When I was very young, my family took a vacation on a lake. It was not something we had done before, and I was delighted to spend every minute I could in the water. Even as a little girl, I was a strong swimmer.
One day my older siblings decided to go water skiing when someone offered us their motorboat. As it pulled up toward the dock, curious, I jumped in—right behind it. With the motor running.
When I emerged from the water, I was startled to see my father red-faced and screaming at me, “Get away from the boat!” He was gesturing wildly, and it about scared me to death. My father had never, ever screamed at me before. Nor has he since. I swam over to the ladder and quickly hoisted myself out of the water where he clutched me to him, saying, “Don’t you know you could have been injured?”
Of course, I didn’t—not until I saw the look of concern on his face and the face of everyone else, not until I felt the fear in his embrace. Not until he explained to me about motors and blades running beneath the surface.
When Scripture takes a turn toward the stern, I remember this moment with my father. He would have done anything to prevent my being injured. Would have rather given up his own limbs than watch mine being devoured by the sharp, whirring blades of that motor.
How much more so my heavenly Father.
If He “raises his voice” to me in His Holy Word, it’s only because He would do anything to keep me from the fires of Gehenna (see Mark 6:20-26). He would give anything to prevent my being injured through sin.
When Scripture takes on this timbre of alarm, I want to pay attention. Neither the Father nor the Son ever wastes His anger or concern. Sometimes there’s real danger lurking, perhaps where I least expect it, maybe danger I cannot imagine or cannot see or am too ignorant to realize.
Heaven will do what it must to get my attention. Love always does what it must.
Read what Pope Benedict has to say about the wrath of God in these short quotations.
Liz Kelly is a jazz singer who fell in love with Jesus. She writes, teaches, offers spiritual direction and retreats with a special interest in helping women to flourish in their faith. She’s written six books, including the award-winning Jesus Approaches, the Jesus Approaches Take Home Retreat, and the Your Heart, His Home Prayer Companion. And she still sings jazz, but mainly in the tub and while washing dishes. Find out more about her here.