Last night, while I was finishing up some work, one of my favorite things occurred: a lightning storm. It sparked (you're welcome) a memory of something I had written a while back that I thought I would share.
Lightning is amazing to watch from a distance — and terrifying when it engulfs you.
To date, there are two Independence Days that stand apart in my life — the first involving me biking to Gasworks Park and watching an incredible fireworks display accompanied by the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. Recently, Spokane had its own show scheduled to start at 10 p.m. but 15 minutes before show time, it got trumped by the creator of the universe’s personal display of power and grandeur: strikes of lightning thrown back to back and all around. My wife and I hustled out to the bluff where we joined a throng gathering to see the real show. Easily 20 strikes per minute or more. The joy and awe of those on the hill was similar to watching a fireworks display, until it got closer, right on top of us.
Joy turns to awe followed closely by concern and then fear. You start to wonder if it will hit the tree next to you and crush your car and wife and if you will get burnt to a crisp, if the wind will topple the trees precariously leaning over your car. Absolute raw power. I began to think of the Israelites at Sinai — the power of God descending on a mountain, the fear must have smelled stronger than the ozone being charred all around them! There were strikes directly above me back at home on the front porch. I flinched for fear that they would work their jagged fingers right down into me and then the crash comes, right on top of you. A clap and crash and roll and rumble — they must have been so beyond freaked out!
God is safe at a distance, “You go talk to him, Moses.” It’s okay if we keep God’s power in a box — like watching fireworks on TV. But when we’re right up close — front row (or worse) we find ourselves to be exposed and incomprehensibly small. And him? Well, what do we make of a God who is beyond power itself? Is it any wonder why we can’t get back into God’s righteous presence on our own? Why we cannot just walk up to him and say, “hey”? Why is it absolute miracle and insanity God would limit himself and become a man children would unabashedly gather around? Why do we need Jesus? A lightning rod? A comfort in the storm? Maybe his light is a diffused, constant glow of that flash that we all seem to be drawn to. We watch lightning — look for it’s shape — where it arcs next, we count for the thunder, wishing to get closer, until it's upon us and we are thrilled and terrified. We want to be in awe. How else can you explain cars packed in on High Drive at 10 p.m. on the Fourth? Cars with people inside who recognized real power, not just a display for entertainment.
They wanted in…
There’s a prayer I prayed that night as I wrote, “Come closer to me, Lord. Guide me and scare me. Show me your power and help me to know the fear of you. Thank you for this event. You are so far beyond me… make me dangerous.”