Rainstorms and a Thin Stillness

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Rank upon rank of torrential rains has pummeled Northern California this winter — this latest with rainstorm-1wailing winds, thunder, and sheet lightning covering the entire night sky. When the Oroville Dam spillway broke up, 200,000 people were evacuated in all the towns downriver. The break in its lip was fixed, but the storms still are lined up out in the Pacific Ocean. And before these last two weeks of rain began, we were already at 200 percent of our normal average precipitation. Managing the runoff will be as major an issue when the snow starts melting this spring.

It’s not surprising that so many ancient Israelites experienced God’s dramatic presence (theophany) in great storms. This makes Elijah’s opposite experience that much more powerful, since God specifically came not in the thundering storm, but in “a still, small voice.” The Hebrew phrase actually is “the sound of a thin stillness.”

In reading this week, I’ve been reminded that God is not in nature; nature is God’s creation. But God has chosen to enter into nature in Jesus Christ, God’s human Incarnation (literally meaning “enfleshment”). Such divine greatness, coming into the lowest of human suffering, is astounding. It reminds me of Philippians 2:5-11, and also in C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, where the diver brings the “dripping, precious thing” up from the depths of the ocean into bright sunlight. God comes down into the depths of human experience in order to lift us up!

The rainstorms continue, reminding me of the power of the Creator. But it is the sound of a thin stillness and the lowly Incarnation that most often put a lump in my throat.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

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