Even the Wind and the Waves Obey Him

Even the Wind and the Waves Obey Him September 10, 2017


Every morning my oldest child pokes her head round my bedroom door and asks what the weather is going to be like. “Is it going to be hot or cold,” she asks. “Will it rain?”

Sometimes, if I’m in a glow of hope, from the depths of my eiderdown I answer her peaceably. I grope my early morning way to the weather app, look at it, and tell her what it says. “It’s going to be 60 degrees and raining,” I say (that’s the usual weather for a goodly portion on the year.) “Is that hot or cold,” she asks. At which point I lose my cool (hem) and tell her go outside and find out. She turns sadly away and I remind her that she has the very same weather app that I have and she should learn how to look at it on her own wretched device.

This happens every morning.
And it emphasizes to me, day after day after day, how very important the weather really is. It’s of emotional importance, the singular realm of life that affects who you are and what sort of time you’re going to have, but one over which you have only an illusion of control.

You can respond to the weather, but the weather is never going to respond to you. Indeed, I am always responding to the weather, bowing my head in submission one way or another, taking my sweater off and then putting it back on and then taking it off and then putting it back on and so the weary hours tick by.

But it grates, the idea that there isn’t anything I can do about nature. The wind blows whether I want it to or not. The rain comes. This weekend, both too violently, and so soon after the last storm. I watch it and the only thing I can admit is that I am helpless.

I can respond–getting out of the way–but I cannot control. Which is upsetting because everything else in life, or at least so many things, respond readily to my will. The engine of the car obeys the turn of my hand. My phone obeys my voice and fingers. The chip on my bank card, however slowly, divulges the money that belongs to me. My house, the place of my true sovereignty, sits and awaits my creative action, my desultory care. (This is why mothers are always exasperated, because children are a little bit like the weather. You command them, and nothing happens. All they do is destroy the domains over which you should, under proper circumstances, be able to exert your will.)

It’s a peculiar transfer of guilt to think that the human person, or community, could or would, by using less or more of one resource or another, be able to affect something like the weather, be able to calm down the storms, to make the temperature go up or down. We are guilty, of course, of breaking and ruining everything. The depth and breadth of the created order has fallen under our cursed, helpless will. The sign of our guilt, though, isn’t the temperature going up or down, but the frustration and anger with which we meet its changeable nature. We are so profoundly Out of Control, weak before the wind and the waves, that, in our helplessness, we become angry, bitter against God and each other.

I think it must, then, have been the strangest thing to be sitting in that small, beset boat, facing down the hour of death, the wind buffeting, the waves rising, the night pressing in, and hear Jesus rebuke them all, and then watching them obey. That one man would come and would do with a word what every man dreams of doing must have been overpowering to witness. So of course those men in the boat worshipped him. It’s the sort of thing that only God could do.

And after that, you wanted him to do it again and again. You wanted him to bring the weather under your own control. You didn’t want him to work out humanity’s helpless, guilty nature and die, giving up, letting the weather’s awful cousin, death, have the final say. You woke up the morning of the crucifixion and poked your head out the window, wondering how many layers to wrap yourself in, irritated by how out of control Everything was. You shuffled along in the crowd, a jumble of expectation, irritation, and guilt, wondering how the one who was obeyed by the wind and the waves could come under the power and sway of evil men.

Imagine, then, the amazement and wonder of discovering that the power of death even, that force greater and more inexorable than the uncontrollable weather, would be broke open by the Word. That same word that compels you even into the pew, wrapped in layers of coats, who is with you in the storm, in your car as you flee, in your mind and in your heart. Nothing can separate you from him. Neither height, nor depth, nor angel, nor demon, nor hurricane, nor sin, nor temperature, nor circumstance, if once you have clung onto him and become his own. If you long for control, for power, for agency, for life, go to the one who has all those things and put yourself in his hands. You won’t get power and control, but you’ll be helped by the one who is obeyed even by the weather.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pray for the whole Atlantic Ocean.

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