Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Lesson Missed in the Gulf Oil Spill

This past week I had the chance to overfly some of the oil slicks that are washing ashore in the Gulf region.  The sight of hundreds of acres of oil slick looming just off the coast was daunting, and dwarfed the few shrimp boats that had been sent out to begin skimming.  Then, this morning, as I was browsing through a slideshow of the pictures from the devastating mess that the whole thing has turned out to be, it finally sunk in that this is a disaster that, right now, has no end in sight, and that will likely take decades--if not longer--for the region to recover from.

In the midst of all the blame and finger pointing between the government and BP, debate about how we ought to try to cope with the immediate consequences of the disaster while maintaining the supply of oil that is the lifeblood of our entire socio-economic structure, and starting to collect lessons learned to prevent future incidents of this magnitude, we have overlooked one critical lesson.  It is one that our secular society, would dare not mention, for fear of admitting that we human beings are very far from having it all under control.  The disaster, and all disasters like it where man encounters the abruptness and unforgiving tendencies of nature, is a stark reminder of how little control we have over the world around us, and even of our own existence.  It is so easy to go about the ho-hum of our daily lives feeling like we are in control of our immediate circumstances, of our comings and goings, and that in some obscure sense that the future--tomorrow, and each day after it--are somehow "owed" to us.

The reality is that we are still living in exile from the garden, in the shadow of the fall.    While the God of the Universe, who loves us infinitely, certainly holds creation and the circumstances of our lives completely within his grasp, those circumstances, including whether or not we take our next breath or see the sun rise on tomorrow, are no more in our control than the millions of gallons of oil that have been gusing into the Gulf each day.  In fact, they are less so.  We will eventually get the spill contained and recover from the damage done, but because of our sin we must struggle every day to surrender the uncertainty of our lives and of the human condition to the one who does know and control all things.  Nothing during our brief time on earth is promised us, save one thing: Christ's promise that (1) he is with us always, and (2) if we remain faithful, he will see us through our end on this earth to the unimaginable joy of eternity with him.  The reality of that promise is one that often escapes our consciousness, but we can rest with greater assurance of it than of our expectation that the world will keep turning and the sun will rise tomorrow.  Without it we are left utterly hopeless

As the words of Psalm 46 remind us, "God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountaints shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.  The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.  The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." (Ps. 46: 1-3).


  1. UGH. I just wrote a long comment and hit post. Then "x'd" out JUST as the little code popped up to verify. That is SO frustrating. Let's see if I can replicate my original comment...

    Awesome! I was lamenting the phenomenon of everyone blaming the president for the continuing oil crisis. Ironically, supposed small-government conservatives are on this band-wagon, too. Yet to blame the government is to admit that we expect government to prevent and/or solve our problems. You took this beautifully to the next level by saying that we are not in control. The government is not in control. Only the Lord is in control!!

    Great post!!

  2. Welcome to the Catholic blogs directory. I'd like to invite you to join Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts. This week's host post is at