“…I did not feel God as most people see Him. I did feel something larger than myself, something in the mountains and the glaciers and the glowing sky that, in rare moments, reassured me, and made me feel that the world was orderly and loving and good… It was simply a silence, a wholeness, an awe-inspiring simplicity. It seemed to reach me through my own feelings of love, and I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence… It wasn’t cleverness or courage or any kind of competence or savvy that saved us, it was nothing more than love, our love for each other, for our families, for the lives we wanted so desperately to live.”
– Nando Parrado, Miracle in the Andes
photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell
It would be an understatement to say that we seem to be having a dry spell here in Washington State. I cannot remember the last real rain we had here. I really miss the rain – I miss the sloshy sound of cars rolling along soggy, sopping roads and the feel of rain on my face and the smell of wet earth and asphalt and green growing things.
The drought has brought some real challenges to my state – the biggest one being the wildfires that are roaring through our forests. The fire in the Okanagan is the biggest fire ever recorded here – having consumed more than 256,000 acres – or what would be about a fifth of Delaware (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/24/washington-wildfires-okanogan-complex).
I’ve sometimes heard people refer to disasters – like the forest fires we’re experiencing – as the “wrath of God” – as punishment sent down by God for our sins. But the concept of a god that would punish her children – made, according to the Bible, in her “image and likeness” – is not a concept of “God” that ever made sense to me. I mean, why would a god punish its own creation for being what she made it to be? I really like what Mary Baker Eddy says about this in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “It would be contrary to our highest ideas of God to suppose Him capable of first arranging law and causation so as to bring about certain evil results, and then punishing the helpless victims of His volition for doing what they could not avoid doing. Good is not, cannot be, the author of experimental sins.”
No, for me, God is Love, as John says in I John 4: “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him… There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” And we see this love expressed in neighbors reaching out to help each other during catastrophes, and in the courage of firefighters and rescuers putting their own lives on the line to save the lives and property of others.
In I Kings we read: “And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
That “still small voice” – that quiet comforting presence – THAT, for me, is God. My God isn’t responsible for earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, or wildfires. My God is found in the love and courage that overcomes the fear and destruction. My God isn’t found in destructive material forces, but in the things of the “spirit” – in “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…” and “against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) There is no law, no material force, that can over-power love and steal it from us. Love goes on. Love heals. Love brings us comfort and solace. Even after the physical forms of the ones we love are gone, the love we have one for another continues on. Not earthquake, wind, or fire can destroy the presence and power of Love – of what I call “God.”
My God is the still small voice – that quiet presence that guides, rescues, and protects us. And I don’t think this presence and power is just for a select number of us – I believe all of creation has access to this power. As Eddy writes: “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.’ Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals.”
At the beginning of this post I presented a quote from Nando Parrado – one of the survivors of the plane crash in the Andes in 1972. Parrado’s description of “God” is the closest I’ve ever found to my own concept of God. Parrado writes: “I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence.” Right on! And I’m thinking that “awesome presence” is the “still small voice” – that quiet reassurance – that overcomes fear and hopelessness and discouragement in the face of disaster, and leads us to safety.