In a rare moment of decisiveness, I didn’t hesitate to flee. We packed up our Saturn station wagon with our infant and our two-year-old son, along with a few precious belongings, and bolted north. As the traffic on I-75 to Atlanta constricted, we veered northwest into Alabama.
Experience that year had taught me to be afraid. I had seen the devastation from Hurricane Andrew in person a few years prior. But there was something much deeper and more personal as well. I had recently been diagnosed with leukemia, and the storm threatening Florida that year was a fitting metaphor for the threat to my own life.
To say now that Hurricane Floyd eventually hooked right and left our home unscathed seems anticlimactic. To say that within two years, after failing my initial course of chemotherapy and interferon, I would be delivered by a wonder drug seems almost like a fantasy. Except that it’s true.
In any case, it doesn’t do justice to the moment itself. It doesn’t help understand what it felt like in that cramped, crappy motel room in Alabama. It doesn’t make sense of why it was such a big deal that I fumbled a couple of Hummel figurines in the parking lot; or why LuAnne was so angry at me for being careless when they shattered. Because the real storm was raging internally. In September of 1999, we had no idea how the story would end.
. . .
And so it’s Saturday, September of 2017, and we’re waiting on Hurricane Irma. We’ve got water, a generator (a luxury we could not afford in 1999), and enough food to feed an army for a month. We have three boys now, two in college. One brought some friends from USF to wait out the storm inland. (They spent yesterday cleaning out my garage, God bless them!)
We’ve done about as much as we can to prepare, and now we just have to wait another 24 or 36 hours. They say it will be a Category 1 when it rolls past us or maybe right overhead. We’re in a solid house, but it is unsettling. Tornados are unpredictable. Trees will crash down all over town. The state will be a mess, some people will die (some have already), and life may never be the same. What will it do to our homes? Our friends? Our business? We have no idea, really.
. . .
“I form the light and create darkness. I bring prosperity and create disaster. I, the Lord, do all these things.”
This is my God speaking, not Shiva the god of destruction.
I look at the looming storm on a 4K television, I watch the spaghetti models, and I’m nervous. I’m also a bit angry, for all the good it will do me. (And no, I wasn’t as emotionally engaged a few days ago when Houston was hit.) Once upon a time a long time ago I was brave enough for a brief moment not to make the complaint “why me.” I recall thinking, “Why not me?”
But I’m older now. The shoe has dropped so many times it sometimes seems like a tap dance. Is that self pity? Melodramatic? Lacking in perspective? Most certainly. But it is what it is. Fear and uncertainty are exhausting. Over time, it takes a toll. Now I fear the fear. And I’m tired in advance of cleaning up the mess the week will bring. I need a nap, but a nap two hours ago didn’t help.
Clearly I’m not a true Floridian. True Floridians throw hurricane parties, not pity parties. Maybe it’s because I’m from California.
I think of the God who brings prosperity and creates disaster. And I realize my own powerlessness. Isn’t that part of the point of all this? I could board up the windows if I were a better handyman. I could do a lot of things. But the truth is, there is ultimately a storm out there that no one can stop.
. . .
It’s Saturday. It’s the Sabbath of my youth. Right now the air is calm, the electricity is on, the A/C and the fans are running smoothly. The world’s best dog is taking a nap beside me.
The door to the patio is cracked. I hear birds. The wind picks up for a moment and I hear the leaves rustling in the treetops.
Who are you, Lord? What is it that you’re doing in this world? Is pain really your megaphone to rouse a deaf world? Why, Job asks, would you torment a wind-blown leaf? We are that leaf. You are the God who “makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.”
My God speaking again, not Ba’al, god of the storm.
So I take a deep breath. I acknowledge the power of the storm and my own powerlessness. What choice do I have? Only the choice, perhaps, to put my trust in the power of the One behind it, the One who ordains whatsoever comes to pass. And the only One powerful enough to work all things together for good. All things. Prosperity as well as disaster.