If you are reading this today, count yourself lucky. It means you have power to turn on your computer and a WiFi connection to read this email. I don’t know what the aftermath of this Hurricane Idalia will be and whose homes and churches will be damaged and whose homes and churches will be spared. I don’t know if we will lose power, or have school canceled for another day or if most of the damage will be north of us. I have been a Floridian all my life and I have lived through many hurricanes, but one thing I always look forward to during Hurricane season is the calm right after the storm. There is something so visceral about the stillness that follows. Maybe it is because my soul desperately needs the pause and the moment to take a deep breathe. Or maybe because it is a moment of humility because no matter how strong, educated, healthy, on my game or “successful” I feel that I am, these storms remind me that life is fragile, and that nature is a powerful force that does what it wills. Ultimately, these kinds of storms remind me, that I am NOT in control.
On Monday, I went to Sam’s Club for gas and a few items we were running low on and almost 2 hours later, I finally left because of the chaos, the crowds, the mild panic (of others, not me) and it got me thinking about how others face these storms. Is there a sense that if I buy enough snacks, water bottles, batteries, and adult beverages; that I can face anything and can control my outcome? I would hope not, but I find myself sometimes slipping into the lies the world tells us when we face the unknown. The power of God, the presence of the Spirit and the calm after the storm always bring me back to this amazing story from 1 Kings 19 where the Prophet Elijah is running for his life and God tells him to wait and listen for the Lord will pass by. Read it with me please:
“And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(I Kings 19:9b-13)
Now while I hope that we will not experience a literal great wind, earthquake and fire, I do know that we will experience these metaphorical storms in our own lives if we haven’t already. There will be seasons when the problems just keep coming, when there feels like no break in sight and where it seems like we could be destroyed at any moment. I think it is worth noting that while in this story from 1 Kings the Lord wasn’t in those particular examples, the Lord is with us in the spiritual and emotional storms of our lives. But like the end of the hurricane, when there is the calm that follows the storm, I invite you to look for God in that moment.
While the wind is whipping around you, give God thanks that you have a faith that grounds you to the firm foundation and while you may be tossed, you will not break. When the earth is shaking beneath you and everything that was once ordered is now in disorder, give God thanks that you have a chance to test your limits in the chaos and that you have been given the wisdom to see things from a new perspective. And when there is great fire, know that the strongest medals on earth are only shaped, changed and refined in the flames and so we too can see how God shows up to transform, challenge and leave us looking more like Jesus after we have walked through a tumultuous time. But today I want to rest in the truth that God is there in the sheer silence; in the calm after the storm.
What is God saying to you in the silence? Are you listening closely enough, and are you open to the voice that is most quiet? Because, the voices that are easiest to hear are often those voices to whom I should listen to least. And the listening I need to hear most is often the hardest to hear, because it is quiet, and like God to the Prophet Elijah, it speaks only in the stillness after the whirlwind has passed.
Whether you have just walked through a fire, an earthquake, a whirlwind, or another Florida hurricane; are you listening to the stillness, are you tuned into the quiet, are you sitting in the calm ready to hear the voice of God?
Stay safe and keep listening.
If our campuses are back open again on Thursday, I invite you to join me on the Winter Park campus, in the parlor anytime between 11am and 1pm. Bring your own lunch or snack and join with me and others for conversation around any of the latest devotionals.