By Pastor Mike Gillen, Bowling Green First, Eolia, and Oak Grove UMC
This winter has been an endless marathon of blustery, miserable, snowy, cold. I have been waking up in the morning dreaming of spring’s warm breezes and sunny skies.
In December I would turn on the radio and hear Kenny Chesney crooning about getting a tan for Christmas and I began looking online for plane tickets to the Caribbean, even as I looked out the window to see sleet falling on the ground.
People asked me to pray harder for a milder winter or a quicker arrival of spring, assuming I have a better connection to “the Man upstairs.” My prayers went unanswered.
This winter was a lesson, a philosophical and spiritual lesson. In this world, this wonderful creation, I have absolutely no control over the weather.
The experiences of this harsh weather, shoveling endless snow in endless sub zero temperatures, have shaped my understanding of what human beings can and cannot do.
We are amazingly resilient and creative creatures. We are able to survive harsh conditions, enduring great hardship, while inventing better snow shovels and warmer waterproof gloves.
But again this winter’s lesson remains–there is nothing we can do about the weather. So we are challenged to adapt to it, to survive and wait for something better.
I guess I am not completely helpless. I could take my family and move to a warmer climate. But I know that there are other environmental challenges that make life as difficult there as it is here in beautiful Missouri.
Running away from one problem does not result in a problem-free life. The weather is always unpredictable because it is never under my control, no matter where I may be living.
Like I mentioned earlier, people often think that being a pastor means that I am better at prayer. By “better” people mean “more effective.” My prayers are expected to work better, to bring better results, and to influence God more powerfully.
The truth is that I’m as human as the next person. I don’t have any more control over where the rain falls or when spring arrives than you do.
Jesus once said, “God makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
I understand Jesus to be saying that God isn’t waiting for you or me to say a prayer. God isn’t controlled by your prayers or mine. God is the one in control.
And God is offering life to all of us. Sometimes life is difficult. Some winters are endless and harsh. God is there for us, reaching out to us, inviting us to look for strength and comfort.
I’m glad God decides where the rain (or snow) falls. What kind of God would God be if we could tell God what to do?
I’m also glad I can’t control the weather with my prayers. What kind of world would this be if I was the one person who was in charge of the snow and rain? I like God being in control.
As I write this article I can see out on my front lawn a tree blooming and daffodils poking out from the ground. Hard rains and warmer temperatures have caused the grass to green.
I wish I could take credit for it all. After all, I did pray for spring. Unfortunately, I’ve been praying for spring since November. I guess God’s going to decide when winter ends.