Thursday, September 30, 2010

Currents and Swirls and Gratitude

As tropical storm Nicole approached us and swept by, I've been appreciating our planet anew. I spend much of my life in structures made by human hands, which sometimes leads me to forget to be grateful for our wonderful planet, made by God. But in the days when a tropical system approaches, the planet does so much to command our attention: we see amazing cloud formations, we can see the circulation of air currents as we watch those clouds, we often enjoy a day or two of blazingly beautiful weather just before the storm crashes in on us.

Even the storm itself can be an awe-inspiring thing. We watch bands of rain and wind sweep across us, and then we wait in the calm for the next band. We marvel at the capacity of trees and shrubs to bend in the wind, and we pray that they not break. If the storm allows, we might make it to the beach, where the ocean roars and reminds us that it's not some trifling plaything.

Human made things also take my breath away and remind me of the grandeur of our creator. As the storm approaches, I'm ever more grateful for satellites and radars, which help us know what's out there and coming our way. I can become entranced by these images, beautiful swirls that will spell out mercy or doom.

We've been lucky so far during this hurricane season, and I say this with a bit of guilt, because I know that not everyone has been so lucky. I say it with a bit of fear too. October can be the most fearsome month in hurricane season for us down here in South Florida. Storms blow up out of nowhere and in no time; the forecast calls for sunny skies, but before you know it, you've got a hurricane overhead. October storms behave erratically. The Caribbean Sea is still a hot cauldron, even as the Atlantic begins to cool.

Hurricane season reminds me of how little of my life is really in my control, and the idea that I'm in charge is such an illusion. I can no more control many of the currents (economic, health, political) that affect my life than I can control the weather.

I could live in denial of my essential powerlessness; many people do. I could pretend that benign powers bend to my will as I cast my votes and save my money and do all the things which may or may not lead me into healthy old age. I could eat my vegetables while I salt away money and try to believe it will all work out. Or I could become that sneering cynical person who is so tiring in social settings. Or I could become comatose with hopelessness.

Happily, I have another option. I can trust in God, who has promised that my needs will be met. I can trust that this creator, who has provided such a glorious planet, has not left us all alone to the whims of currents that we can barely perceive.

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