Before deciding what to wear, I checked my weather app. The high was a beautiful 72 degrees! It would just take a little while to get there. At the moment, it was in the mid 40s. Welcome to Missouri. I looked through my closet and decided that a short sleeve shirt would be the clothing of choice.
Although I’m pretty cold natured, I would just suck it up for a few hours.
Leaving the house, I was slapped in the face by a brutal, cold wind. I began to regret my decision to wear the short sleeve, but there was no going back now. With a “brrr” I was reminded how much I disliked the wind and the cold.
I was also dreading the inevitable: the impending winter. Thankfully, according to my trusty weather app, it looked like it was going to be pretty comfortable for the next week.
According to the National Weather Service, an interest in calculating the weather can be traced back to our early history. The weather was also important to some of our Founding Fathers. While he was in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson purchased a thermometer from a local merchant.
In his journal, he noted that on July 4, 1776, it was 76 degrees. I’m guessing he wore a short sleeve shirt. The desire and accuracy of forecasting the weather began to grow with the invention of the telegraph. At this point, you could communicate the weather “on line” (pun intended).
Knowing what is happening with the weather is essential. It is for our convenience and our safety. How wonderful it is to be alerted of approaching storms, high winds, or artic air. Meteorology is a science, but one that contains many variables. We’ve all joked about wanting the job of a meteorologist. All you need to do is remember not to wear green and to be right about the forecast about 40% of the time. That’s about a coin toss.
From what I’ve heard, you also have to be somewhat attractive. When I worked in radio years ago, I had a friend who told me that one of his professors in college encouraged him to go into a career in radio rather than TV meteorology because he didn’t have “the looks for the job.” He turned out to be very successful in radio, but was still fascinated by the study of weather and wondered along the way if he had “missed his calling.”
Mankind has not always viewed weather as a science. Some of the ancients turned to mythology to help explain the mysterious. They invented terms like “Mother Nature” and “Old Man Winter.” The history of the term, Mother Nature, is somewhat confusing, but most believe it can be traced back to the Greeks.
The Greek Goddess, Demeter, was over the harvest. She had a daughter named, Persephone. Because of Persephone’s great beauty, she caught the eye of Hades, god of the underworld. He was no gentleman and abducted her, taking her to the underworld to be his queen. She was less than thrilled.
Her mother, Demeter was so distraught that she refused to allow any crops to grow upon the earth. The dire situation fell upon the ears of Zeus, ruler on Mount Olympus, and he interceded, forcing Hades to return Persephone to her anxious mother.
All did not end well, though. Unfortunately, while in Hades, Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds (the supposed food of the dead). Because of her actions, she was condemned to spend a part of each year with Hades in the underworld. Demeter gave us winter.
The harsh and barren winter months are a reflection of a mother’s broken heart. The beautiful summer reflects the season when Persephone is able to return to her mother. Thus, the phrase, Mother Nature was born.
Most people recognize, if not use, the term, Mother Nature. In fact, in the 1970s, there was a popular and humorous commercial on TV to promote Chiffon Margarine. In the commercial, Mother Nature appears and samples what she believes is real butter. Turns out, it’s not butter, but a synthetic substance known as margarine. She has been deceived and is not happy about it responding by saying, “it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”
The history of the term, “Old Man Winter” has been around for a while too. Unfortunately, the origin of the phrase is even harder to uncover. The term is a personification of winter. It is believed that the term Old Man Winter also derived from Greek Mythology, although the history is not as clear.
It seems that various cultures all had different names for the god of winter and eventually the specific names were dropped for the generic, Old Man Winter. His darker side is also known as Jack Frost.
In an article for the Chicago Tribune, meteorologist Tom Skilling lists about a dozen Greco-Roman gods and demigods who have been fighting over the weather for quite some time. Can’t we just all get along?
From my perspective, I avoid Mother Nature and Old Man Winter. It’s not personal, but theological. From a biblical view, I believe that these terms stealthily undermine and confuse the obvious. God is the maker and sustainer of the universe. Any attempt to assign the weather to anyone or anything else undermines his sovereign authority. God refers to this action is idolatry.
As humans, we’re always trying to assign the unknown to the mysterious or attempting to measure and control through the avenue of science. But in the end, that job belongs to God alone.
To his first century audience, Jesus said, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Matt 16:2-3). Basically, Jesus is saying, “from time to time, you can discern the weather forecast, but you miss the really important stuff.”
God alone is the author of creation and has authority over His created order. This was the message that Jesus was sending when He walked upon the water and then caused the wind to cease and the Sea of Galilee to be still. God can calm the storms of the sea and the storms of life.
I respect the work of meteorologists and use my weather app frequently. But, I also recognize that, as humans, we only have so much control. God continually reminds me of that. Not too long ago, after checking the weather app, I headed to the office with the promise of clear skies.
However, a rainstorm appeared, unannounced, and I without my umbrella. I smiled and acknowledged God’s sovereign rule over the universe. So, although it might not be nice to fool Mother Nature, it’s best to restrict her to mythology, abandon the term, and acknowledge Father God. It’s also a good idea to keep an umbrella handy just in case.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.