23 Aug Wild God
Earlier this month Hurricane Isaias swept through Bethany Beach. I remember being awakened early on Tuesday morning by a loud sequence of horn blasts which appeared to be emanating from my iphone; the accompanying message advised me to go to the basement (sadly, there is none.) Not long after, the winds and rain arrived with a destructive force, battering the house and bending the trees in a kind of wild dance.
By 9:30 am the rain had ceased, but the wind kept up. As I looked out from the window I noticed two gates open, and went outside to make them secure. By now the wind was blowing harder than ever. As I walked around the side of the house, I heard the sound of a bough breaking away from the tree on the front lawn. It crashed down and completely covered the road, taking a piece of the corner fence with it. As I began to drag the broken bough off the road, a local resident suddenly appeared and offered to help – his appearance was timely, and the two of us were able to drag the large bough off the road and onto the grass.
At that point one of my neighbors came out – we attempted a conversation, but the wind blew our words away. As if in anger, the wind then took my neighbor’s glass door and flung it against the side, shattering the lower glass panel. At this point, without further attempts at conversation, we went inside to our respective houses and hunkered down.
Being outside in the storm was probably dangerous, yet it was also exhilarating. I’ve lived in places before with high winds, such as Wellington, New Zealand, which is even nicknamed “Windy.” But I had never before experienced winds such as this. It was a reminder of the untamed power of nature, and of its destructiveness. A human being is pretty much helpless in the face of nature unleashed.
The essential wildness of the created world, of which we are a part, is something we mainly attempt to turn to our advantage. We build dams to create electricity from the flow of rivers. Once windmills were used to grind wheat; modern versions create energy. They are a testament to human ingenuity, but occasionally the power of nature is too strong for us to harness or contain.
It’s an apt metaphor for God, too, whom we sometimes attempt to “tame” and domesticate, but who ultimately resists our attempts to confine or classify. The wildness of God keeps him separate from us, and this separation is inherent in our relationship to God, which at a basic level is the relationship of Creator to creature. That’s not to say that we can’t draw near to God; on the contrary, those who have a very close relationship with God sometimes experience that wild power as a revelation of God’s presence.
On the day of the storm, I reflected on the strange combination of exhilaration and helplessness which I experienced when I went outside. It made me think of how God makes us alive while teaching us at the same time to be dependent upon him. To be alive in God! That, surely, is the purpose of our religion. You can study the Scriptures as a kind of academic discipline, but it won’t make you alive. To be alive you have to step into God’s wide world, not knowing where God will lead you, but trusting in his providence for you.
On your journey may you experience the wild and generous love of God!