We looked forward to these special occasions, for they were rare indeed. The surf around our Key West beaches was ideal that day as we swam and splashed against the “gigantic” waves. As George Costanza would say, “the sea was angry that day, my friends.” We were completely unaware of the disaster that loomed nearby the afternoon of September 9, 1960. My parents and I went to bed that evening completely clueless as to what was occurring. During the early morning of the 10th, the 21-mile eye of Hurricane Donna boasting winds of 150 MPH passed over Marathon, 50 miles to our north, and destroyed 3/4 of the buildings in the Middle Keys leaving a path of destruction. As we slept, our town suffered damage, and we incurred dozens of injuries. Oblivious to an impending catastrophe, we learned a valuable lesson which marked our lives for years to come.
He was a man of few words, spoke softly, avoided confrontation, felt uncomfortable in groups, seldom boasted, was not impacted by ego, was “faithful to a fault”, had little use for possessions, kept his opinions to himself, was extremely generous and would rarely interrupt a conversation. Obviously, the maxim “like father, like son” does not apply here. I am my mother’s son…talkative, opinionated, irreverent at times and an overall nuisance. However, come summer, we were “two peas in a pod.” We shared lively conversations about the most minute weather disturbances forming off the west coast of Africa and once storms gained strength, we became avid “hurricane chasers” while mapping, calculating and strategizing every single move of their westward track. Without realizing it, my father and I both fell captive to the trauma of sleeping while the storm blew and became partners in measuring an event we could not control.
Yet, he stayed put; it was, after all, his nature, and our differences again surfaced as cyclones approached. He would hunker down to face the gale much like I confronted the waves as a kid. Me… I fled as soon as a whiff of tropical mayhem was in the air. Hurricane Andrew destroyed my home in August of 1992 while I remained safe in Daytona Beach. As Hurricane Irma came at us in early September 2017, we decided to flee to Fernandina Beach to escape harm’s way only to find that she was a stalker, prompting us to drive west to New Orleans to make good our escape. Jacksonville and Savannah, among others, remain our favorite evasion locales to this day. “Go North, young man” has become my motto as tempests approach.
This behavior flies in the face of a popular story I use during presentations. In typical “do as I say and not as I do” mode, I recount to my audiences how a farmer along the Atlantic seaboard had difficulty attracting workers to his farm due to the awful storms that raged in the area. He finally was forced to hire a middle-aged “fella” whose main experience consisted of being able to sleep when the wind blew. Puzzled by his resumé but in desperate need of help, he took the gentleman to his employ. One evening, as the wind howled offshore, the desperate farmer summoned his sleeping employee to promptly secure the property from the inclement weather. The man refused, citing his proficiency for sleeping as the storm raged, which in turn enraged the farmer as he hurried outside by his lonesome to take care of business. To his amazement, he discovered that all the haystacks had been covered, the cows were in the barn, the chickens were in their coops and the doors and shutters were tightly secured; all was in place to withstand the winds. Thus, the worker’s diligence also allowed him to sleep while the wind blew.
Can you sleep in a storm?
So how do Christians prepare for the gusts of life? Are the loose ends of our daily endeavors easily tied down? Is our tendency to flee or to boldly stand before the rushing waves? Does tracking and identifying our problems lead to resolution or procrastination? Can we sleep knowing we have done our best and that God will do the rest? The moral of the previous story is that when we are prepared spiritually, mentally and physically, we have nothing to fear. We find security against the storms of life grounding ourselves in the Word of God. We don’t need to understand, we just have to hold His hand and have peace in the midst of personal squalls. Let’s face it, God sends the storm to show us that He is the only shelter.
Resist the wind
I remember speaking to neighbors who experienced being in the eye of a hurricane. They described a surreal experience of complete calm following hours of ferocious pummeling, only to be exposed to more thrashing as the midpoint passed. So, I was thinking, isn’t the eye of the storm the safest place for us? As his disciples, Christ’s pierced hands gives us access to the palm of His hand, the only place where we can find refuge, peace and calm… the sacred eye of the storm. Isaiah 49:16 reminds us that” we are engraved in God’s palms”; we can rest in his sacred care. Storms are never static; they are always on the move and so should we. As the storm churned in the Sea of Galilee, the Apostle Peter walked on the water as long as his eyes met Jesus; he begins to sink not because he stopped walking but because he stopped looking. May we keep our gaze on Christ as we continue our pilgrimage through the choppy waters of life; there is nothing to worry… He never sleeps.
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