I have always been terrified of storms.
As a kid, I lived in South Texas . . . the very bottom and center of a part of our country known affectionately as “Tornado Alley.” (How could that not terrify a 5 yr. old?!?!)
I heard tornados described . . . we had tornado drills at school . . . we watched the weather channel all throughout the rainy season – okay, I watched the weather channel . . . Tornados sound like trains when they are coming (or so I was taught), so every time I heard a train, I freaked out.
I knew you couldn’t have a tornado without a thunderstorm, and since I had never been in a tornado, thunderstorms became the closest thing to the realization of that fear . . . so I began to fear the storm.
I dreaded the rain. I hated thunder. I remember waking up my dad in the middle of the night when it would thunderstorm. He and I would go downstairs to our living room – that room had SUPER thick window coverings, so the sound of the thunder was muted there – and we would listen to a battery operated radio on the weather station until I could fall back to sleep. I just wanted to be the first to hear the words “TORNADO WARNING.” I needed to be the most prepared.
There was a difference between a TORNADO WATCH – which was almost every storm – and a TORNADO WARNING.
I dreaded hearing those words, but I always expected them.
When I was in 3rd grade, I heard them.
The whole family was home and my worst fear was coming true. Tornado. Unavoidable. Coming. Uncertainty. 5 minutes. Power. Wind. Destruction. I knew what this meant.
My family of 6 all huddled in the downstairs bathroom with a mattress over our heads (as was standard protocol) waiting to see if we would feel the wrath of the storm.
The sound is not something you un-hear. It was worse than I imagined. My teachers were right, it did sound like a train – but a desperately sad train – lost.
We heard the storm. We felt the storm. The storm passed over us.
Later we would find out that the tornado touched down just 100 ft from our house in the open field next to our neighborhood. A friend of mine lost the roof off their house. Another family in our church lost everything.
I still remember hearing about the rebuilding party for the family who lost it all. I remember the pictures on the screen at church of the house, demolished . . . the storm having won.
And, I remember the words from the people, “we can help.”
WE FEAR THE STORM, don’t we? I have always feared the storm.
And then, you live through one. Sometimes, they pass us by. And at times, unlike the tornado of my childhood, life’s storms have hit hard – right on target – in the middle of my life.
I have heard the advice to remain “steady in the storm” – and taken it. I have learned to trust that peace is about what grounds me, not what surrounds me. I believe that true safety lies in WHOSE I AM, not WHERE I AM.
But the tendency, the temptation, is to withdraw with as few people as possible and hide under a mattress in the bathroom – and to stay there . . . long after the storm has passed.
After a storm – especially a destructive storm – there is much to be done. It’s not over when the wind dies down.
The work of restoration can be more overwhelming than the storm itself.
The danger of isolating yourself in the storm – of staying hidden – is missing out on the clean-up party that is just waiting to spring to action. When we make a habit of isolation (as many of us do in life’s storms) it becomes harder and harder to open up and ask for the help we desperately need.
When those who love us know we are experiencing a storm, they can rally – and they will. It’s what we do.
Inside and outside the church – it’s human nature to see destruction and work to restore it.
I believe God wrote that into our deepest being – every cell of our makeup longs for the restoration of the broken.
It’s why God put us with other people in community. The church has always been intended to be a joint work of restoration. People brave and crazy enough to stand up and say “WE CAN HELP” led by a God who does not shy away from destruction, but pours out EVERYTHING He is and has to bring us NEW LIFE.
Don’t hide from that God. Don’t hide from the gift of community. You are not alone in your storm – at least you don’t have to be.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. – The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians (4:12-14)