So I went for a walk and it rained. Hard.
Yes, I had consulted the meteorological radar on my handy phone app before I left and I was prepared. But without my nifty folding umbrella that expands generously to dimensions suitable for golfers, I would have returned home much wetter. And much sooner.
Choice & uncertainty
I guess you could say I made an informed choice. I didn’t want to forgo a fresh air walk just because I knew there were marauding showers lurking out there in the uncertain clouds. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to breathe deep into my lungs the easterly autumn breeze that often comes with a low pressure weather system over Sydney. My app told me there was a 90 per cent chance I would get wet. And I did.
As I walked and the rain grew heavy, the gutters turned from trickles into torrents and sheets of water rushed across the road surface. I was so grateful for the cover of mature trees. But I recalled sadly how many of them had been lost in the recent storms.
Those botanical giants which had cooled and protected our suburb as generations came and went, had now gone too. Saturated by a deluge, blasted by a gale and no longer supported by the sodden earth, they had simply fallen over, roots and all. By now their growth rings would have been chipped and mulched, and their leaves shredded. They will return to the earth that once held them firm—that gave them up.
How I miss them.
On my return home, I threw my exercise gear into the washing machine. As I dashed upstairs in search of clothing, I was glad to be out of the rain, but glad too to feel the oxygen and energy coursing through my body. I smiled wryly as the sun briefly poked its tongue out at me through the clouds and streamed through the windows. Gotcha!
What I think I know
It was good to be prepared for rain and go walking anyway. I knew my umbrella would protect me from a moderate downpour. A full-on storm? Probably not.
I also knew that if things got really bad I could run for home, to the dry and safety of shelter. Even then, I might have been injured by a falling tree or swept into the rising creek or tripped by my own feet!
Actually, everything I ‘knew’ wasn’t really knowledge at all. I prepared for what I didn’t know. In reality, I had no idea what might happen or how bad things might get.
But isn’t that the life we lead every day?
I’m no expert in the rigours of statistical probability—I’m neither mathematician nor actuary. But after returning from my walk I realised that unconsciously, constantly, I make decisions based on a certain kind of probability. I choose one thing or another based on my perception of what normally happens and what might happen. And I guess you do too.
In truth, my judgements might have no foundation in statistical probability. But even then, I have to make decisions. I have neither the skills nor the time to try to do this mathematically! So I have to believe that I can prepare for many possibilities, or conversely, take risks based on what I think it’s reasonable to expect. Otherwise, I’d be paralysed with indecision.
If I’m honest though, there are times when I make impulsive choices based on nothing more than the fact that I like the colour green or my favourite shoes just fell to pieces or I’m running late or I’m just sick of thinking rationally. Whether shaped by personal preference, raw emotion, desperation or pure stupidity, I can and do make irrational decisions too.
But even if it were possible to make every decision and take every precaution based on rational, mathematical probabilities, I must always contend with forces and events I cannot control. As it turned out on the day I went walking, if I’d left the house later I wouldn’t have got wet.
Then again, let’s suppose I’d gone walking later. I might have been less cautious in fine weather and slipped on a pile of soggy leaves, twisting my ankle and spending the night in hospital. It’s a possibility. But who can say for sure?
The One I know
The truth is, whether it’s in the next hour, the next week or further into the future, I can only guess or predict what might or might not happen. I cannot and will not ever know or control how my earthly life will play out.
But I do know the One who does.
I lack certainty about what will happen in my everyday life, but the God of heaven and earth does not leave me to figure it out alone. Instead, he invites me to know him and trust in him. And this makes all the sense in the world because he never changes and he does know what happens next. He is the only one who knows.
He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning (Daniel 2:21).
The One who knows
Even though I lack the power to control future events, my Father in heaven does not leave me without resources. Instead, he invites me to depend on him. This too makes all the sense in the world because he does control what happens next. He is the only one who can.
I cannot know what future burdens will weigh me down or what storms will buffet me. But of this I am sure: if my roots go down deep into the bedrock of God’s mercy and love, I have a secure foundation that will keep me standing into eternity.
I can prepare for rain, but my heavenly Father will keep me safe in him no matter what weather comes my way.
Featured image: Knut Burmeister | Lightstock.com