and rain.