As I was beginning my drive back from Cleveland and Akron, ahead of me and above was an incredible storm cloud. It was, at least for me, truly amazing — intimidating, really. Words will fail me if I try to describe it in detail, so I’ll simply say that it struck me as an amazing picture of power and force on an incredible scale. Below the cloud in the space between it and the quickly approaching horizon you could see what was surely vast amounts of water pouring onto various portions of northern Ohio. It wasn’t long before I drove immediately under one particular “arm” of the cloud — a projection that, while not nearly as large as the whole, seemed truly massive. That projection was not dropping any rain, itself (I would run into plenty of that later), but simply driving under it added to the over all impression of the moment: that I was in the presence of something much larger and more powerful than I am.
I drove through a lot of on-and-off rain after that between there and Cincinnati, and some of the scenes in the skies were of the sort that make me wish my mind had better image storage software for vivid pixel-by-pixel recall in the future. Absolutely amazing. I thought to myself that if I were a really good photographer (as my personal attempts to capture such scenery have always been rather poor), I might assemble the many images I saw yesterday into a collection I could title “The Kingdom Above” or “Kingdom of the Sky.” Corny, I know — I am a rather corny individual, anyway, so I’m allowed — but it really did seem in those looking at those huge vistas above me while driving on I-71 that I was viewing a vast realm of some sort. The clouds seemed to display so much character and personality and the colors, close as it was to sunset, were so dynamic, it was almost as if you were getting a glimpse of a much larger world, to which your access is so frustratingly limited by both space and scale: space because it is so far away and untouchable from here on the ground, and scale because it is so vast that I would be too minuscule, too tiny a speck to appreciate its majesty up close.
It was then that I thought of the title of today’s post. Tornadoes are fearsome, uncontrolable products of our planet, and monsters that have struck recently here in the U.S. have reminded us that nature refuses to be ignored by those who wish to live on planet earth. Ever since man ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he has essentially said, “We don’t need you, God — we’ve got it. Thanks, but no thanks.” Actually, as Mr. Hagmaier and I drove between Cleveland and Akron yesterday, we discussed those who seem to worship “Science” and mankind’s ability to accumulate knowledge, believing faithfully in man’s own ability to solve all of his own problems and master the world on his own terms.
But tornadoes such as we experienced this week in Joplin, Missouri tend to remind us of the truth that we are part of a world that in many ways is greater than us — that we are often the victim of the world we imagine that we’ve mastered. And they remind us of our need for God and the mistake Adam and Eve made in choosing as they did, a choice that we’ve each made in our own ways (Romans 3:23). We chose to run the world our way without His help, and He said “Fine” and has given us the chance to learn what a stupid choice that was. “You want to run the world without me? OK, have at it. Let’s check in a few thousand years later and see how that’s working out…”
But, too, tornadoes — like the storm clouds I gawked at during my four hour drive — remind us of the fact that we are so very small, and we are surrounded by a universe that is so much bigger and more powerful than us. Our purpose is great, to be sure, but why? It is great because it’s Creator is great. He who so purposed us is great. And apart from that purpose, we are small. Insignificant. Surrounded by a world that is so awesome in its power, so unstoppable in its force, and so incomprehensibly vast in its scale, and — unleashed by man’s rejection of God and left to roam as a wild animal without a master — so utterly and devastatingly destructive, we are reminded just how much more power and majesty and grandeur and wonder must belong to the One who created such a world as this. We are reminded of not just how small we are, but how great He truly must be. And with all of this “reminding,” we are reminded further by His word that all we see and experience and gasp at in wonder and open-mouthed awe, all of these things “are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him…” (Job 26:14).
I don’t like them. I pray for their victims. I look forward to the world to come in which the damage they cause becomes less than a memory. But in this world, now, this is the debt I owe tornadoes.
- Missouri Tornado Satellite Photo: Aerial Image Shows Extent Of Destruction In Joplin (huffingtonpost.com)