God in the Darkness
It was flooding in California. As the flood waters were rising, a man was on the stoop of his house and another man in a row boat came by. The man in the row boat told the man on the stoop to get in, and he'd save him. The man on the stoop said, no, he had faith in God and would wait for God to save him. The flood waters kept rising, and the man had to go to the second floor of his house. A man in a motor boat came by and told the man in the house to get in because he had come to rescue him. The man in the house said no thank you. He had perfect faith in God and would wait for God to save him. The flood waters kept rising. Pretty soon they were so high the man had to got out on his roof. A helicopter then came by, lowered a rope, and the pilot shouted down to him to climb up the rope because the helicopter had come to rescue him. The man in the house wouldn't do it. He told the pilot that he had faith in God and would wait for God to rescue him. The flood waters kept rising, and the man on the house drowned. When he got to heaven, he asked God where he went wrong. He told God that he had perfect faith in God, but God had let him drown.
"What more did you want from me?" asked God. "I sent you two boats and a helicopter!"
This is an old joke, but I most recently heard it at the Windows to Hope Conference last month.
We spent the morning discussing mental illness in youth and young adults and what the church can do to help.
The joke was part of a blessing that a local Rabbi gave before lunch. In her prayer, she implored God to be active in our hearts, to help us hear cries for help, and also to empower our voices to be heard when we reach out to others for that help.
I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about darkness.
It's been cold and cloudy, and we're approaching the season of Lent which is thematically dark. I attended the conference on mental illness, I spent a good portion of time the last few months crafting my statement of faith for the Presbytery (which requires you to tackle the problem of evil in the world), and there's been a lot of darkness in the news.
In service on Sunday we prayed for the family and students of a recently murdered teacher, friends mourning a suicide, and people aboard a jet who we now presume to have perished. So if you're like me, you may begin to wonder, "Where is God in this darkness?"
The church answer is always, "God is still there. God will never leave your side." I understand that, and though we know this in our hearts to be true, it is sometimes unhelpful.
What I have been trying to remember lately is that though God is present and the spirit is always moving in our lives in intangible ways, God is also present through other people.
If everything good in this world comes from God (and I believe it does), then it is God who shows up with that much needed casserole when you have no time to cook because of a very ill spouse. It is God who asks if you are okay when you have a meltdown at the grocery store because you just can't take anymore. And it is God who offers to take care of a task in a committee meeting when you mention that your plate is getting full.
If we are quick to claim we are acting as the hands and feet of Christ out in the world when we're building houses for the needy or serving food to the hungry, then we must also realize we are God's hands in the world each time we place them on someone's shoulders in support or when we hand them a tissue or offer a hug.
The doctor who finally listens and understands the symptoms others ignored is God in the world.
The teacher who looks a kid in the eye and tells them they are special is God in the world.
And in the darkness, the real darkness that we can neither explain nor overcome, it is God who holds us tightly and says, "I'm so sorry this happened to you."
So like the man in the old joke, who ignores two boats and a helicopter, we must be willing to see God when God is there, and not hide or cast off our rescue because it doesn't look the way we've imagined it.
It is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18), so God gave us each other, which was a special blessing indeed.
Darkness will fall. The rains will come. But God has not left us alone to face it.