I awoke this morning with the same routine in mind that I do every, single day. I went over to my coffee maker, plugged it in and hit the power button knowing that, after I returned from the shower, my six to eight cups of Guatemalan coffee would be ready to be poured into my favorite, thrift-store mug and would eventually, as always, take a part in burning that area just behind my two, front teeth on the roof of my mouth. (It’s a long sentence, get over it). After drying off, I plopped down on my sofa and read my email. This isn’t always part of the routine, but this morning in particular I was looking for something important. I was hoping for, even praying for the severe weather to cancel my Spanish class- it didn’t. Dreading the practice for my oral examination (a test designed to show the teacher how fluent, or, in my case, how influent you are with the language) I trudged to class, not getting a single rain drop on my head all the way there. Then came lunch with friends at the only place where a man will scream at you for not using the tongs to pick up your burger as he sets them out with his bare hands: Bryant Dining Hall. I then made my way back to the dorm to pack for my weekend at home.
To those of you in Alabama and living under a rock: congratulations, you were probably safe and unaware of the awesome might of the tornadoes that came through our beloved state today, depending on the size of your rock that is. Anyway, as a RA in the building, I was told to get my residents down on the lowest floor and to herd them into the narrow and few hallways that have [almost] no windows. We actually wound up in the game room awhile as the weather hadn’t gotten so severe yet in our area. Soon though, we were told to get into the tornado-safe zones and wait it out.
I could hear the winds above my head howling and declaring God’s power to everyone, some of them didn’t hear, but still– God was not silent this day. As I sat there I grew somewhat worried. As my friend, Phil, put it while talking to me and another: “We’ve all grown up in Alabama. We’ve been through this a lot, but I will say… that storm radar looks pretty bad.” He was right. A person died in this storm today. An oil change station, not two miles from where I live in Tuscaloosa, was flattened in seconds. Before knowing any of this, and an hour before the storm passed us over, I began to pray. I prayed for safety and encouragement. I’ll even admit that I prayed for confidence, knowing that this could be the end.
One thing stuck in my mind. I’m not sure why, and I’m not sure how because I’ve never taken the effort to memorize this verse at all. After Jesus with a few words calmed the sea that literally shook the boat he was on with his disciples, they sat in wonder. Matthew 8: 27 records this. “The men were amazed, and said, ‘What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?'” I was greatly comforted by the fact that Jesus, whom the winds and the sea obey, is alive and well with just as much divine power as ever, controlling the tempest that threatened my life this day. I began to have to force myself to not think about it because I sat around many people and wanted none of them to see me tear up at this great comfort. Had the worst happened, and I had lost my life today, God would be just as in control of today’s storm and just as good.
Fierce was the storm of wind,
The surging waves ran high,
Failed the disciples’ hearts with fear,
Tho’ Thou, their Lord, wast nigh.
But at the stern rebuke,
Of Thy almighty word,
The wind was hushed, the billows ceased,
And owned Thee God and Lord.
So now, when depths of sin,
Our souls with terrors fill,
Arise, and be our Helper, Lord,
And speak Thy “Peace, be still.”
When death’s dark sea we cross,
Be with us in Thy power,
Nor let the water floods prevail
In that dread trial hour.
And, when amid the sighs,
Which speak Thine Advent near,
The roaring of the sea and waves
Fills faithless hearts with fear;
May we all undismayed
The raging tempests see,
Lift up our head and hail with joy
Thy great Epiphany.
Fierce was the Storm of Wind
Hyde W. Beadon, The Parish Hymn Book, 1863.