God’s wrath is an uncertain blessing
The tents stretched for acres, refuge to the hundreds of thousands that were fleeing the rising waters of the Mississippi. The puddles in the alleys were symptoms of the land’s illness. It was springtime in 1927.
The rain had started the year before, lashing torrents, steady downpours, misting drizzles over hundreds of miles. Some days they would work out in the fields under bright blue skies, look down at the clay dust covering their shoes, and thank God for sending the rains away. But the river would keep swelling, rustling on its relentless headlong race downstream, fed by rainstorms hundreds of miles away.
The levees broke finally, gaps opening in one spot and then another, the unwieldy power of the big river unleashed, rushing to low ground, filling up the broad delta. This wasn’t God’s wrath. God doesn’t care about the great drama of natural forces. This was the water finding its level, like all matter does, filling the broad tidal basin that was left behind when the pre-historic oceans receded.
The water enveloped everything: fields, homes, roads, towns, churches. Places like Desha county were lost to the open air. Nearly a million people toted what they could and trudged to the relief camps set up on high ground to wait out the flood, their resignation unspoken.
That August, the water was called back to the deep thumb-gouge of the Mississippi. The people came back to reclaim the land. They planted in ground that had been replenished with the deep nutrients of the river, silt and clay mixed together. They were on the cusp of an unimagined moment of prosperity.
This is God’s wrath, to test men and women with bounty after a long stretch of mean existence. Who among us can resist that slack relief, the urge to take one more, get one more, to lean back in certainty that everything is going to be all right from here on? That’s God’s private joke, to show us how far from a blessed state we truly are, his prized creations.