Last week I learned a lesson from an unlikely source: the weather.
I live in the southeastern United States, in that part that's sometimes called the mid-Atlantic, so last week's weather news was dominated by Hurricane Matthew. Perhaps you followed the course of Hurricane Matthew yourself.
Let me put it like this: Hurricane Matthew was not at all what I was expecting.
Weekend before last, I was filled with excitement but also with trepidation. Here's why.
I love to travel, but one part of the world I'd never visited was the Caribbean. My husband has to make a trip to the Caribbean once a year for the meeting of a board on which he serves, so I was delighted when I was invited to accompany him on his trip this year. I'd had my ticket for weeks and had really been looking forward to the trip. Even though Jack would be working most of the time we were there, we were anticipating having some time to enjoy the sights and to relax on the beautiful beach. But yes, you guessed it: our trip was exactly the week that Hurricane Matthew was wreaking havoc in the Caribbean.
Weekend before last, my husband and I were spending our time watching the weather forecasts, wondering if the trip would be cancelled, worrying if it would be safe to go, wondering if we'd be able to travel, worrying that our flights would be cancelled, wondering if I should just stay home where it was safe. Wonder, worry, wonder, worry.
You know what happened? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's one:
That's the view from our hotel room. It looked the same all three days we were there. We were in the Cayman Islands, and the hurricane passed hundreds of miles to the east of us.
The only clouds we saw seemed to be there just for our enjoyment, like in this sunset one evening:
Or on another evening:
Our travel went off without a hitch. Jack's meeting went very well, and I enjoyed some time to rest. While other parts of the Caribbean were experiencing horrifying weather, we were enjoying nearly perfect weather. We gave thanks for our blessings and prayed for those less fortunate, especially for the people in Haiti, the Bahamas, and Florida.
I have to admit, though, even though we'd had no issues with the weather at all, it was good to get back home, safe and sound in our city far from the Atlantic shore. Do you know what I mean?
Then Hurricane Matthew took an odd turn, and this past Saturday, here's what we faced all day long:
All through the afternoon and evening, my phone shrieked at me, warning me of the danger of flash floods. To be honest, I didn't need the National Weather Service warnings about that. Just a couple of blocks from my house, this was the scene:
I'm very happy to tell you that the waters receded quickly after the rain finally stopped. Although we lost power for some time, our home was not threatened. We are grateful.
But isn't it ironic that we worried so much about traveling to the place that we thought would be in danger from the storm, only to face danger after we were back home, seemingly safe and sound?
I can't stop thinking about how this weather situation is a metaphor for much of my life. So many times I would worry, worry, worry about things that never came to pass. And so many other times I would feel perfectly safe and in control when actually there was danger at hand.
Here's the thing: I know the truth in my head, but sometimes it doesn't make its way down to my heart.
The truth is that I'm not in control, I've never been in control, and I never will be in control. I do what I can to try to keep myself and my loved ones safe and well, but there's no predicting what dangers may lurk in this fallen world.
And yet I am safe, because the dangers of this fallen world are not the whole story. The whole story belongs to God, who created this world and is sustaining it through His grace. The whole story is summed up in the love of God in Jesus, from which we can never be separated, no matter what dangers we face (Romans 8:28). The whole story acknowledges that, although outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day (II Corinthians 4:16).
I know these truths. You know these truths. Of course we know them. But I for one struggle with keeping them fixed in my mind and spirit.
As much as I hate to think about it, the truth is that a storm may sometime destroy my home. A tragic accident may kill my loved ones. Sickness may take my life. I do not know what the future holds, and I cannot control it. But as my friend Dallas Willard used to say, I am "an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God's great universe."
Of all things, this episode of weather helped to move the truth from my head to my heart.
I learn as I go, and I am grateful for the reminder that I belong to God. Whatever happens, I am safe and well with Him.
Have you learned any lessons from an unlikely source lately? I'd love to hear what you've learned!
*Note: Want to know how you can best help those who did suffer the ravages of Hurricane Matthew? Here's a link to Vi Bella, a good and godly organization on the ground in Haiti,
where your donations can be put to excellent use.*
where your donations can be put to excellent use.*