Yesterday, as the wind blew in southern Arizona, I drove from the southern end of the state to midsection and back, some six hours of driving. In the early part of the day the southern section had sustained winds around 25 miles an hour with gusts up to 50, the midsection had pouring rain. I have not seen rain like that since we moved here. Last night we tried to sleep, but as our bedroom is on the corner of the house, nearest the arroyo (canyon) and open to the southwest, the wind raged, no idea at what speeds, and everything shook. There is damage outside. Grapefruit trees blown over, hibiscus trees knocked down, the pool full of debris. But no broken windows. And, now, silence.
There have been lots of storms raging these days, in the lives of people I know, my own life too. Humans can inflict such violence, verbally, physically, and psychologically, against one another. Often the infliction is nothing more than a person lashing out of their own hurt, inflicting pain on others, as a way to ameliorate their own. You know the parable of the unforgiving servant, found in Matthew 18? The one who pleaded for mercy and then failed to have mercy for others? Of course the parable reminds us that mercy is the better response, lashing out of our pain and our anger and our fear, to hurt others, will never actually end our own pain.
I am currently leading a Bible study on the Gospel of Luke. Our focus last week and this week is on the parables. We are using an "African" bible study method to consider a few parables. This method is a spiritual reflection, like an Ignatian approach. We choose one parable. Someone reads the parable while the rest listen for what word or phrase stands out. What word or phrase causes your heart to flutter, your spirit to say, "What?" or "wow!" or "What does that mean?". Then we share the word or phrase with the group. Another person reads the parable again, this time from a different interpretation - different voice, different interpretation, another way of hearing the parable. This time we are listening for what the Spirit is saying to us right now, how is the parable speaking to us in our lives at this moment? Then we share that and a discussion ensues. The parable is read a third time, another person and another interpretation, listening for where the Spirit is leading us as we go forward. We used the parable of the sower and the seed in Luke. Much of our reflection last week focused on looking inward instead of on others.
The work we need to do is internal, not external, focusing on the self and how we can each become more faithful, closer to God, kinder people, and not on the failures of others. It seems to me that this is often what happens when the storm has quieted, after so much hurt has been hurled around, suddenly the quiet comes, and with it a moment to look inward. What have I done?
Some folks, I imagine, never actually do this. Not during the storm, nor after. Some folks just feel satisfied, justified, like the hurting was fair and goal accomplished, regardless of the fall out all around.
But God calls us to something else. God calls us to self-awareness, to love and mercy. Even in the midst of the storm, but if all else fails, at least in the calm that follows. To do as God does, love with compassion.
We are nearly at the middle of Advent. As always the season flies by. Time remains though, to ponder the ways we are hurting this Advent season, and also the ways we hurt others. We all do. And then make adjustments, turn and return to God. Ponder and pray, and wait. God is coming again, making all things new.