“No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”
~Robert Lowry, 1826-1899
On Monday, several of the people in the office were talking about how they were hoping for a storm. The weather forecast had reported that a winter snow storm was headed our way. We felt due. There has not been a single snowfall to speak of this winter and we all were feeling the need for a good, old fashioned snow storm. We weren’t asking for ‘the storm of the century’. Just several inches that would cause things to stop….meetings, errands, games, whatever it was that was keeping us going like gerbils on a wheel.
I had just started reading a thriller written by one of our church members. It had hooked me and I longed for a time to just sit down in a comfy chair and read to the end, a chance to find out ‘who done it’. A co-worker mentioned she had two books to read in order to be ready for some upcoming book club meetings. Others I spoke to during the day talked of just wanting a storm to call a halt to everything. Each had their own reason. Things they wanted to do. Things they didn’t want to do. Everyone spoke of ‘hoping for a storm.’
It is an odd thing to hope for, isn’t it? A storm. Something that whips up wind and rain or snow, that causes ice to form and temperatures to feel frigid. A storm sweeps in and suddenly we cannot do what is normal, what is planned or expected. Most often, storms are far from what we want. They just happen to us and we are left trying to piece together and put back together what was.
I think of the people I know right now who are reeling from a storm sweeping into their lives. Those who were moving along just as happy as clams, doing the regular activities that make up their days, and then illness comes to call. The storm of an illness as simple as the common cold or as complex and threatening as cancer, provides that halt that reminds us what is really important to accomplish in a day.
Others I know have been hit by the storm of grief. What seemed normal and predictable in their waking and sleeping has been torn to bits by the loss of someone they loved, someone they walked with on their daily path. This loss can come through death or the ending of a relationship. This was not a hoped for storm. But it was a storm that hit without warning and now they are stopped in their tracks, unable to decide what to do next, needing to chart a different course from the one they had planned.
This morning as I made my way along the path of the not-so-real storm that had its way with our night time, I saw limb after broken limb split from trees that could not withstand the weight of ice and snow. Some limbs were old, dead wood that probably would have been trimmed away in the spring. Others were new wood, the places where they split showed the raw, aliveness cut from its life source too soon. The storm was impartial in how it spread out its fury. So it is with other kinds of life’s storms.
The truth is, those of us ‘hoping for a storm’ were really only hoping for a break, a time-out, a sabbath moment, a vacation day. Most of the time we have more power to create those moments that we give ourselves credit for. It is really a matter of choosing between two or more activities or planning with more intention or being willing to let things go that we’ve given more power over us than we want to admit. It doesn’t take a storm to make a choice like this and that is probably an important point to remember.
Today my prayer is for those who did not want a storm but got one anyway. May they know the comfort of a time of stopping, of a sabbath meal, of a deep breath that connects them to something or someone greater than their pain and grief. May the injured trees heal into a form they did not know before. And may the human ones find that same growth that stems from a time spent in the eye of a storm.