Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rain! Rain! Rain! Rain! Rain!

Many of you who are reading this have probably gotten rained on today.

Obviously this photo of Lucia's ladybug umbrella was not taken today, because the sun is shining out of the window in the background. We saw no sun today. Only menacing clouds, sheets of water, overflowing gutters, even flooded streets. Not a pretty day.

Darn it. My weather-controlling machine is broken again! That does it! As soon as a boat comes by, I'm hitching a ride and returning it to Wal-Mart.

Why is it that my aspirations to be master of the universe are always foiled?

I am only partially kidding here. Of course I know that I cannot control the weather. But when the weather does not conform to my expectations I sometimes take it as a personal insult. Stupid rain! You're going to ruin the ballgame! Sometimes I try to reason with the weather and it refuses to listen: "Look, it's Saturday. The kids really need to get out today. Can't things dry up a little, please please PLEASE??"

Admit it. You have pleaded with the weather to change. You have talked to the weather like it was a big, capricious person. Or perhaps you have prayed for the weather to change. This is at least some intelligence to this ploy; you are talking to Someone who has the authority to intervene. Sometimes God does get involved with the weather. It's in the Gospel, after all. "Who is this man, that the winds and the sea obey him?" Prayer is a very rational option in the face of inescapable cataclysmic weather (when all other ordinary precautions have been taken).

Of course, people often have stories of how Divine intervention saved their wedding reception or their kid's little league game. Well, I won't challenge anyone's favorite story. The Lord, after all, can do whatever He wills, and He does care for each of us. But for those of us who got soaked at another wedding reception, it should be remembered that God's transcendent causal power creates, upholds, and radically applies to their own proper objects a universe of "proper secondary causes"--thus, He generally uses His creative and sustaining causality to allow the atmospheric systems of His created world to operate according to the forces He has given them. To put it simply, don't blame God.

There is, after all, the great universe and it's many purposes. Climate and its fluctuations are mysterious. We don't control the day to day weather. Thank God for that. What would the weather be like if it had to submit to the imperious will of every little human being, or if it were a democracy, determined each day by majority vote? (I am not getting into the human factor in global climate change here--that is a topic for another day.)

In any case, my strange personal relationship with the weather is an interesting and peculiar thing. I have the illusion that I have "control" because the information provided (24/7) by the phenomenon of the "weather forecast." So I watch the weather, usually with the perfectly reasonable intention of orienting the day according to what it's going to be like outside, but occasionally--especially in times of dire weather--with a morbid fascination in which I engage in a kind of mental wrestling match with the radar screen.

And then, it rains on me anyway.

Are we at the mercy of the elements, then? No, but we are bodily beings. We live out our freedom within the conditions of space and time, and although we do not have power over everything around us, we do have the power--within every circumstance--to recognize and freely accept the fact that reality serves the good, and not just the good "overall," but our good. The instinct that we have about our lives--i.e. that they are meaningful, and that we are loved, each, personally--is true, and must be reaffirmed in the face of what appears to be the impersonal force of a mindless, material universe. It must be reaffirmed even when we are wet, sticky, hot, hungry, tired, exhausted, sick, and--yes--even when we are dying.

There is only one thing that makes it possible for me to hope that I can live this way. The Transcendent Creator of the universe became a man and told me that He loves me, that He counts the hairs on my head, that I am worth more than the lilies of the field or the sparrows, much more.... He proved it, and continues to prove it.

Rain or shine.

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