Daughter #1 coerced me into going to the store with her last night. Small-town lingo: store=grocery store. While walking from the car to the front door, I spotted a brown and black caterpillar on the cobblestone sidewalk, and I bent over to get a closer look. I took a moment to admire its determination and marvel at how oblivious it was to its surroundings, having no idea that I was possibly seconds away from squashing it with my size-nine shoe.
The thing happened to be inching right beside a stick, a tool I figured was there so I could poke at it. So I did. I wasn't hurting the thing--I just wanted it to curl up on the end of the stick so I could play with it for a minute. The bug (or is it bug-to-be?) wouldn't help me out and did everything it could with its billion legs to avoid me and my stick.
#1 had had enough of my lackadaisical approach to the task at hand--going to the store--, and said sharply, "Put that stick down." Recognizing the size difference and imbalance of power it created, she then said, "How would you like it if God stood over you poking you with a stick like that?"
Hmm. Interesting picture. Always looking for an opportunity to be a victim in need of sympathy, I said, "God does that to me all the time until I finally have to tell him, 'Enough, already. Put that stick down!" " I amused myself, but #1 rolled her eyes. We both know I have a pretty easy life.
So, I can't say that God pokes me with a stick, but it does seem that some people, and even some regions of the globe, get a pretty thorough pestering--not with a stick, but with a full-sized log, a telephone pole, an uprooted California redwood--stirring and mixing up--with the caterpillar, which seems to be caught off guard every time, scurring and weakly doing whatever it can to avoid the poking.
I don't believe God sends hurricanes or tsunamis or pestilence in all its forms to punish people. I think we can look to laws and patterns of nature for that, although you could argue that since I believe God created that same unaccommodating nature, then isn't he ultimately responsible, or maybe irresponsible, depending on your perpective?
I have no explanation as to why some people subsist on specks of grain on a good day, while I have a big, brick house for living, a little lake house for resting, a pool, four cars, plenty of food.......it's nauseating to continue with the list, actually, and a little shameful. My father used to look at too-large houses and mumble, "Nobody needs a house that big. I don't care how many kids they got." He was probably right.
So, I put the stick down, gingerly stepping over the caterpillar, and I let it go on to make its cocoon some place that would be undisturbed, some place where no giants with sticks would try to stir him up.