Surveying the damage, they can’t imagine life again after the storm. They can’t yet see the trees that will grow to replace those pulled up by their roots. They can’t picture anything flourishing again in this place of devastation.
Looking out at the endless sea of cars sitting on the interstate, I felt restless and foolish. What was usually a five-hour drive was now entering hour nine. Stretching my legs at the rest stop, I chatted with others fleeing the coming storm. Like me, they weren’t native to the Gulf Coast; I didn’t know one local person who was heeding the mandatory evacuation.
But when news of the hurricane barreling towards the Mississippi Coast hit the airwaves, the call came. My dad on the other end said, “Either you come now or I’m coming to get you.” The evacuation of everyone below I-10 included the little stilted guesthouse where I lived on the edge of the bayou.
I dutifully packed a few belongings. As I drove away I achingly looked back at the green live oaks tendrils framing my rear view mirror like fingers trying to pull me back. My friends laughed: “Yeah, she’s not from around here.” There were parts of me that wanted to defy my father and stay like everyone else. I believed it was safe to stay but my sensible, fearful side agreed with him. So, I ran.
It was a pattern set early in my life. When the storm clouds started to gather on the horizon, I took the path that promised to take me away from the squall. I don’t know why fear has always been my default. Broken relationships, abandoned dreams, and chances never taken out of fear were evidence of my cut and run tendencies.
I wanted to stay and ride out the storms. But time and time again, I didn’t believe I was strong enough to endure the floods. So, I ran.
That time I evacuated, the storm turned to the east (like most locals assumed it would) and ended up bringing heavy rains directly to my parent’s house, missing the Gulf Coast completely. Downed pines clogged the roads and made it impossible for me to return home for a few more days.
Less than a year later I said “see you later” to the sticky heat of the Gulf to return to Georgia. I lingered a moment, running my hand over the peeling paint of the living room of that little house I loved so deeply in the short time I lived there. I closed the slatted windows that let the salty air waft through the house, the crank creaking as it turned. I glanced at the pond to the right of my porch, hoping I’d see the leathery nose of our friendly neighborhood alligator rising out of the water one last time. The surface was like glass.
Little did I know I wouldn’t see that apartment again, nor many of the places I frequented in town. The next time I visited, I couldn’t even find the road where my first apartment by the beach had been located. Everything around it had been flattened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and there were no street signs, no landmarks. Only destruction...
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
I didn’t realize until I started looking at the qualities of a quiet heart, just how clear it is in Scripture that fear is the opposite of peace.
Listen to any message on the well-known story in the gospels of Jesus calming the storm and it usually focuses on the actual act of calming the storm. One thing I have noticed as I have been looking at the gospels through the lens of what Jesus was doing is that Jesus’ peace was never broken. There He was sleeping in the middle of the storm, not taken by surprise by it.
In fact, it was Jesus’ idea to go to the other side of the lake. He knew what was coming and He led the disciples straight into the storm.
So often, I think I treat God as if He must not know the storm I find myself in the middle of, forgetting that He knows all and leads me every step of the way. Instead, I scream at Him, “Don’t you care about me in the middle of this storm?”
Not only did Jesus lead His friends knowingly into the storm; He went with them. He didn’t send them out into a frightening encounter with the wind and waves alone, but He went right along with them, the power to command the elements in His grasp.
I’ve got some burdens on my heart in the moment, some storms brewing in my heart. It is so natural for me, like the disciples, to forget that Jesus is right there in the boat with me. He is not troubled because He knows what is ahead and He knows who holds all the power. And He’s right there with me.
Fear will lead to a lack of faith and a heart that is raging against the storm, yelling at God to come save us.
A quiet heart will trust that He already has saved us, knowing we might have to pass through a storm or two. But we won’t do it alone.