Last night I was in attendance for a Riverview Estates board meeting. As the Board Room is in the basement in the farthest corners of the home we were only vaguely aware of the massive storm which ripped through our area, spawning at least one tornado. When we finished the meeting it was still light outside, and the storms had passed, so decided to walk the few blocks home. What I witnessed was truly wild.
Branches were down everywhere, and at least one tree had completely blocked a road – somehow managing to stretch, but not snap, a power line. The sky was a mix of tired blue, grey clouds, and sickly green. Thunder rolled in the distance and the wind reminded me that nature was not quite finished yet. I hurried home as fast as I could.
When I arrived I met my neighbor and talked about the storm, which he said was truly impressive. We talked about watching a movie later and I went to check in on my family to see how things fared at home. As I crossed the street the light changed. The Sun broke through the clouds and houses and trees looked utterly brilliant. I scrapped the movie idea and snagged my neighbor to head down to the river to get some images of an amazing sunset. They are, to my mind anyway, some of the most breathtaking photos I’ve ever taken.
It wasn’t until later that I started seeing the full scope of the storm’s impact on the Philadelphia area. Trains were stranded in high heat and humidity for hours with no access to water and no power for Air Conditioning. Motorists found road after road blocked by downed trees and power lines. Hundreds of thousands of people were without power. It’s a miracle no one died in that mad rush of a storm.
And there was me, along the river, taking in something beautiful. As I pondered this incongruity it made me wonder about the nature of beauty itself. In a world which is filled with violence, hatred, sorrow, grief, and brokenness it makes no sense for beauty to actually exists. And yet it does. In a world where the very environment seems to look to wipe us off the planet, it seems absurd that it should offer us the beauty of a sunset. And yet it does. I supposed we could say that beauty was just the illusion our brains come up with to keep us relatively happy and stupid in such a harsh world, but I prefer to see it as an echo of God’s grace. When the pain of life closes over us those glimpses of the transcendent wonders of God are visible for all humanity to see. They cry out, “You are not alone.”