By Peeter Lukas
What’s a whiteout? You’ll know it when you’re in one.
Long ago I was driving on Hwy 223, a two-lane ribbon of road through the cornfields of southeast Michigan. It was snowing, hard. And then harder. And then I began to lose sight of the sky. The wind had the snow going sideways. And then everything turned white. I couldn’t see the asphalt below me and could only judge my position by the sudden appearance of oncoming headlights. God in His mercy kept me in my lane. I was white knuckling the steering wheel, straining my eyes through the windshield, 5 mph.
My first experience with a whiteout.
Long, long ago I attended library school at Indiana University. All the right buzzwords were attached to one class I took: “ground breaking… cutting edge… world-class.” It was a cooperative class with the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. We were to be a “virtual library”, 40 people on two campuses, anonymous to each other, merging two libraries that we created from material found on the internet. A word of historical context: at that time there were only 3,000,000 internet users in the entire known universe and we stared at non-graphic neon green pixels through dummy terminals phoned into a central computer on IU’s campus.
We started the project timidly enough. An article would occasionally be found in your in-box. And then another. And another. We had our serious librarians directing traffic. And we had the snarky people who bombed in-boxes with anything that looked remotely acceptable. (Always one in the crowd.) The in-boxes got overloaded, the facts in the articles all bled together, files were misplaced, lost, deleted. Some frantically tried to keep up, some in despair opted out. We were in a “whiteout” and didn’t know it.
Until the end of the semester. Then the computers were unplugged and we saw the sunshine streaming into the mental caves we had made for ourselves.
Today may feel like that for you. Is it possible you’re in a self-constructed whiteout? How many coronavirus articles have you read today? What was the Dow Jones average yesterday? Five minutes ago? What ex-MSU quarterback was just given a contract by the New England Patriots?
Instead, can we be drawn back to the Heidelberg Catechism, a formative document for URC in the past, and still a light for these days?
Question 27. What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
Answer: The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by His Fatherly hand.
Question 28. What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by His providence does still uphold all things?
Answer: That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from His love; since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.
And still better, the words of the Word:
Colossians 1:16,17 – For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
We may not be able to see the road ahead, but that’s ok. There are no whiteouts for God.