Before the Storm
I was at Walmart today buying a few essentials in preparation for the hurricane that’s forecast to hit our South Carolina coast this weekend. I don’t live on the coast, but this storm is a big one, and we’ve been told statewide to prepare for significant wind, major flooding, and crippling power outages. So, like everyone else in town, I topped off my car at the gas station and swung by the store to get some bottled water and flashlight batteries. Of course, the battery shelves were empty. I didn’t even bother with the milk and bread aisles. The packed parking lot answered that question before I even walked inside.
In the long checkout line, I was behind two people from the Carolina coast. Both had left their homes and come to the Upstate today, following mandatory evacuation orders. They were talking with someone else in the next checkout line who had also left her home to escape the storm. Their conversation was mixed with anxiety, gratitude, and genuine interest in each other’s stories. I was taken by the raw humanity of the moment. Rarely does one have a conversation with a stranger in Walmart, but when does anyone ever share intimate fears and hopes with someone they have never met before?
The answer to that question: In the midst of a storm.
Exactly one year ago, I was about to board a small cargo plane with 24 men on a mission trip to an island in the Caribbean. It was hurricane season, and we were not sure if we would be able to make it. We watched as Irma barely missed the island to the West and Jose was churning towards it from the East. We made the trip and missed both hurricanes. But the Gulf coast of Florida was devastated. Just days before our trip, Hurricane Irma devastated the west coast of Florida, causing 50 billion dollars in damage. When we arrived safely home a week later, I read an article that has stayed with me for the last year. It has profoundly affected how I think about my neighbors, my relationships, and my humanity. And it has repeatedly exposed the many comforts in my life that I hold so dear.
As Hurricane Florence barrels it’s way toward the coast of my beloved South Carolina, it has helped me once again to go back and read this article and to be reminded of the distractions that cause me to focus only on myself and my comfort. It was written in the aftermath of a major hurricane. But to read it now, as a storm is approaching, offers us a new perspective on what it means to really live in community with our neighbors. I am reminded that comforts and distractions cause me to focus only on myself. It scares me that it often takes an epic storm to drive us to the feet of Jesus. But I am comforted by the fact that Jesus is the author of these storms, and He alone is able to speak to the wind and rain and say with authority “Peace…be still!” I do wonder if God intends to reveal Himself in new and powerful ways in the storms of life. From my own experience, it is in the midst of storms, trials, and suffering that God most tenderly expresses his love and compassion for a broken man like me. It seems like the only place where I learn to genuinely walk by faith and not by sight.
Regarding neighbors and those others whom God has placed around us, I pray that my family (and yours) can learn to live every day like there is a storm coming. And I pray that we would be compelled to choose authenticity, vulnerability, and real relationships instead of comfort, isolation, and control.
Praying for those in the path of the storm,
Director, 3GEN Ministries
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