All of us, at some time find ourselves in a storm of some type—weather-caused, poor decisions, losses of life, job, health, emotional, etc. Everyone, young and old alike, yearns for quick, relieving outcomes. Some storms are passing and inconsequential, while others are destructive, painful, and lingering, requiring extended recovery.
Passing-storm—merely a turn-around: In our weekly phone visit, brother John shared a memory which falls into this category. “On a family campout, brother Mac asked me to coach him on refining his swimming skills. ‘Swim with me out to that buoy, I’ll rest a minute and swim back’. However, when we arrived at the buoy, we discovered it was grease-covered so holding onto it was out of the question. Mac said, ‘I’ll roll over on my back and you can pull me in’, impressing John at how quickly Mac thought through his own rescue. Auto and bike troubles, delays and recovering lost items, etc. though causing angst, are restorable.
Temporary-scary situation-storms: These memories provide good subject matter around a camp-fire or on a long auto trip. When Jim and I were finishing our annual October stay at the Ward Lakehouse in southwest Texas, Jim said, “Let’s go get the boat and take a little ride. I need to run some gas out of it.” I threw a bag of snacks and water together and grabbed my life-jacket. We boated quite a distance. It was a lovely late afternoon and the sky and lake were beautiful. One of Jim’s great joys was driving the boat around Amistad dam and showing me the covey where he caught the last big one”. I noticed some clouds gathering and commented about lightning far off. “That’s just heat lightning”, Jim assured me. This would be his last boat experience for many months, so I relaxed and enjoyed the ride. We seemed to be the only boat out, but that wasn’t unusual for this time of year.
Dark clouds continued to roll in and we were still a good way from the dock. Nighttime was also causing added darkness so Jim turned on the boat lights. Then, after a few minutes the lights went off. “What about that”, Jim said in his laid-back fashion. A storm was obviously nearing, but perhaps it would blow over. Texas weather is very un-predictable. Jim was a bit miffed that he couldn’t fix the lights. “You’ll find two flashlights under your seat”, Jim calmly directed. “Your job is to wave the flashlights to signal approaching boaters to go around us.” I realized that my ‘rider’ status switched to being ‘the lighthouse’. The wind picked up and our boat ride became choppy. My thoughts were hopefully, some boaters would happen by and lead our small green fishing boat to the dock.
Fortunately, we had plenty of gas and the boat was running well as Jim drove cautiously in the dark. Thunder, then light rain began to fall as the wind whipped around us. Jim was always careful not to be in the boat in storms. I gulped pretty hard trying not to wonder if I would soon have a life-jacket swim. I want you to know, I was very, very scared. Many possibilities swam through my mind. Jim never wavered. He always knew what to do. He kept the slow-moving boat under control. I wanted to say “Jim, in case something happens, I want you to know how much I love you.” No time for talk. Fortunately, after about 30 minutes, the Border Patrol spotted our small flashing lights and led us safely to the dock. They didn’t calm the storm but they certainly calmed our fears.
In my lack of experience with boats, lights and storms, I trusted Jim, calmed by his unruffled demeanor and followed his instructions. We recalled our experience later but it never became that important. In fact, I hadn’t thought about it until I began this blog. I wish I could chat with him about it now.
Financial and family-stress storms--are tossing the world to-and-fro: Covid-caused storms head the list right now with loss of loved ones due to the virus and other diseases that claim unsuspecting victims. Tending to elderly parents, as we’ve discussed in other blogs, is putting extra stress on responsible family members. Discontinued jobs, businesses struggling to regain solvency along with work and school from home crowding computer needs, changing family schedules and limiting socialization.
College Quarantine-Storm: On-campus college students are quarantined if a roommate tests positive for Covid. The infected student is moved to another dorm while recovering under the care of college medical staff rather than their parents. Sending them home would present other potential medical risks. Those roommates have to continue classes remotely which is a very lonely and unpleasant substitution for many, especially for extroverts who derive energy from being around others.
Singles Loneliness-Storm: Young and old singles wrangle with their own dismal storm with socialization extremely limited and having to work from home as well. One of my single friends said, ‘If it weren’t for my dog needing his daily walk, I’d not see anyone to talk to. Yes, from a safe distance.” Seniors for health-safety reasons maintaining isolation has and is still exacting an emotional toll on our world.
Random Opinion-Storm: “Haven’t you gotten over that yet? Ted’s been gone over a year” blurted a client’s best friend. Her mid-twenties brother had died in an auto accident. Her friend who thought she could dislodge sadness with an opinion revealed that evidently, she had not experienced a premature death of a loved one. Thoughtless statements are not helpful toward healing, but recalling the old adage ‘She speaks of what she does not know,’ comes in handy. Taking a proactive approach of “I appreciate your concern for my happiness but no, I’ll never get over Ted’s death, but I am gradually adjusting to his absence and learning to live around it”, will help the friend as well as bolster the grieving person’s healing confidence.
Here’s my procedure for quelling a storm:
1. Identify the storm – remember, acknowledging the situation is half the solution.
2. Write it out or talk it out with yourself. List the pros and cons.
3. Ascertain whether the storm is one you can handle alone or if you need to talk with someone.
4. Weigh motivations for thoughtless statements or actions. Motivation reveals whether right or wrong.
5. Recall that Thinkers and Feelers approach storms differently. Thinkers consider the facts, make a decision and stick to it. Feelers’ emotions often get in the way causing confusion in solving problems. Talking with a thinker is often all a feeler needs to do.
6. Prepare for unknown storms by establishing a time each day for reading a devotional, counting blessings and reflecting on the day ahead. Tell yourself the truth. If you don’t like how you’re feeling, change your thoughts (cognitive thinking). God loves you and will accompany you throughout the day. He cares what people say and how they talk and treat you.
This storm-subject reminds me of a familiar story recorded in Mark 4 about Jesus and his disciples together in a boat when a ferocious storm developed and caused these seasoned fishermen to become very frightened. I’ll let the scripture finish my story. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “quiet! Be still!” then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
Technically, at times, we find ourselves in the same boat. Please let me know if I’ve missed the type of storm you’d like to be discussed. Jesus loves us and wants to calm our furious and smaller storms of life. When you feel your world is in trouble, ask Him to relax you knowing that he is the ‘calmer’ of storms and the giver of peace.
Ps 56:3 What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
Ex. 33:14 The Lord replied, “My presence will go with you; I will give you rest. (NIV)