Tuesday, January 13, 2009

nature, red in tooth and claw

I've been thinking about nature recently. Nature with a capital N, I suppose. Don't worry, I'm not going to launch into a glowing account of fluffy bunnies and cute little ladybirds. I'm thinking more of "nature, red in tooth and claw". Or the Nature that you hear about on the news. It's hard to avoid thinking about it, actually, at the moment.

We've been having a lot of deaths, near-deaths, and accidents in New Zealand lately. It's summer, it's beautiful, and it's deceptively dangerous. Every few days there seems to be something else in the news. One woman has been missing for over a week on a tramping track and is probably dead, two men were crushed when they ventured too close to the Fox Glacier and tons of ice fell on them, one man died and another only just survived when they were stranded on Mt Cook for days in a howling blizzard, a child drowned while waterskiing, a boatload of two adults and three children were lost in raging seas for a day, and more. The world seems so small now, and humans so big, that I think we forget to take Nature seriously and these sorts of things happen.

We are tiny little insignificant beings caught in huge forces and if we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, we are defenceless. It is amazing how quickly we wither when we don't have the tools of civilisation any longer.

And although I'm not going to equate Nature with God, these thoughts echo some of my other developing thoughts. I've always considered God as good because he should be, almost as though I set the rules for what is good and what is not. If he does something I don't understand, I disapprove or try to ignore it, thinking of God as bound to my notions of good. In the past, people might explain some of these issues to me by asking "Who are you to challenge God?" And I would think, well, that's all well and good but it's not exactly a rational argument, and, well, it's not very nice. An authoritarian God seems so different from 'gentle Jesus, meek and mild'.

Perhaps I underestimated God, like we underestimate Nature.

I do still think that God has no choice but to be good; his nature is intrinsically good and that cannot change. However, for the first time I've learnt to take their point. Considering God and his awesome power, displayed in a much lesser extent in the sweeping power of Nature, which he created... well, maybe I've learnt a little more humility. I've learnt to see the point of people like C. S. Lewis, who described Aslan, the Lion who symbolised God in the Narnia Chronicles, as "dangerous", or "not a tame lion". The God of the Old Testament, so terrifying that we could not bear to look upon him, is a crucial part of the nature of God that I've only just learned to accept.

And at the same time, I haven't lost any of my idealism. To think that such a God loved us, when really he could have annihilated us with ease and no one could have stopped him - that God came to us, humbled himself, died for us... Although it seems a paradox, maybe in order to really understand the Cross, the ultimate sign of God's love and closeness to us, we also need to recognise God's BIGNESS and POWER and SCARINESS.

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