Many ancient cultures have flood stories of divine retribution. With all the rain we had this spring, daily flash flood warnings from my Weather Channel App, and a delivery of lumber to my neighbor’s driveway, I thought, “Uh-oh…!”
But the Judeo-Christian flood story ends positively with a promise and a reminder: “Never again,” says God, who then sets a “bow” in the sky, (we call it a “rainbow”), as a reminder of that promise.
It’s actually a “bow,” as in “bow and arrow,” symbolizing a laying down of arms by God. And get this: though the promise is to us, the reminder is for God! Says God, says the story, “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” [Gen. 9:16]
If God, who needs no reminding, needs reminding, what does that say about us?
As I grow older, I find I need more reminders all the time, if I remember to set them up! Many are the alarms I set on my phone or ask Alexa to. When they go off, all I have to do is remember what it was supposed to remind me to do or where to go!
Riding my bike to my favorite donut shop, I passed a sign in a front yard which read, “You Matter!” “Thanks!” I thought. But that got me thinking about the current pandemic and how that applied to how we’ve been behaving.
Around my neck, to be deployed when entering the bakery, was a face mask my wife made me. Though it was tempting to think of it selfishly as protecting me, I knew it was really designed to protect you from me.
Now I’m realizing that it’s also a way to remind others that I, and other old guys like me, need to be protected from you. It was a way of saying, “Hey, you matter to me. Please care about others who do, or should, matter to you!”
We’re very fortunate to live in Clinton County where coronavirus cases have been few, and are, as of this writing, all resolved, with risks lower than many other places.
It’s also likely that living at Ohio Living Cape May, in a secure shelter-in-place mode, that I’m of little danger to you. But it gives me some satisfaction, when I venture out, to wear a mask to remind you that you matter, and to invite you, by doing so, to join me in reminding others that they matter, too.
This current virus has shown us the best and worst in people. Many are the heroes we have been thanking every day, as we should, but others have turned it into an “us versus them” thing.
Some see it as a challenge to their freedom to be asked – even expected – to be considerate of their neighbors, because, “It’s a free country!” and nobody’s going to tell them what to do.
To appease them, the government has backed off requiring certain social distancing behavior, but that doesn’t make any less valid an expectation – or let’s say an invitation or reminder – from a Higher Authority – to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Next time you see a bow in the sky, see it as a weapon laid down by God, a peace sign, reminding God and us that we matter to God and are called to care about each other.
So please remind me, and the most vulnerable among us, that we matter, (“Hey, what have you got to lose?”), and I’ll try to continue reminding you that you matter, too.
And of course, all of the above also applies, many times over, to the pointed reminders of peaceful protestors that black lives have not been among the “all lives” many are willing to claim matter.
Jim Graham is a retired Presbyterian minister.
Weekly columns are provided to the News Journal by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.