Spring is taking a long time this year to get to West Michigan. Last week was extremely stormy here in Grand Rapids (and many other places in the Midwest). Literally. We had snow and wind and massive amounts of rain. The Grand River crested to record-setting levels. Creeks and other rivers overflowed their banks. 3 ½ inches of rain in one day alone meant that many, many folks have (and continue to have) flooded basements.
As we all know, last week was stormy in other ways as well (and as my colleagues here have beautifully discussed): Boston—and all of us really—caught in the awful tumult created by the appalling violence of two young men.
I am struck by how many verses about floods and storms are contained in scripture. Whether natural or metaphorical, it is clear that few things expose our feeble power, our incredible fantasies of control more than raging water, whatever form it takes.
The magnificent short psalm, Psalm 93, is full of overwhelming deluges:
And yet, as Calvin reflects in his commentary on this psalm:
It is then declared that such is his faithfulness that he never deceives his own people, who, embracing his promises, wait with tranquil minds for their salvation amidst all the tempests and agitations of the world.
What interests me especially here is Calvin’s sense that part of God’s faithfulness lies in not “deceiv[ing]” us about the calamities that threaten to devastate us. The “testimonies,” then, that are “fully confirmed” celebrates the ultimate power of the “Lord on high” but don’t diminish the real terror of the loud and looming waters.
The unseasonableness of both the weather and the news made me think of a Mary Oliver poem, written not for spring, but for the coming of winter. Nevertheless, the poem’s conclusion provides at least a small measure of consolation in a moment when spring seems very far away indeed.
Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness
by Mary Oliver
Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
who would cry out
to the petals on the ground
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married
to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do
if the love one claims to have for the world
So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,
though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.
“Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness” by Mary Oliver, from A Thousand Mornings. © The Penguin Press, 2012. If you do not own a book of Mary Oliver’s poetry, you need to remedy that today.
This version of the poem appears at http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2012/12/13