When Cows Fly Past the Window

Do you like disaster movies? I must admit they’re one of my guilty pleasures.

Last night I indulged in one about storm chasers called Twister. My favorite part is the flying cow – although the flying oil truck that bursts into flames is also pretty cool.

What is it about disaster flicks? Why do we watch them?

Grand special effects are good – nothing beats seeing computer generated tsunami’s bursting into city streets.

Strangers and diverse individuals forced to work together to survive is a fascinating dynamic.

People digging deep within to discern what is most important to them in life is mesmerizing. What will they carry? What will they bring? Who will they call? What is worth protecting, saving, warning, risking all for?

And who can resist rooting for the everyday geeks who become heroes? There’s always that one usually nerdy, ignored prophetic voice to whom now everyone turns for wisdom and leadership.

Oh yeah, there is nothing quite like disaster on the big screen.

Of course, in the movies, the victims of disaster are never the main characters.

When we create fictional disasters, we know who’s going to survive and who’s going to be swept away. Are you a nameless, peripheral coworker? Sorry, you’re expendable. Are you old, maybe knowing you haven’t long to live anyway? You’re doomed. Are you heartless, a pencil pusher, someone who ignored all the little people who forecast the disaster or cut corners that eventually cost lives? You’re going out in a big way right at the climax of the film!

Movie disasters have a very specific and predictable pecking order for who gets victimized by disaster.

In real life, that’s not so easy to predict.

In real life, disasters are very personal.

A strong wind blows through town and certain trees fall. Some fall on homes, some on cars, a few on people. Others fall but cause no damage. Some remain standing that should have gone down. One family mourns, another is spared.

This past week, more than half of Rhode Island suffered for days without electricity while others never even saw a flicker. One street over, life went on as usual while neighbors on the next street up formed lines at high schools to shower and accept food donations from the Red Cross.

This story plays out in every disaster – a wildfire claims some homes but a sudden shift of wind spares the next, a twister touches down on one business –wiping it off the earth – while sparing the two businesses on either side. One dam breaks and a section of town goes underwater while another remains intact and dry.

Who can predict which home, which town, which business, which family, which individual will be struck by which disaster?

We are left feeling small, helpless, and vulnerable

but maybe that’s the point.

In the days before Hurricane Irene, I heard much bravado from people on FB, at work, or in lines at the store commenting loftily about all the fuss! They were certainly not going to worry about a little wind and rain. They were confident in the face of disaster.

Most of them, I believe, were confident in their sturdy homes, expansive credit limits, comprehensive insurance coverage, and their ability to flee to hotels with hot showers. When we’re comfortable, financially, often we can open a bottle of wine when disaster comes and scoff at those who worry.

Later in the week, though, I encountered many of these calm, secure people now not as self-assured nor as confident having been worn down by days without electricity or water. There are some things even big bank accounts cannot remedy.

Disasters remind us how little control we have over our world. Disasters force us to forgo reruns on TV and face the bigger questions coming at us like walls of water. Are we prepared for death? Do we really love our neighbor? How will we respond to those in need when we are in need as well? What will we do when we cannot plan or pay our way out of a bad situation? How will we live when others are suffering? Is our faith in God or in our own devices? How do we share the truth of Christ when it seems like His Father is the force behind the mighty storms.

Because make no mistake, God is clear in scripture that He brings disaster. Look it up. Verse after verse ties the coming of disasters with the hand of God. In Isaiah 45: 6b-7, God says this “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.”

How’s that for a big question?

I think God brings (or allows) disasters in order to drive us to our knees, to shake us free from false security, from idols, from confidence in self, to impose on us an open space in life to go to Him and ask the greater questions.

It’s a dangerous business for us to speculate regarding God’s intent behind specific storms or winds or fallen trees. This isn’t about people deserving to have twisters destroy their homes or meriting a loss of electricity or life. God tells us that He sends the rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike.

For different individuals, a disaster might be a trial, a test, a punishment, an opportunity, or a call to come home and mostly we need to go to God ourselves to sort that out.

Disaster is likely about God forcing opportunities upon us to seek Him out. If we come to Him willingly or we come to Him with upraised fists, it doesn’t matter as long as we engage with Him and continue to wrestle through the great questions.

Too many of us have stopped asking. Too many of us only believe in our 401K’s, our credit ratings, and our stock futures.

He wants to shake us up and so sometimes, He sends a wind or a wave. Don’t miss the open door of disaster. It’s most likely the voice of God saying “It’s time we had a long, long talk.”
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    The Conversation

  1. Pam says:

    As soon as I saw the image and your headline . . . I thought, “I’ve gotta go. We’ve got cows.”

  2. True. We get so comfortable in our abilities and our stuff that we forget we’re not in control. He has to remind us sometimes. Praying for all those still digging through the mess, still mourning their losses, still hurting, still in darkness…

  3. We see independence is an important quality in self-worth. When something challenges or wipes that out for a time, we turn to God. Sometimes it’s how we finally have to admit we are dependent on Him.