Imagine the building you currently occupy being flattened to a height that barely reaches your knees. The attic or story above you is now beneath you. Instead of walls two feet away, you see the remains of the gas station across the street. Even worse, imagine being buried beneath the rubble of what used to be your building. Now imagine that for 50 miles around you, nearly every other building is in that same condition, and thousands of your friends, neighbors, and family are dealing with the same devastation, if they are still alive. Trees that would not even budge from the impact of a speeding dump truck are now uprooted, snapped in half, by the brutal pounding of the wind. Welcome to a Category Five hurricane.
Through the course of the latest cyclones to pummel our country, I’ve read speculations about what kind of message God must be sending to America, with polarized accusations about whom in America the Judge of all men is addressing. Some have said it is God’s warning to conservatives, others paint it as a wake-up call to liberals. I was staunchly on one side of that fence until the writer in me sat down to coffee with the theologian in me, and shared some of his insights about novels.
In a novel, the destructive assault of a hurricane, or villain, or other crisis, is often not the story per se. It is simply the setting for the story. The real story begins when we see how the hero responds to the crisis. It progresses as we see how the hero is changed by the crisis. And it ends with a message about what a true hero does or learns to do in such a crisis. The message, however subtle, speaks to how we perceive the crisis, and how we respond or should respond armed with that perception.
With that in mind, perhaps the hurricanes themselves are not the message from God. Perhaps they are only the setting. The real message is about how God’s people respond to the storm, armed with a faith that sees beyond the chaos, into the heart of their Heavenly Father. And the story is the acts of sacrifice, and love, and faith which God’s people demonstrate, even as they also are growing through the tumult. The story is the experience of fervent, answered prayer, and faith working through love.
Ephesians 3:10-11 explains that “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In other words, the church is displaying to the heavenly company of angels, demons, and saints, what God’s wisdom looks like when it is walked out by His people. And not only to them, but to the people of this world, who can see our good works shining, and thereby glorify our Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:16)
As believers in Christ, indwelt by His Spirit, we are a part of the greatest love story ever told. It is not a story set in the tame, conjured world of a hack fiction writer. But it is the epic masterpiece of the Author of Life, set in the breath-taking, heart stopping, page turning reality of this present age. And Christ, through us and in us, is His message.