I was home this afternoon.
My wife was sick. We’ve got four kids who are five years old and younger, including one who is less than two months old.
So yeah. No way I was staying at work. I went in, called for a substitute teacher, had an appointment with my principal, left some lesson plans, and busted out to get home.
I drove past the fast food restaurants, parks, adult bookstore, churches, and various homes and I made my mad dash home to take care of my family.
For me, it was a fun day. For my wife, not so much. She stayed in bed while I watched PBS Kids, built a T-Rex out of wooden blocks, and watched some science documentaries -- research for my graphic novels I’m writing for Zondervan.
Right after lunch, there was a storm that came through. It was gone by naptime, which was good. The kids don’t like storms. And they need nap time. I needed nap time. So I could watch the documentaries.
The kids got up later in the afternoon. Just about the time a second storm was coming through. I was in my office and I saw a flash of light outside. I yelled out, in a good fatherly tone, “Whoa! Was that lightning?”
I was answered by a booming peal of thunder.
I jumped. I wasn’t the only one who was startled by it.
Startled isn’t the word, I guess. As soon as it hit, all three of the oldest kids started weeping. I ran out to the living room. As I did, my son (the oldest) ran out of the living room and into my arms. My one-year-old daughter (almost two) had climbed into my wife’s lap. And my three year old was standing in the middle of the room with her hands over her ears. The baby was also crying, but she was crying because she was now sharing her mother’s lap with her older sister.
My three year old climbed up into my arms with my son, an amazing feat considering she never took her hands from her ears. At this point, my ears were really hurting. I had two screaming kids on either shoulder. One for each ear. Not cool.
I told the kids it was OK to feel scared. I had also been startled. But I wanted them to stop crying. Now. My hearing depended on it. So I fell back on my secret weapon. Laughter.
“Some say,” I said, “that thunder is just angels in the clouds moving furniture. Then dropping it. Think about it. There they are. ‘Hmmm, I think I’ll move this dresser over here . . .’ BOOM! ‘Ouch! I dropped it on my foot!’” It’s funnier when I do it with a voice. Trust me. My kids thought it was hilarious. The crying stopped, mostly.
I assured them that the furniture thing was not a real story, just pretend, but wasn’t that kinda funny? “Ouch! My foot!” They agreed, that was kinda funny. My son stopped crying. Weeping became that reassured soft sobbing for my daughter.
Between muffled sobs, my daughter’s face set itself resolutely, she crossed her arms, and she managed to get out, “Why does God have to make thunder so scary!?! That’s! Not! Nice!” She was almost screaming. Almost. (She’d given me a similar “lecture” before, when I would trick her with some sort of stupid joke. “That’s! Not! A! Funny! Joke!” she would tell me, punctuating each word carefully.)
I didn’t know what to say.
Her tears returned. “I don’t like that! Why did God have to do it that way!?!” She was mad. Genuinely angry.
I was speechless. I tried to get out some sort of explanation about original sin or something, but quickly tossed that away.
In the end, I just hugged her, held her until the tears went away, and made some oatmeal for supper when I was done.
Five hours later . . .
My wife was still feeling slightly sick, so she went to bed early.
The kids were tucked in, having fallen asleep hours ago.
And I was downstairs eating some corn chips and drinking a caffeine free diet Coke. If I drink caffeine after dinner, I can’t sleep. And yet, here I am, typing about this and it’s almost midnight.
I watched the 11:00 news as it rolled after Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Amidst the various stories of bad news (another school shooting, the fourth? -- a teacher being sued for inappropriate relationships with a student -- a local marine dead in a sniper attack in Iraq) I caught a story that stopped me from going to bed.
Turns out that flash of lightning I saw?
The one that scared my children and caused my daughter to rail against God’s method of running the world?
It struck a church.
The fire is still burning as I type.
No one is hurt. But the roof is burned out. I don’t know how much of the building is damaged, but it looks like -- of course, I’m no expert -- the building is not going to be usable when its over.
It’s one of the churches I pass on my way to and from work. It’s a beautiful old building. Gorgeous. And now?
My heart aches for the people who lost their place of worship. I know, it’s just a place. It’s still difficult.
I still have no answers. Just questions.
In my head, I’m thinking, “That’s. Not. Nice.”