Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Within the Eye of the Storm. Inside the Center of the Sun.

  It started with the leaves, leaves that did not belong to any of the trees around me, leaves that longed to rest on the forest floor but were being pushed towards me at an alarming rate by a strong whistling wind. Then came the birds, birds flying with such quickness in the opposite direction of where I was heading I could hardly imagine the rate their hearts were beating within their fragile chests. I was driving from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and was somewhere in southern Virginia, I’d gotten multiple calls and texts earlier in the day asking if I was safe in the weather. With 90 degree air pouring through my windows and gorgeous sunshine all around me I was perplexed, to say the least, at their concern. Now, as I drove closer and closer into the ink black wall in front of me I understood. Before I hit the rain the expanse of the storm was evident, and sheets of purple lighting illuminated the sky from one mountain ridge to the other. Then, the rain slammed into my car, it came down with such force I couldn’t see anything in front of me. The speedometer sank from 70 to 5 mph, I chewed my bottom lip, and my index finger nervously rubbed the nail bed of my thumb as I strained to see. My wipers were powerless and every so often a thick bolt of lightning would attack the earth and light it up for miles, it was then I could see my comrades in this storm, inching along as slowly as I. The thunder was hideous, it wrapped around me like the groans of some unearthly beast and brought with it crackling, untamed displays of lightning. This went on for what felt like hours but I rightly have no idea how much time passed as I was berated unceasingly by the wind and rain. Then, to my right, the sky began to change in the way blood is soaked into a wet rag. It was a sky so red I thought the whole earth must be on fire. The rain dissipated as if the heat of this fire consumed it, the reds and orange hues went on for miles and poured over every possible piece of land. However, to my left, the storm drove its army on, and I could see the trees bending to its will. So there I was, this finite and very frail witness standing in between the collision of two worlds of nature. I gasped as lightning streaked across the horizon of the sky from the right to the left over and over again, as if it was being propelled from the very center of the sun itself. I didn’t imagine this display could become any more beautiful when on the left, in the very center of the storm, yawning up from the downtrodden, crippled earth, came the largest and brightest rainbow I have ever seen.  Lightning bolts continued to pierce the earth all around the rainbow, and yet it shone. The proclamation of faithfulness steady, the coat of arms for the King of Kings waving triumphant amidst the battle.

Tumultuous weather has been the theme as of late; it seems like when we catch our breath from the first wave another even stronger still, breaks down upon us.  Not just the heavy storms and hail damage in my little piece of Tennessee, but the devastation in Alabama, the flooding of The Mississippi, most recently the tragedy in Joplin MO and even as I write this, a massive storm system races across Oklahoma. When we see these natural disasters, when our very beings thunder with questions as the news reports of the death tolls and devastation, I am reminded of one who slept soundly as a storm raged about him. In the Gospel of Mark, the disciples have to wake Jesus up from a sound sleep in the midst of a submerging boat. “Do you not care that we are perishing?!” they cried and yet “He stood and rebuked the wind and said to the sea; peace, be still. And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” Many times, especially now, we probably are side by side with the disciples, asking whether or not He cares that we are perishing or questioning why He doesn’t command the elements to cease. The very simple truth is that He does care and He holds us all within His hands.  Through the prophet Isaiah He tells us “ When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” We may be too finite and frail to understand His ways, but know this…even the wind and waves obey Him. Even in the midst of the elements, He is eternal. Not just in the tangible, physical world either but in the storms that devastate our souls. When a mother loses her son to a war he did not start, when a young woman becomes paralyzed in an accident not her fault, when tornadoes rip through our towns stealing everything we hold dear. In the moments that cripple us to our knees in despair, when we curl up against the cold cement and cry out into the blackest of nights to be held, we can rise up from the downtrodden and crippled pieces of this life and hold on to the promises and peace of God. Jesus said, “ Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid”. When we are within the storms, we are still in the center of the Son. He knows the hairs on our heads, He cares when even a sparrow falls from the sky, He is a good and loving Father and He offers hope when all other lights go out. Just as I watched the sun cast it’s rainbow into the storm, so does the Son of Man cast His sovereignty, provision and faithfulness into the darkness; the coat of arms for the King of Kings waving triumphant amidst the battle.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33


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