Thursday, December 18, 2008

Storms

This is the second day in a row that snow has fallen all blasted day long.  When I returned from the Palouse our poor western Washington town was already covered with a couple of inches, but now we're really snowed under.  Yesterday, the school district where Beve works was one of only 5 districts in all of western Washington open, and in the middle of the day I even got a phone call saying school would let out early.  It turned out, however, that the automated phone call actually came from Anacortes, but I didn't realize this until after I'd called Beve, confused him (and his principal who joined him on speaker phone--which I loathe, though that's beside the point!), until it was determined I wasn't getting news ahead of the actual schools.  People tend to panic around here when it snows even the tiniest amount, so you can just imagine the flurry that happens when we actually have...flurries.  From where I sit, facing the large front window, it looks like a traditional Christmas card--show flocking the giant evergreens, fences, and roofs.  When it snows, I can really imagine life a hundred or more years ago, snuggling in next to fires, drinking hot chocolate and bundling under layers to sleep (This very well could be because we only heat our house with the fire, rarely with a furnace, so our bedrooms are mighty frigid by the time we go to bed).  But down our steep hill and onto the busy street where traffic piles up, it's distinctly this century, all kinds of 4-wheel drive vehicles making their way easily, cars with chained up tires, snapping against the snow, and the few intrepid souls who take their chances with their lightweight compacts, slip-sliding all over the place.  J, whose car is a Toyota Echo, shakes his head in bewilderment at such fools.  "My car only weighs about 20 pounds," he told me yesterday as we watched his Echo's twin skidding across I-5.  Needless to say, J's left his parked and snow-capped for the duration.

It's an interesting thing that such storms look beautiful when you can simply sit and watch them, but out in them--in white-out conditions on an interstate, for example--it can be pretty perilous.  Downright scary, especially when the wind whips the snow around, blows you with that snow right across the road.

Have you ever been out in a boat when a storm comes up?  I've traveled on flat-bottomed ferries when the waves were rocking and the boat tipping from side to side.  We staggered up and down the cabin, bumping into others.  But we've always laughed about it, knowing we were actually pretty safe.  And a couple summers ago, a few friends and I had a boat-top dinner in a small cove across the bay from here, and when we left the cove, the waves were breaking right and left, and the woman who owned and drove the boat was pretty white-lipped in fear to steer that large boat across those white caps and into the safety of its berth.  I couldn't imagine sleeping through that, even though, in the spectrum of storms, it wasn't that big.  It's just that I'm a novice when it comes to those things.

But the story in the gospels about a storm on the water was populated with several men who had made their living on the water.  They'd probably seen one or a hundred storms on the sea where they fished.  They'd probably had to navigate back to the docks with their strong arms bracing on the wheel, trying to keep the boat on its keel.  So a rising storm that scared these men must have been some kind of storm.  I don't think I want to imagine it, or imagine being in their place, thank you very much.  But there they were, rain drenching them, waves bursting over the bow, and them struggling to stand and keep the sails from ripping, and in the back corner, sleeping like a baby in a manger, not even aware of the danger, was the man who'd set them on this unlikely journey, this sea-change in their lives.  Sleeping?!! while they were perishing?  What the heck was wrong with Him, anyway?  Didn't He know what they were going through, didn't He care that they might be dying?

The answer, of course, is yes!  Yes, He cared about their living and dying.  Yes, He knew there was a storm battering them from every side.  And no, there was nothing wrong with Him...only with them.  The fact is, they were as safe as anyone could be.  Safer than I am, sitting in my cozy house.  Safer than if the day was clear and the water calm...if He wasn't also in the boat.  It isn't the circumstance that governs whether they (or I) am safe, but rather who is with them (and me) in the storm. They'd been walking with Him for a while now, one would hope that they understood even a little bit about the One who slept among them. I can picture Jesus being roused from his deep sleep (just think of it, the God-man sleeping!  I love these places where we glimpse the true human He was, with the same needs we have--to eat, to sleep, to be alone), rubbing His eyes and saying, "What's going on?" then feeling the wind blow and the boat rock, standing like a conductor in front of an orchestra, raising His hands and speaking firmly, "Alright, that's enough!" to the storm.  "Knock it off!"  And the wind cut off instantly, like the end of a symphony.  The boat slowed, the waves stilled into glass, and Jesus turned to the disciples and asked, "Where is your faith?"

It's a good question in the storms of life.  In the snowstorm of this winter, or any winter.  Where is your faith?  Is it in the circumstances, the flurries around you, the storm within?  Or is it in the One who sleeps on your boat?  Do the circumstances of your life overwhelm your faith, or does your faith overwhelm your circumstances? Do you believe that He loves as He said He does, that He is where He promises to be?  I believe this.  No matter what I feel, I say by faith that I am kept safe in Him who died and rose on my behalf.

I don't say this lightly, I don't pretend to know the storms you're living through.  I don't pretend that it doesn't sometimes feel like He's asleep in the corner instead of awake beside you, actively keeping you safe.  I don't pretend to know why He's silent sometimes, why it feels like His face is turned away.  But I do know this.  He says He will never leave or forsake you.  He promises that NOTHING can separate you from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. The end of Romans 8 where this promise is made has a pretty comprehensive list of what we might think separates us from that love.  If your circumstances aren't on that list, you're not reading it right, because the 'nothing' that can separate us from His love includes everything there is!

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