It was one hell of a bold north wind, so strong that it whipped up whitecaps on the river, normally such a peaceable body. It was so strong that I almost didn't put the sheets out on the line, and then almost couldn't get them down again. It was so strong that it whipped the kerchief right off my hair, giving me that instantaneous finger-in-the-electric-socket look. (Not that that takes gale-force winds, by any means.) The screen house out back held out valiantly for a while, but I finally had to take it down and set rocks on it, to keep it from blowing away. Oh, it was a wind, all right.
And of course I immediately set to thinking about the Holy Spirit, that sometimes acutely uncomfortable Comforter, that ruffler of well-groomed feathers and bowler-over of best-laid plans. There's no doubt that the Spirit does play rough sometimes, as rough as this north wind on a blustery May day, scudding the clouds along like so many startled sheep.
But then I got bothered. Maybe it's because I've been talking to people of late who are really struggling with one thing or another--pain of mind or body. Maybe it's because it was at this self-same season, years ago, that I first looked at the possibility of faith and promptly panicked, wanting a God gentle enough and patient enough to wait until I was ready, and God obliged by being what I needed.
It seemed to me that this windstorm we're having is remarkably indiscriminate: it blows with equal force on the tough and the vulnerable. It won't harm my roof, which is relatively new and sturdy; it will, however, rip shingles from the roofs of many who need new shingling and can't afford it. Wind, like all other forces of nature, has neither love nor hatred in it; you can't even use words like "indifference" about something that has no possibility of the differentiating. Wind just is--the product of natural physical forces, and perhaps (increasingly) of our own sins against God's good fresh air.
But God is anything but indiscriminate. If our notion of fairness is treating everybody exactly alike, regardless of circumstances, then God is remarkably unfair--look at the parable of the vinyard workers, the one that drives everybody nuts. If fairness treats everyone alike, love regards the specialness, the individuality, the particularity of people, no two of them exactly alike, not even identical twins. This wind may be fair, if we want to set human words on a non-human thing, but it's sure as hell not loving.
What was the old phrase--"God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb"? It doesn't feel that way sometimes. Sometimes, instead, it feels as though the shorn lamb gets the iciest of winter gales. But considering the times I've seen this happen, and looking back over my own experience, it wasn't any of God's doing. We still fall into the old trap of believing that God likes to strengthen our characters by giving us hard times; but if you actually look at the hard times, they're usually more a question of good old human nature, "things done and left undone." God doesn't attack us through illness or natural disasters; we understand much that our foreparents couldn't have known, questions of infection, immunity, physics and tectonic plates. And it's not God's fault when we screw up, or when others screw up in dealing with us. That's our problem, not God's. And God suffers with and for us when it happens.
Yes, there will be times (although fewer than some suppose) when the most loving thing God can do for us is to bowl us over with a strong and well-aimed buffet. I can't think of too many people who clearly need that, although I can think of a few. More often, I think, the Spirit comes to us more gently: "Breathe on me, breath of God". Or the Spirit comes as in the eye of the hurricane, or as the peace and stillness of a spring evening as the wind dies down and the dark falls and the world becomes quiet, but instinct with joy.
God meets us where we are, if we're willing to be met: in storm or in quietness or anything in between. All we really have to do is to say "yes", and be patient.