Sunday, June 24, 2012
Job 38.1-11; Mark 4.35-41
+ This past week, on Facebook, I posted this update:
“For the first time in almost two years, my life is finally starting to return to some kind of normalcy.”
Now, I know some of you are not on Facebook. And some of you are adamantly against Facebook. But it’s good sometimes to post things like this as a kind of proclamation, It’s kind of an affirmation for myself.
Of course, since it is Facebook, people respond, with comments, “What is normalcy?” A very good philosophical question.
But I do feel like my life is sort of tottering back to normalcy—whatever that might be. Because, as you know these almost two years for me have been chaotic to say the least. It was, of course, two years ago in September that my father died. I know you know about all of this, because you have walked with me through it. And I am thankful for knowing that you have walked with me this far.
Now, it feels good to be coming out that storm. And it was truly a storm. A maelstrom—a hurricane of emotions. I never thought a single event could literally turn one’s world upside down. But for me, emotionally, it did. I think because I wasn’t able to prepare for it, I had to take a longer time to process the very large absence of my father from my life.
Now, certainly I’ve had other storms in my life. My cancer diagnosis ten years ago was definitely a pretty major storm. And I’ve had a few others
But for some reason, beginning with my father’s death in 2010, I seem to have had one set-back after another these past two years. It has felt sort of like an uphill climb during a raging storm. I think those things sometimes just happen when one is somewhat emotionally weak and vulnerable.
Knowing that, it’s good to be on this side of it, looking back at it. My Facebook update is partly a deep belief that I am truly emerging from that time. And partly, it is hope that I am emerging from that time. I hope! I hope!
But, I can say this at this point (and I don’t think I could have said it earlier): I am somewhat thankful for the storm. That’s still a hard thing to say. But I am thankful because, at least in this moment, where I am right now, I can say that I am definitely not the same person I was before that storm. I am different. I have been transformed. And we need to do that in our lives at times. We need to transform.
Now, that doesn’t mean I have not emerged from this event in my life shaken. I am shaken. I am sort of weak-kneed and bleary-eyed after everything. But one thing I have discovered throughout the whole ordeal: God never left me. In the midst of it all, somewhere, I was able to find some kind of peace. And during it all, two of the scriptures I found myself returning to again and again were our Old Testament and Gospel readings for today.
This Job reading is wonderful in many way. What is God saying to us from the whirlwinds that coming rolling our lives? What do we do in the wind storms of our lives, when we feel battered and beaten and bashed?
For me, I found myself, in examining these scriptures, straining against the wind of the storm to hear the Voice of God. The fact is, if we do so, we will hear God’s voice, even then. Not literally God’s voice, of course. But if we turn our spiritual ears toward God, we will hear God.
For Job, the voice of God he hears in the whirlwind has no answers to the questions we find ourselves asking all the time. Why do bad things happen to those of us who are faithful God? Why do our lives get turned upside down? I certainly asked that of God more than once during my ordeal. The Voice that answers Job from the whirlwind answers a question with a question:
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
[Where were you] when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?”
Sometimes that’s exactly what we hear in the storms of our lives. We want answers when we shout our angry questions of unfairness into the storm. Sometimes, when we do, the Voice in the wind only throws it all back at us with more questions. Just when we want answers, we find more questions and we ourselves are forced to find the answers within ourselves.
Sometimes the Voice answering back from the wind with questions, is a voice more succinct. Sometimes it is a more potent questions—a question not filled with poetic and symbolic meaning, but a pointblank question to us. Sometimes the voice from the wind—as we shake with fear and hold on for dear life during those frightening storms—asks us bluntly: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Why fear the whirlwinds and all that they unleash upon us? Have we no faith?
Again and again God commands us, in various voices throughout scripture, “do not be afraid.”
“Do not be afraid.”
And still we fear. But the message is that although the storms of our lives will rage around us, when we stop fearing, those storms are quieted. They lose their power. Because the other voice that comes out of the storms of our lives is not asking a question of us. The other voice that comes out of the storms of our lives commands, “Peace! Be Still!”
That wonderful, soothing word that truly does settle and soothe.
In that clam, stillness, we feel God’s Presence most fully and completely. As disoriented as we might be from being buffeted by the storm, that stillness can almost be disorienting. I felt it more than once during these past two years. Even in the midst of the stress and the chaos, somehow, there were these incredible peaceful moments in which God’s peace settled there, in the midst of it all.
And there were those even more wonderful moments when I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it would be all right. Not perfect. Not the way it was before. Everything had changed, after all. But it would be…all right.
In that storm, we find Jesus, calm and collected, awaiting us to have faith, to shed our fears and to allow him to still the storms of our lives. This is the best news of all, I think. This is exactly what we want to hear from our God. We want to hear, “Do not fear!”
In our very cores, in the very centers of our being, we want our God to calm us and to tell us in no uncertain terms, “”Do not fear!”
So, in those moments when the whirlwind rages, when the storms come up, when the skies turn dark and ominous, when fear begins lurking at our doors, let us strain toward that Voice that asks us, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
And when the storms of our lives abate, when we find ourselves in that mind-boggling peace after the chaos and violence of the storm, we too will find ourselves filled with great awe and will say to one another, “Who is this then, that even the wind…obey[s] him?”