This past Sunday, I was sitting inside looking out our porch windows at my boys chasing each other with water guns and splashing in a shallow pool. You know the kind – the ~$7 hard sided blue or green pools from Walmart? Even as they grow, they still love these things. It was a nice, peaceful afternoon enjoying the early days of summer. Then, I saw an alert pop up on my phone that said “Thunderstorm Warning.” I looked outside to see that the once clear sky had suddenly turned super cloudy and darkened. It was so rapid, I almost didn’t notice it. I ran outside, and said “Boys, boys, we need to dump the water, pile up the toys on the porch and get inside… NOW!”
They all looked a little confused, but luckily (and a little uncharacteristically) they complied. They helped dump out the foot of water in the pool. Then they turned the pool (and a few other random containers they had procured for making a big, muddy mess) over and came inside. I rushed them in to wash off layers of dirt and leaves in the bathroom, and they got out of the tub just as the power flickered on and off and on again. We all ran to look out the living room windows as the once dry/calm afternoon suddenly surged with wind and rain. “Mommy, what was that?” one of my boys asked as we watched an unknown object fly down the alleyway.
A few days before my sons had been inquiring about tornadoes and what they looked like. One of my twins decided to remind me of that new-found knowledge at this opportune time. “Mommy, remember, tornadoes look like something spinning round and round and round and destroying everything.” Yea, honey, I thought a bit anxiously… I remember. “Is this a tornado?” he asked. I looked out the window. “I don’t think so,” I replied. “It was just supposed to be a thunderstorm!” We stood for the next twenty minutes and watched as we acquired new lawn furniture and lost a flag and other items from our front porch. We also stood and watched our chickens huddle together in their coop trying to keep safe and dry.
And then it was over, just as quickly as it began.
The next morning, I drove around to drop the boys off (some places had power, some did not). And as we drove, I pointed out the fallen trees. They joined in showing me fallen signs and cones and other random objects. We talked about how we were lucky that our big trees had remained steadfast in the wind and rain, and we spoke about how others close to us had no power and needed to repair their roofs. I mentioned to them that a crane fell into a building in downtown, but I decided not to go into details over how people were hurt. And then, from the back seat I heard my son ask “Mommy, why did God do this?”
This seemingly out-of-the-blue question was actually related to a conversation we had a couple days earlier. Again in the car (where apparently all the big conversations happen these days) he had asked me “Mom, how does the bread turn into Jesus’ body?” I struggled with an immediate response that wouldn’t have me speaking foreign words like “transubstantiation” to a six year old. It was more difficult than I thought. I settled on speaking about how it was a miracle and that God could do anything… and knowing God could do anything, God chose to give us Jesus and Jesus gives us Himself over and over again in the Eucharist. He remained quiet for a moment, and then seemed to focus on that point for awhile before repeating “God can do anything?” I replied, “Anything… God loves us, so God gives us everything we need and blesses us daily.”
And now, back in the car and clearly remembering that conversation, his little inquisitive brain was turning around this idea that everything comes from God. And if everything comes from God… then why did a storm damage homes and hurt people?
Admittedly, I had a bogus answer for him in the car like a parent often does when sidelined with a question such as that. I came home, however, and thought seriously about what he had asked. After some reflection, I remembered a quote I heard once from the famous Fred Rogers. He said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”’ If I could rewind and go back to that moment in the car, I would have said “See that truck over there working on the lights? Or that police officer that is rerouting people from the road where the power lines went down? That is what God is doing. God is working through them.”
St. Teresa of Ávila, Doctor of the Church, has a beautiful prayer that reminds me how to find God and see God’s work in moments like these. She said:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”St. Teresa of ÁvilaGoodreads.com
There is no perfect answer, and sometimes I need time to ponder the question. But, after pondering, I need to also go back to my son and wrestle with him on questions such as these because the beauty is in the effort. And perhaps help my son and myself to be able to see God in every moment… even the ones that leave us breathless and unsure.
Let pray today for the the opportunity to notice the real work of God in the world and point it out to one another.