Of Tornadoes and Parades

028Today I wanted to write to you about the Maple Syrup Festival parade. But, last night tornadoes came to my friends and family in Arkansas. I laid in bed with my phone in my hand, after I was done checking on my Ma and Pa. They were hunkering down in a closet and I couldn’t sleep. I could only whisper prayers, and hold my phone tight, as if I was holding on to my parents, because I hate tornadoes and I wanted everyone to be kept safe.

And this morning, I awoke to find that somehow, my people, the ones that I know and love were all kept safe. But, they have friends that have lost their homes and I know of one woman who lost her husband and two of her girls. Our hearts break.

So, it doesn’t feel right to talk about parades.

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And it’s hard to know what to think about God when tornadoes come. Like, isn’t He in charge around here? Why did He allow that? And I don’t have good answers, just hard questions, but I trust His heart enough to lean in and ask Him. This morning, my momma reminded me that this whole world is broken. Remember the fall? That moment when sin marred this whole place and how everything came crashing, and caving in? The once absolutely perfect is now just an echo. A paradise lost.

Even nature is broken. The Bible talks about how the ground groans and creation reels and waits with this eager longing and restless expectation until its full redemption. (Romans 8:19-22) I just can’t bring myself to blame all the heart-ache and tragedy on God. Still, the God-believers and Jesus-followers have to wrestle with a God who is big enough to quiet storms, but doesn’t always intervene like we think He should.

Still somehow, we call Him good–He who knows the number of our days.

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We sing songs like, “I’ll praise You in the storm,” and “He gives and takes away.”

We do this because we really believe that though there is pain and evil that threatens to undo us, we have tasted and seen that God is not that. He is good and He loves us. (1 Peter 2:3) It doesn’t make any logical sense to most, but we have this radical trust because with these very hearts, we have tasted and seen. And so, yes, there are things that we can’t explain. And whether you are a believer or a skeptic, there are always things that can’t be explained. So, I clench my fist tightly around the edge of God’s garment and I don’t let go of this hope in these promises that there is coming a day when God will restore all that’s been lost.  He will defeat the devil and this is not the end. No, there is forever just right after this.

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And even now, we feel it. That though the world is broken, still there are all these traces of what once was. That original design–the perfect creation that God made and called it good. And even now, we sense His movements. The way His Kingdom is coming. We feel love here. We’re arrested by wonder. We are drawn to beauty. We long for the noble and the righteous to thrive. We desperately want the bad guy to lose and the good guy to win.

And on a Saturday morning, in a small town, I cry during the parade. Because deep inside me, I know  it. I know that things are not as they should be. The world shouldn’t be unsafe. Little children should never feel afraid. And I rejoice that there are still all these moments full of  light and love and goodness.

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I rejoice in the purity and innocence that I see. In the beauty and laughter that I get to be a part of.

I read what Terry Eagleton, a literary critic once said,

The difference between science and theology is whether you see the world as a gift or not.

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I don’t blame the pain and evil in the world on God because it’s God who teaches me that life is a gift. It’s Jesus who models for me what it means to love my neighbor as much as I love myself. It’s my Maker’s heart beating inside my chest that compels me to take care of the world–starting with the people right in front of my face. It’s His Spirit that whispers into me to pay attention to others. To look strangers in the eye and not to judge them, but to smile at them and with my eyes, repeat, “Yes, I see you. I see you. You are important. You are more important than anything.”

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So, what if God knows things that I don’t? And what if He doesn’t tell me everything till I get to heaven?

What if a tornado comes? And devastates. What if from now on it only rains on all my parades?

Will I still call Him good? Will I still trust His heart? Could I say with that man, Job, in the Bible, who literally lost everything, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb. And naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth. God gives and He takes away. I still bless His Name.” (paraphrase from Job 1:21)

I wonder about these things. So, for now I pray…

Lord, I’ve tasted and seen that You’re good. I believe…help my unbelief. Keep giving me faith to cling to the edge of Your garment when I can’t wrap my mind around the edges of Your ways. Today, Lord, is all I’ve got. So, today, I bless Your Name.

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