No one needs to be reminded that these are tough times for most of us. With that comes a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Under the turmoil are often questions about God: What God is doing, if anything; Why does God let these painful things happen to us; Why doesn't God make things better; Is there a God anyway? Those kind of questions come up when our lives or world seem to be going down for whatever reason. And we want answers. But the truth is that answers are hard to come by, especially clear, simple, measurable answers. Why? Because God isn't obvious. God is sneaky.
I was born and raised during The Great Depression to which people compare our present economic difficulties even though the comparison doesn't really fit. During most of those years we lived in South Dakota. In addition to the Depression, the midwest was also plagued by the Dust Bowl which blew much of the prairie states into Colorado and Montana. Hoboes came to the back door of our house offering to do some odd job in return for a meal. The best my Mom could do was a half peanut butter sandwich for nothing. In summer the dust drifted up against abandoned farm buildings. In winter, it was snow drifts and ice cycles. Our house had a coal bin in the basement next to an old furnace that generated heat that rose up through a single large grill in the floor above. From there, the heat was supposed to circulate through the rest of the house. That was always an iffy process.
In any case, the present tough time reminded me of those boyhood days. It also reminded me of a poem that in many ways portrays my father and my relationship with him as I remembered it as a young adult. Here's the poem.
Those Winter SundaysSundays my father got up early
and put on his clothes in the blue-black cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know,
of love’s austere and lonely offices.
-- Robert Hayden
As I've gotten older, I realize more and more how much that poem fits my Dad. I believe it fits a lot of Dads. Maybe your Dad comes to mind in some way as you read the poem. One way or another, we learn what we didn't know "... of love's austere and lonely offices." Perhaps then it won't be such a great a stretch to stay watchful and discern some ways God is about achingly performing on a larger scale "love's austere and lonely offices." And even being thankful. After all, among other names, don't a lot of us call God "Father"?
Think about it. Ted