In the Wake of the Storm

img_2323At some point that evening I went from being exhilarated by the fierce summer storm raging outside, to fleeing in fear to the only windowless room in our home. I huddled with my husband in the dark while the wind roared and shook the house as if it were too close to a speeding freight train. Finally sensing a lessening in the storm’s clamor, we cautiously crept out to witness the utter chaos left in the wake of its violent tantrums. Broken tree limbs and debris littered the lawn, but worse was the uprooted cottonwood tree stretched like a slain giant across our crumpled fence into the yard behind, barely missing the neighbor’s house.

In the following days as we cleaned up the wreckage from the storm, I mourned the loss of the cottonwood tree. On hot summer days we used to rest in our lawn chairs under its cool shade, lulled by the lyric rustle of its leaves in the breeze. It had been a green sanctuary to myriads of birds which we enjoyed watching splash in our nearby birdbath. Our grandchildren once climbed the lower branches, safe in its woody embrace. Now an ugly stump was all that remained, and empty space where once a friendly giant stood.

My husband took a more pragmatic view of the loss of the tree. He saw how its absence allowed more sunlight to reach his vegetable garden, especially the rows closest to the fence which always did poorly for lack of light. We observed carrots and parsnips gradually flourish with more sunlight to strengthen them.

In her book, “Roots & Sky”, author Christie Purifoy writes, “God does not erase our losses, those empty places in our lives, but He does something almost more miraculous. He fills the loss with a sign of His presence.” Losing a tree cannot compare to losing a loved one, or a marriage or a part of who you are, but for me it was a picture of how loss opens up room for a new work of God.

There was a time in my life when I lost everything I had ever feared losing; my marriage, financial security, health and family unity. In the midst of these devastating losses, I could not imagine a future when all would be made new, even better than before. But God could. “His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of.” (Eph. 3:20 TLB)

God takes loss and turns it into abundance. In the ashes of my pain, I discovered the abundance of God’s love, His perfect character and His always faithful promises. When life left me hollowed out, He filled the space with His own presence. As I discovered, this is God’s specialty, giving beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (Isa. 61:3 NKJV)

In the equation of loss becoming abundance, He uniquely illustrates for each of us His supreme renewal project, the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24 NIV) He was speaking of Himself as the Seed, abused, crucified, buried in a dark tomb. Then the Seed came bursting forth alive, His resurrection beginning a great harvest of souls for God’s kingdom. Death gave way to life. Decay became deliverance.

A mighty tree once stood in my yard where now there is just a weathered stump. However new light floods a healthy garden where many seeds now flourish in abundance. In our memory’s landscape, the scar of a loss does not need to be a place of pain forever. It may be remembered, even mourned, but more significantly, it is a landmark telling where God met us and how He brought restoration and renewal out of the darkest places of our world.

Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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The Sound of His Roar

prairie thunderstorm

Light leaches from the sky, absorbed by dense, roiling clouds heavy with rain. The air holds its breath yet emits a sharp metallic scent, a forerunner of the storm to come. The long, flat horizon of the prairie is suddenly transformed into a vast stage on which sheets of lightning streak and flash. Frozen by brilliant light, trees, fences and farmhouses stand out in brilliant relief on the edge of the world. Then the curtain drops and miles away another silhouetted scene blazes forth.

I count after each lightning flash, waiting for the sound of thunder. At first it is a distant rumble, a growl far off. But as the storm draws closer, agitation in the clouds breaks out in fury close behind each burst of lightning. I feel the power of cosmic sound waves reverberating in my chest; I thrill at the forces unleashed in the heavens.

A scientific explanation of thunder does not capture it for me. “Thunder is caused by the rapid expansion of the air surrounding the path of a lightning bolt.” (Library of Congress) Not nearly dramatic enough to define this amazing phenomenon. I need to dip into my allegorical imagination and describe thunder as the voice of God in nature.

“Listen! Listen to the roar of His voice, to the rumbling that comes from His mouth. He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of His roar; He thunders with His majestic voice. When His voice resounds, He holds nothing back. God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding.” – Job 37:2-5  NIV

A thunderstorm brings me up short out of my small, self-absorbed life. Each day I make decisions, perform duties, seek knowledge, seldom looking beyond the next item on the agenda. I live with an air of entitlement, a smug expectation that all will continue as it has been, not often remembering at whose hand the universe holds together. But when my ears ring with primal thunder, I snap to attention.

This is His voice; the voice of my God, the voice of my Creator! I need to be reminded in just such a dramatic way. I need to know in the depths of my soul the answer to all the questions the Lord asks Job in chapters 38 to 40.  “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm?”  And to the myriad of other rhetorical questions the Lord asks Job there is only one answer … El Shaddai, God Almighty.

The reality is, this God of thunder Who moves vast forces of nature at will is also the Lord Who is mighty to save, Who takes great delight in me, Who quiets me with His love, Who rejoices over me with singing. (Zeph. 3:17)

Come, thunder! Come, lightning! Proclaim the power of the Almighty before the whole earth and remind me Whose voice you speak with. I delight in the sound of it.