My house is a mess. I’ve been busy with studying and errands, so the floor has enough cat hair on it to make wall-to-wall carpeting, the sink is full of dishes, the dust is thick enough to sink the house into the ground an inch or two, and all the rest of the stuff. I wish I had a self-cleaning house. I also wish we all had a self-cleaning world that would simply reverse all the damage and become the pristine Garden-of-Eden type place God made in the beginning. Or are floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, volcanic eruptions, and plate tectonics all part of God’s cleanup plan?
Looking at all the tragedies of the past week, it seems that we go from bad to worse and then even worse again. The fires that raged so aggressively across the Northwest and other places fill the air with particles that make it hard to breathe, destroys beautiful things, houses, animals. and even when it’s out, the rain will come and wash the earth down to block roads and streets, possibly cover houses, and send giant boulders crashing down on whatever is in their path. It seems like the damage never ends.
The Caribbean has been targeted by yet another hurricane, and what wasn’t flattened in the last hurricane or two probably is flat by now. They won’t have power for perhaps weeks, if not months, because the infrastructure has been destroyed. And there’s another storm on the way.
In Mexico, there has been another earthquake and aftershocks, coming just two weeks after another one on Mexico’s northern border. There was a severe quake off the coast of Japan, and Lord knows what’s going to shake apart next. Maybe these are our signs of the earth trying to clean itself, but it is making an awful mess in the process.
Is this God’s way of cleaning up? The world was made immaculately clean and in perfect harmony, as the Bible tells us. God planned it that way. Now, we sort of take the world for granted. We can do anything we want to it, and we expect it to continue to nurture and nourish us, just as it always has, no matter what we inflict on it. If there is something, some sort of disaster that wreaks havoc on us, invariably someone will say, “Well, it’s God’s will.” Really? Did God really make this world just to watch it tear itself apart and have us help it with that destruction?
We need to look around and see what there is to see. I know that in the Phoenix area, we live in a valley with mountains around, and on some days, you can’t see the mountains for the dust particles and the smog in the air. Some of that is natural, but some of it we caused. We caused it with our cars, fireplaces, barbecue grills, and industry. And God supposed to clean it up? It seems so, since attempts to clean the air have been rolled back to the ineffectuality stage. We’ve denuded the land to build more houses and upset the balance of nature to the point it’s becoming unrepairable.
There are places in this country were clean water is nonexistent. There hasn’t been clean, uncontaminated water for the kids to drink and for the mothers to cook with in years. Not just one or two major cities, but in places where the watershed has been despoiled by industrial waste, toxic materials, and clogged with dirt and animal matter because nobody seems to live downstream, it appears. If all the crud flows downstream, somebody’s gotta live there and somebody’s got to pay for it because the folks upstream are busy making money with heavy metals and other contaminants that make a toxic soup. And God supposed to clean that up with a flood or fire? Don’t we have any responsibility there?
God created people with brains. I sometimes wonder about that. It didn’t take much of a brain to throw a smoke bomb into a dry canyon and start a fire engulfing parts of two states and which will have consequences for years to come. And God supposed to clean that up, since fire is one way the earth gives itself a clean start? There are so many other things that we seem to expect God to take care of, because after all, it must be “God’s will” if something happens because of something else that has been done, usually by us. Granted, we are not responsible necessarily for each individual thing, although if you stop and think about it, natural disasters have going on since time immemorial. It’s just now that they appear to be happening with a lot more regularity and a lot more intensity than perhaps in the past. We’ve done things that seem to have helped them along, and yet we don’t acknowledge it or try to make repairs that would be permanent.
I was looking at a map of the Caribbean and actually seeing four hurricanes in one picture, one image. it was almost unbelievable. I don’t remember them coming together this close, so is it possible it’s partly our fault and not “God’s will?” We build unsuitable buildings in unsuitable places, and then when earthquakes happen, it makes us think it’s God’s will that the earth shakes, all sorts of things fall down, people and animals are killed, and the destruction will take years to rebuild? Do we blame God for that?
God gave us this world, the volcanoes around the world, the earthquake fault zones that rumble and shake and shift, the tsunamis that are some of the results and that destroy lives and livelihoods along the coastlines, the hurricane and typhoon winds and rains that dismantle homes, businesses, schools, churches and the like. Do we have any responsibility for that? Perhaps, although some will never be convinced. It’s God’s will, and we must accept it. Really?
This week I’m be doing a lot of praying for the survivors of all the disasters that are happening around the globe, especially in our own hemisphere. I’m going to be wondering is this actually what God had in mind? Is this really what God planned and set in motion that is going to happen next week, or next year, or even 1000 years from now or more? Is God to be expected to clean up all that? Or does God kind of expect us to help clean things up, rebuild responsibly, help our neighbors in need, and act like we all occupy one world instead of individual nations?
I read once that it was said that God made disasters to teach people to work together. I’m not sure God makes the disasters, but I have no doubt that it’s an opportunity for us as God’s children and God’s people to help clean it up and restore the world if not to Garden-of-Eden standards, but to a standard that is sustainable, livable, and united in purpose. Going to be a busy prayer week, I can just tell.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for two Education for Ministry groups, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and a homebody. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She is also owned by three cats. She has been Episcopalian for over 50 years, and is grateful God led her to the Episcopal Church in various places.