The holidays are upon us. The Jewish holiday, that is, of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s my favorite time of year; my very favorite holiday. God commanded His people to put up tabernacles, or temporary shelters, and live in them for a week to celebrate three things: His care for His people as they wandered in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land; His provision through the year’s harvest; and His promise of a permanent home with Him in eternity. It’s a week-long party–an elaborate Thanksgiving time.
As we always do, my family and I set up our own sukkah, our tabernacle, in the back yard last Thursday for the first night of the holiday. We had fun putting up the walls and covering the roof with living branches. We strung lights and hung up garlands of autumn-colored leaves. We suspended fruits and vegetables from the ceiling. And that night, we had our first meal of the holiday in our little sukkah. It was wonderful. It was all it should be. Life was good.
Then Friday night, the storm came. The cold rain lashed against the windows all night. I lay awake in bed, listening to the wind argue with the trees and push at the walls of the house, relentless as the waves of an impassioned sea. And I imagined all the damage the storm was inflicting on our little sukkah, outside in the dark. I was helpless to stop it, helpless even to minimize it in any way.
It was no surprise next morning to see that our little sukkah was completely demolished. The roof had caved in under the weight of the water it had absorbed. The walls had bowed down halfway to the ground. The leaf garlands were sodden and dripping. Some of the lights had been crushed and rendered useless.
“Sukkot is a time to pray for the latter rains,” my intrepid husband reminded me, insufferably cheerful. I just sulked. Sure, we’re commanded to pray for rain–gentle, healing showers. Not a destructive downpour and hurricane-force winds! I felt betrayed by God. Didn’t we build this sukkah at His command? Weren’t we just trying to obey and honor Him? Why couldn’t He honor our efforts with a little consideration with the weather?
“Thanks a lot, God,” I grumbled in my spirit. Well, to be honest, I grumbled out loud, as well.
“The sukkah is meant to be temporary,” God reminded me. “It’s meant to be picture of this life, not the next. It’s meant to be flimsy. It’s meant to be a lesson.”
Well, okay then. We gathered up the pieces of our broken sukkah. We took it all apart and dried every piece, and then we started putting it back together again. Because that’s what we do in this flimsy, temporary life. Storms happen and things fall apart, and events fail to follow expectations. But God gives us the impetus, the strength, and the wisdom to start again, fresh. We rebuilt our sukkah. It isn’t better; it isn’t worse. It’s just different. And it’s just fine.