I am just a little bit afraid right now. As I type this, I am sitting on my porch in the middle of either the remnants of, or the after effects of hurricane Ike. Mind you, I live in western New York state. Hurricanes don’t usually affect us much more than a long, steady soaking.
It’s really amazing. I was writing an article for my Buffalo Bills site and kept hearing things falling outside. I remembered it was going to be windy, but didn’t realize the magnitude. I checked in on it every once in a while, but wanted to finish my article tonight, and head to bed.
As I was turning stuff off to head to bed, the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves picked up. Perhaps because I was shutting things down, or perhaps it really was picking up. Either way, I was drawn to it. I just wanted to sit on the porch and observe this amazing power that was sweeping over us.
When I first sat down, the leaves of the trees were swirling and swaying and thrusting back and forth like crazy. The sound was just amazing. So loud. I could see the effects of the wind in the trees right above me (we have several very large trees on our property) and in the distance, in our neighbors’ yards across the way.
Either way it was impressive.
I noticed that I actually began humming a tune from the Chris Tomlin CD we recently purchased, “Hello Love”. The lyric goes something like the old hymn, “Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, early in the morning we will sing…” I thought that was cool, and sort of odd. Certainly made sense that my brain would automatically pull that from the file. We all learn that bigness, and huge, visible power are equated with God. His majesty is awesome and terrifying. “Holy, holy, we bow down before Thee…” Sitting in the middle of this storm, it made sense to feel that, and to feel this tension that still quickens my pulse.
But almost in the same instant that I involuntarily sang that song, I also contemplated the way that I have come to know the One who made the wind. I know him as my Father. As the One who calls me his friend, his son. While he is still the same in his divine superiority to me, my relationship with him is different than it was a five or ten years ago, when I might have understood him more in a position of unworthiness and fear and trembling.
The image that comes to mind is that of my own children. In the middle of a heated moment, I can be fairly terrifying to them. Either because of my anger (which I wish was less directed at them) or because of their guilt and wrong-doing… either way, there is a “healthy” fear. I’m way bigger than they are. And I am the “law”, the “judge” and “jury”. Their fate rests in my hands. I am always surprised at how even when I am angered by something they have done, they can still stand right in front of me, not afraid of what might happen to them… and sometimes even reach out for a genuine, comforting hug.
It should not surprise me, though. The reason that I do not feel the need to confirm my fear of my Father is because he continues to reveal to me the depth of his love for me. And the more I understand his love for me, the more I can trust myself near him. Even if he is holy, awesome, terrifying, mighty, powerful, and all of those big, scary words.
His love – and my relationship to it – trumps the fear that I might otherwise have.
Another thought that comes to mind as I still am awed by this crazy display of “power” all around me (probably 30-40 mph gusts!) is the time when God to revealed himself to Elijah. Elijah was depressed, and God wanted to show him who he was, and how he works, so he said, “Go out and stand before me on the mountain.”
Here’s the section from 1 Kings:
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12
God was not in the things we think he would be in. He wasn’t in the stuff that we consider “powerful.” He was in the whisper. I don’t think Elijah still got in, because he just asked God the same thing. I’m certain that we still “don’t get it” because we keep thinking that God is distant, awe-inspiring (in the celestial, humongous way) and to be feared.
But who fears a whisper?
We don’t. Perhaps we should. There are plenty of references to people fearing God. And of course there are reasons to… until you know him. And then, even though there may be moments… when you really think about it, all you want to do is get a genuine, comforting hug from the One whom some would fear.
We see power very differently. I’m still in awe of this display of power tonight. This wind can knock down very large limbs. It already has. I’ll have some clean up to do tomorrow. I could definitely be hurt by flying, falling, heavy objects. There is reason to fear. (Though I am safely under the overhang of my porch…)
But as I learn to trust my Father, based on daily life lived with him, I do not fear him as I once may have. My fear has been “cast out” by his perfect love. And that love continues to deepen. I will never understand it fully, but the more I do, the more I can sit calmly in the presence of the Mighty, Fearsome, Terrifying Lord of Lords.
His power is not in his display of grandiose showmanship (though that can be cool!), but rather in his love for me, and his choosing to serve rather than be served. (Like we see Jesus doing for his disciples.)
I certainly don’t have any definitive answers. But these are my thoughts, in the middle of a wind storm, this late summer night.