Written by Daniel Cherry |
Hurricane Michael hit Oct. 10, 2018. For two intense hours I fortified our house against wind that howled like a freight-train whistle. Fifty-year-old oak trees that provided our home with shade and shelter threatened to attack us and render us vulnerable. Roof shingles, once a shield from rain, moved like shrapnel, attacking vehicles, windows and garage doors and stabbing into stuccoed walls.
Braced against the front door of our house, I felt the pulsing wind currents screaming threats at my family. Sheltered in a house that may not be able to protect us were 17 people with 11 being children, including two foster babies. The women and younger children huddled in our master bathroom and closet praying and singing. The three men were posted at the three main doors of the house, pushing against the wind. And our teenage boys walked through the house giving constant updates: “A window board got sucked off,” “A shingle broke a window,” and “Water is pouring in through a ceiling fan.” As the wind intensified all I could see beyond the porch was a white sheet of horizontal rain streaked with debris. We watched all eight of our oak trees collapse along with the fence, swing set and Harding swing — all piled up in a tangle of limbs and milled lumber. Now we couldn’t see any of that through the tearing wind.
Twenty minutes in, with water shooting under the doors, I realized this would keep intensifying for at least an hour. We knew we couldn’t hold the doors as the pressure continued to build. So, within about five minutes, we moved the refrigerator against the back door, kitchen table against the front door, and the piano and a line of other furniture across the living room to brace doors against each other. As water trickled down the walls, the roof flapped and the house pulsed, we sat on the couch. There was nothing left we could do.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned.
First, I am not in control. I am a praying person. I have always freely given my cares to the Lord and watched eagerly as they have been answered in God’s way and time. However, I have never before prayed like I did in that hour. My hands were shaking, my home was rattling, and my wife and children awaited the result of my decision to stay. And now, it was all out of my hands. I was not — I am not in control. And I hope that I will never fall for that delusion again. (Psalm 33:16-18)
Second, we are not victims. I’m not avoiding the valley we must walk through but acknowledging that all around us is temporary. It will burn up, break down and blow away. Christians already know this. Victims are people who have depended upon, invested in or hoped for things that were damaged or destroyed. But our foundations have not even quivered. Psalm 46:5 expresses about our eternal home that, “God is within her, she will not fall.” Our lives and our community have changed, but God’s mission and his promises haven’t. Instead, the brambles of comfort and security that shrouded our deepest hopes have been stripped and shredded. Hurricanes reveal the truth of our convictions.
Third, tragedy presents opportunity. Through the generous donations of Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, other churches and individuals, our congregation has been able to supply the needs of more than 2,000 families in our community. While all dealing with personal damage and loss, many of our church members, including 29 of our young people ranging from ages 6-18, have stepped into the middle of all of this pain and offered comfort and hope. With each load of food, tools, personal care items and clothing, families have been prayed over and blessed. We have watched a deeper faith blossom in our church, experienced a richer compassion for our neighbors, and developed a stronger determination to share the gospel.
A week after the storm our 14-year-old son, Corban, observed, “It seems like it’s easier to talk to people. We all have a lot more in common.” It was true. When the streets were littered with trees and we had to climb rather than walk through neighborhoods, everyone began to speak to everyone. We all have a shared struggle that God is using to call people. Many who had not considered faith have become spiritually open.
We have all learned that we are not in control, but Christians are not victims. Instead, we have been graced with an unprecedented opportunity to connect people to the one who provides eternal hope — a treasure that truly withstands hurricanes.