Ten years ago I published SURVIVING HURRICANES in response to experiencing Hurricane Frances in 2004 and the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It included an exposition of the Armor of God and the Lord’s Prayer, both helpful resources for surviving the storms of life. I am in the process of recovering from Hurricane Matthew which traveled up the east coast this past weekend after devastating Haiti.
Last Wednesday we decided to evacuate to Valdosta, Georgia with a view to returning on Saturday. However we could not find accommodation for Friday night in the area. Viewing the slow progress of the storm it became apparent that returning to hold Sunday services was impracticable as most of our congregation had evacuated and we did not know whether the roads would be cleared enough to get to the Chapel. After that decision was made we had to find accommodation for the weekend. There were no beds to be had in the vicinity, in Atlanta or South Carolina, because people were evacuating from Georgia and the Charleston area as well. We ended up in Asheville, North Carolina Friday and Saturday night after taking an hour and a half getting through Atlanta.
At each stage of the journey we were in touch with family, friends and neighbors through our cell phones. We are thankful for modern technology. While television gave us updates on the impact of the hurricane we were dependent on neighbors to let us know about our house. Managing stress on these occasions is a major challenge. Anxiety reigns supreme. Our imaginations run wild. We anticipate the worst case scenario. Will we have a home to return to? Would our garage be flooded? Will tree limbs fall on our skylights and rain soak all our family possessions and mementos? What will our yard look like when we return? What work and expense will be involved in cleaning up the mess? I was compelled to pray earnestly for the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control to manage the stress.
Our good neighbor reassured us that our house was safe but that we had trees down in our yard! Several members of the Chapel forwarded photos of our yard. Another good friend called and said that he had walked around the house and that it was sound. He said that have someone come over and take care of the trees. We also heard that the Chapel was unscathed except for a big tree that was uprooted in the garden.
We returned on Sunday after 11 hours on the road. Interstate 26 was congested with all the evacuees trying to get back to Charleston. It was stop and start for a couple of hours. Once we exited I-26 onto I-95 we could make good progress. By the time we arrived home it was dark. We could not get into our driveway for the fallen trees. We managed to find a way to our front door through the underbrush. The power had been restored and the house was as we had left it. We lost several trees including an oak, a large pine tree and a palm tree. Other limbs have fallen around the house and several are broken and hanging off other trees. A crew came the following night and cleared our driveway but there is still major tree work to be done and the yard cleared of debris.
We are glad to be home safe and sound after four days of travel and anxiety. St. Paul writes, “Always be joyful; pray continually; give thanks whatever happens; for this is what God wills for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). I was continually praying for God’s peace in the midst of disruption knowing that we were not in control and had to remain calm. It is a hard lesson for us to learn. We are so convinced that we able to handle everything ourselves and our ego depends upon that illusion. Hurricanes remind us that God is sovereign and we are very weak and dependent creatures. God is faithful in every crisis and he will carry us through whatever the present and the future holds. In the meantime we must trust in him and his presence to sustain us and lead us on. Hurricanes are a part of life in Florida. We must not be surprised when they come, as they surely will. Is that not a true metaphor for life? The message of SURVIVING HURRICANES is as relevant today as it was when it was first published.