or, “When Faith Kicks in for Real”
by Jonathan Hart, LPC
I went on a 20 mile hike with my 9 year old son last weekend. We took a couple of days, camped overnight, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Except the last four miles.
It started with two rumbles of thunder. The rain turned on like a faucet. This was not wholly unexpected. The forecast had predicted “scattered storms”. We donned our ponchos and put away our lunches. We, wisely or foolishly, chose to hike through it, since we were pretty close to the end. I believed the storm would be over quickly.
I was wrong. The rain persisted. Thunder and lightning rolled, becoming if anything more frequent. We hiked off the hilltop and were working our way down into the valley. My son was nervous about the rain and the lightning, especially the close ones (I was too, but I tried to keep a brave face on for his sake). Half an hour into the storm when the hail started falling, he became terrified.
We found a fairly large bent tree trunk to hide behind. It was enough to deflect most of the hail, but not all. Both of us took a few hits. That had to have been the longest ten minutes of the whole trip, when dime-to-quarter sized chunks of ice were falling around and on us, lightning blasting overhead followed by deafening thunder and torrential rain. I seriously considered getting out our cooking gear and wearing the pots on our heads.
I knew that hail typically lasts only about 10 to 15 minutes, if that. I did not know if we could expect larger hail than that which was currently pelting us. I didn’t know if there was a tornado in the vicinity. My son was crying and starting to seriously freak out. I was well on my to “Really Frightened” myself. One of my most immediate thoughts was, “REALLY, God? This couldn’t wait another hour or two?” And then I thought, “What have I done to my son?”
I had been praying since the rain began. Finally, faith kicked in. I had a “Theology Now” moment. I took my son’s face in my hands, looked into his eyes, and said (speaking as much to myself as to him), “As much as I love you, and would do everything I could to protect you and keep bad things from happening to you, God loves you more than I ever could. He doesn’t always keep us from getting hurt, but he Always, Always loves and protects his children. He is looking out for us right now, even though it might not seem like it.”
The hail stopped a few minutes later, as I knew it probably would. The storm continued for another two and a half hours. We survived, though we were thoroughly soaked and very, very tired of rain and lightning.
Theology Now is when the rubber meets the road in faith-land. It is when what you say you believe meets up with what you really believe deep down. It is the moment when the truth of doctrine pushes on and stretches our limitations and grows our capacity for real, honest-to-goodness trust.
The funny thing is that these moments don’t usually happen in the sunshine. They usually happen right in the middle of an obnoxious storm. We must be challenged, stretched, and tested painfully in order to grow our faith. In this way, God often allows storms and painful times into our lives because he loves us. We must come to the end of our own strength in order to find and believe in His strength on our behalf.