To recap last week’s column: the reproachful writer, dangling dangerously close to despair, asked for a sign to show that God was not asleep. As if in response, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck that afternoon. Buildings swayed, groceries fell, houses crumbled; thankfully, no one was injured. Such an event should have been sufficient to strike terror and bring one to one’s knees. Instead, aforementioned writer laughed with delight that he should receive an answer.
And yet, having been steeped in Giovanni Guareschi’s Don Camillo in his youth and adopting that priest’s spirituality, the writer went on to address God further: “An earthquake? Thank you, but how very Old Testament! Since we’re following this theme, now you have to give THREE signs!”
What an idiot I am.
It was a little past three. All afternoon, the city was choking in close sweltering heat with the sun burning exceptionally bright overhead. No sooner had I issued my follow up challenge than, in the distance to the east, I saw dark roiling clouds coming from the sea. I was about to get my second sign.
Like a running gag, I treat it as a sign of favor from God when I narrowly escape rain. You know, that wonderful feeling when the heavy rain falls just as you step into the house. Perhaps it’s selective memory but most times it’s been that way (and for other times, I am already packing an umbrella — how delightful, right?)
The dark clouds hung low and heavy all afternoon but the rains didn’t fall. I accompanied my wife for a cake delivery, we even spent some time with her client for some chitchat. Still the clouds held. We drove back to the house, just as I was about to open the gate did the drizzle start. When our car pulled into the garage, that was when the rain came loose; not just rain, but torrents and torrents.
Maybe it was my OCD kicking in. “Now you really have to give me THREE signs!” I wrote such in my diary: (1) earthquake (2) heavy rain (3) ???
No more heavenly cataclysms followed, thankfully, and I spent the night in peaceful sleep, lulled by the patter of the rain on the roof. The following morning, a Sunday, as I was walking out, the third sign struck.
It wasn’t a physical sign, if I hadn’t done a bit of self-examination that time I would have missed it. Where I live, there’s a huge billboard, three stories high, with a brazen premature and probably illegal campaign advertisement for May 2019 — I’ll give you three good guesses for whom. Whenever I walk by, I am filled with disgust and anger. That Sunday, I felt…well, I don’t know what I felt…but it didn’t bother me anymore.
I had not realized it but for over three years, and getting each worse every year, I had been laboring under a spirit of vexation. Vexation is the grand design of the time, with insult piled upon brazen insult, using the machinery of the state and media, and I was falling victim to it. And now, so very suddenly, it was gone. I was free. Deo Gracias!
Three signs I asked for and three signs I received: first was earthquake, then was the rain, and finally, a calm spirit. Of these, the last was the true gift, where I could feel the action of God. Just when I was so close to despair, my hope was restored.
“And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”