When I was younger, I was afraid of thunder. The rain would pour down and I would cringe when I saw the flash because I knew what was coming next. There would be a slight crackle and then—in the space of a millisecond—there would be a great boom as if a cannon from the civil war had suddenly exploded into my small suburban home. I would scream and cry, but my mother would just smile. I would look into her eyes, see a reassuring twinkle, and I knew I was safe. “Don’t worry,” she would tell me. “Those are just the angels bowling.”
And then—everything would be fine again … until the next time.
I’m older now, but I still remember the image those words brought to my mind: it was a beautiful land made of clouds filled with gorgeous winged creatures who lined up to spin balls down an alley way of sky towards pins made of hydrogen; a magical place where only the good people got to bowl. Everyone else was in hell.
I sat watching news reports the other day of a distant place that could’ve been another planet. It was called Gaza. The woman on the news told me that the UN schools were being bombed and that children were dying. “International condemnation for Israel’s airstrikes reverberated throughout the world today …” the report would go. Then they would show pictures of children; children who were crying and who were covered in blood that may or may not have been theirs. I thought about the bombs and I remembered the thunder and lightning. I saw the children clinging to their mothers and wondered if they were told anything reassuring to comfort them? But most of those pictures didn’t have mothers and fathers who were alive. Instead, they had corpses—and, right beside them, were screaming children.
While the bombings continued, I wanted to reach through the T.V. and tell them, “Don’t worry, it’s just the angels bowling.” But I couldn’t because the TV did not have a device for communication to other parts of the world. It only reflected images of chaos and destruction so that people waking up with their morning coffee could be just horrified enough to have time to be sad for a minute then switch the channel to watch morning talk shows before forgetting the incident entirely.
But I never changed the channel. I knew that the story was depressing but I also knew it wasn’t uncommon. I knew that it was my good luck to be born in a country where things like that very rarely happened. I also knew that if I could do anything—for the sake of those children—it was to not switch off the channel. It was to absorb the misery and etch their faces into my memory. Because I knew that it wasn’t just the angels that were bowling over there—Satan himself was playing, and he was playing for keeps. But were the children old enough to be judged by God?
I hear the crackling of lightning and thunder, and I instinctively jump. My son comes in the room and I hastily switch off the TV. He looks at me with wonder and says, “Dad, why are you crying? It’s just the angels bowling.”
I grab him and hold on tight, wishing I never had to let go.