Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Desert Whirlwind, stock image, common domain
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up. Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.
— Hosea 8:7-8
Israel, over the previous seven centuries, committed sin after sin, each one perhaps seeming small to he that committed it, each one maybe even excusable under the circumstances, just a breath of wind on a still day, a barely perceptible change to the order of things. And then, as Hosea announces, in a single climatic moment a whirlwind strikes, and everything is blown away, wiped out, swallowed up. Israel will be no more.
We all have a tendency to make excuses when slipping out of integrity, to justify wrong behaviour as necessary under the circumstances, or in order to be nice and not hurt another, or even as a tit-for-tat response. Each small act is easily performed and quickly forgotten, explained away into invisibility. Such illusionists of righteousness we are that instant forgiveness and redemption are always available to us, at no noticeable cost. But not seen does not mean not there, as any child quickly learns when found in a game of hide-and-seek even though they are covering their eyes. Our transgressions accumulate, even as we push away the uncomfortable feelings, and eventually they rise up in rebellion, creating a sense of disconnectedness, loneliness, even godlessness, and causing perhaps a sudden collapse into depression, anxiety, addiction, fear, panic or stress. Such a dramatic reaping seems wholly unfair for such small transgressions, but it isn't the one small transgression, it's the accumulation of many, the shanty town of lies we build, and the mental/emotional gymnastics we must perform to stay one step ahead of our consciences. It becomes exhausting, no matter how good at it we are. Even the most skilled marathon runner will eventually collapse if pushed too hard for too long.
The antidote to the inevitable whirlwind is the small act of amends following any single transgression. As a group of recovering alcoholics intent on redemption once expressed it, "when we were wrong, [we] promptly admitted it".1 The subsequent redemption of so many 'sinners' who embraced this advice attests to the power of such small, daily adjustments, and shows us it is never too late to begin our own recovery process, to sow our field with a different seed, and avert the whirlwind.2
1 Step 10 from the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, circa 1939
2 More about whirlwinds in the Bible: 2 Kings 2:1-11, Psalm 77:18, Isaiah 66:15, Jeremiah 4:13, Jeremiah 23:19, Ezekiel 1:4 and Job 38:1