You know the Robert Frost poem about two roads diverging in the woods? It's been popping into my head a lot lately and makes me wonder if it may be how God works with free will.
I know, it's scary to think about how my brain works, isn't it?
Bear with me. I've been watching a lot of news coverage about the horrible effects of the floods around my area. At first it was a constant state of urgency about the water levels and people needing to evacuate different neighborhoods. One news station was running solely on generators and kept apologizing for the fact they hadn't showered in three days because they were in the heart of the hardest hit area and had no running water.
To be honest, that part of the tragedy was easier to watch.
Now we are hearing about the long-term effects. The contamination. The waste. The ruined homes. The plans to demolish. The homeless. The jobless. The exhaustion. It breaks my heart. And somehow, so many of the people interviewed talk about the hope they feel, the resolve to rebuild and make their lives strong again. You can tell it's at the core of who they are, because it's their instinct to believe in hope even when their eyes are so very weary.
There was recently a news piece about a church community that had lost their building, and another faith denomination had offered their church as a place of worship. The interviewer was asking different people about their situations and how their faith has pulled them through. Some people said they knew things were going to be ok and they couldn't make it without their faith. Others just simply said they didn't know how God could do this to them. And I think it's a valid question; when you talk about God having a plan for us... then wouldn't the bad stuff be in His plan as well? But that question lacks a key component: free will.
Free will means that stuff is going to happen. We make choices every day that affect the outcome of our lives. We choose where to live. We choose who to marry. We make decisions about our education or having children or where to have dinner. People with more power in society decided where to build towns and levies and infrastructure.
And then it rains.
I don't think God looked around this Earth and decided one day to mess with the people of Iowa. I think all of our decisions and our ancestors' decisions came together with a natural rain and it created an opportunity for a flood. Free will. Stuff happens. Could God stop it all? You bet. But He promised us He wouldn't. He gave us free will and the opportunity to make ourselves strong again.
That's where the poem comes into play. (I told you my brain would take you there eventually.)
I think in front of every person who is hurt, God lays out paths in front of them... roads, if you will. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other, but they are choices for us to make. You can rebuild your home, you can move away, you can relocate to higher ground. And whichever road you choose to walk down, I think God is on it making sure you see the potholes you could fall in, the pebbles you could trip over and the sunshine that could warm your face through the trees. In every instance, I truly believe He is putting the possibility of blessings on your path if you're willing to reach out and take them.
I'm not so crazy as to believe any one of the roads will be easy. You might choose a road of self-pity and despair for awhile, but eventually you'll stumble on a blessing that will make your path smoother. It's not about God making sure bad stuff never happens. It's about the fact that He holds us when it does. That's what dad's do best. They don't stop you from trying new things. They don't tell you not to take any chances. They cheer you on when you choose to try. They tell you that anything is possible. And when you mess up, when you fail, when you fall... a dad picks you up, brushes you off and wipes your tears away. Then he tells you to try again.
The flood victims are in the stage where they need to be brushed off and their tears wiped away, but I believe with my whole heart that there will be roads diverging in front of them, and God will be there cheering them on as they try again. Because that's what fathers do.