We had a storm last night.
At one point we were listening to the trees cracking and falling down in the woods across from our street.
The wind. The rain. The branches snapping and falling in our backyard. The dark, rolling clouds. The unstoppable power of it all.
And then the storm was over. Storm debris lying everywhere. Our neighbor’s trash can upended with trash scattered, an eerie stillness, and a loss of electricity all followed in the wake of this storm. We had come through the storm. But we were not unscathed–there will be much work to be done to put things right again tomorrow.
We’ve all had storms in our life. Terrible storms. Tragic storms. And when we are in the midst of the storm, it is usually disorienting, confusing. All our energy gets zapped into weathering the storm at the time. The goal is survival. The goal in the midst of the storms of life is to not let them blow us away, or blow us to pieces that can’t be recovered, like the terrible tornadoes in Oklahoma this year. We fight to remain upright, we fight to make sense of things, and yet everything is in disarray.
And then the storm stops, and we are left with a life that has been shattered. We are left with a field of debris that has to be cleaned up. There is a disconcerting silence after the storm sometimes–silence from God, silence in ourselves, silence from our friends and family. And we look at the mess created and even with the sun peeking intermittently through the clouds, it looks like a disaster zone–a war zone.
But the amazing thing is that, by God’s grace, you’ve somehow survived the storm in your life. Oh yes, I know there were lots of times that you thought you wouldn’t. That you were sure you couldn’t hang on much longer. But just like the disciples in the boat, in the midst of a terrifying storm heard Jesus say “Peace, be still” and the storm stopped, there is almost a sense of awe and fear that somehow you made it. You are still alive. Your soul is still alive.
However; there is the aftermath of the storm. The days, weeks, months, years that follow a devastating storm. Because now the pieces have to be retrieved. The debris has to be gathered and destroyed. There is much work to do. And yet that storm that just turned your life upside down? Yeah, well it’s left you with no electricity–no power or energy to do the things that must be done next.
I know this scenario full well. I have lived this scene and am still living this scene three years after one of the biggest storms of my life. The soul that is crushed. The heart that is broken. The children that don’t understand why or how such a heinous storm could sweep through our lives. There is the shock–overwhelming shock that can manifest itself physically, mentally and spiritually. Just remembering those days still makes me sick to my stomach today. O, there were times I thought my soul would die. And there were times I wanted to help it die, just to stop the hurt–the pain of the roaring wind whipping through my life. Yet God’s grace stayed my hand and stilled my storm. And now we can see the sun starting to appear as we’ve spent three years picking up the pieces.
And so, with God’s grace even in the times I couldn’t sense Him, my crew and I have slowly picked the pieces up. We’ve had a lot of help, from hundreds of people across the world praying for us, to those closest–such as our church Seaford Baptist, the amazing people of Zion Methodist, and the guidance from York Presbyterian–jumping in to help sweep away the debris. In the immediate aftermath, we were without the basics: Food, clothing, shelter. And yet God provided all three for us just when we needed them. People fed us, people donated their gently worn clothes to us, we were sheltered many places: a couple of different homes, Hawaii with the ex-inlaws, and eventually two parsonages–Seaford Baptist’s and Zion Methodist’s, which is currently our shelter from the storm.
But even with all of the amazing, tremendous help my family received, it was still ultimately up to me and to my crew and to my God to find a new patch of solid ground. A new normal. And by His hand and His hand only, we are starting to experience that new normal. By His grace we are learning to laugh again, and laugh loudly. We are remembering—-surprised by even–joy. Real joy. We can see bits of the sun shining through the clouds again–bits of blue, clear sky. The sky is important to me, it’s so good and comforting to see it again.
And I’m learning that my entire being is dependent upon my Jesus. For it is He who holds all things together. We see it clearly in Colossians 1:17:
As God and I meet each morning before the day begins, He stills the residual storm in my soul and gently pushes me forward to survive another day. And sometimes to thrive even. This is peace. This is the steadying of His hand, after the storm.
There are still days that defeat me, but they are less and less. The angry storm clouds? I can still see them, but they are drifting way out over the sea, away from us. That doesn’t mean that another storm might not come, for who knows what tomorrow may bring? Only our God does.
But I rest assured tonight, at 2:30 am after being awakened by a rough dream, I rest assured that my God is the sustainer of my life. Who can compare to Him? No one. Nothing. Not my intellect, not my sheer will, not my books–nothing can compare with God the Father. The storms of life, they come and go. And much destruction is left in their paths. But my God sends those that we need to help us gather up the pieces again.
And my God, though I may not sense Him, takes my hand–and your hand–and leads us to the shelter of His grace and mercy.