Updated: Jan 16
In the wake of Ian last week, I went for an early morning recon run around my neighborhood to assess the damage. All told, there wasn't any. The dire predictions that Tampa was the bullseye proved to be wrong. My aptly named town of Safety Harbor, a location God helpfully picked without my cooperation or strategizing, was virtually untouched. All the foreboding warnings of Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday didn't materialize at all. On the other hand, our neighbors elsewhere were unexpectedly milled through the cruelty of indifferent nature, a trail of destruction. Filtered through the lens of faith, any storm--meteorological or otherwise--can be an instructive growth experience.
1. Storms reveal our fears...and attachments.
Even as my phone pinged frantic weather alerts last week, we were all pretty fear-free. Partly, because my little townhouse is a cinder-block and stucco fortress. Partly, because I have loads of gumption. Partly, because my boys' father is a competent prepper and he had our backs. Mostly, however, because of the fearlessness we can have through God. It also helps greatly to not fear death.
In the interest of rigorous honesty, let me briefly qualify. I didn't have any fear of the storm. I did have fleeting fear when Isaac developed a croupy cough and 101-degree fever at 9pm, moments after we were warned to take shelter by midnight. Isaac is more vulnerable to complications from upper respiratory stuff and I've ridden an ambulance to an ER with him before, when a simple cold turned into pneumonia. I wasn't too keen on a repeat performance. Not to mention the fact that we'd be unlikely to get an ambulance (or boat) ride in 140 mph winds in the lightless dark. Not that they would come. Yikes.
My mind momentarily zoomed to the worst-case scenario.
Honestly, I think the enemy, sensing my serenity, went for the jugular, because nothing will prey on our fears more than kid-related challenges. But I'm ever-reminded that Isaac is God's and God says, "no fear," so I'm compelled to comply. God also says, "Don't worry--pray." He commands it. Thus, I prayed and handed Isaac over to God in the spiritual sense. I told the fears to stand down. The fear promptly dissipated even as the lights went out and the wind whipped up, and by morning, Isaac was fine.
That's just a fact.
Ironically and instructively, as I oft repeat, Isaac represents a major milestone in my deliverance from fear. When I learned he had Down syndrome, my terror initially went into overdrive and it seemed legitimate. Apart from the fact that I prize intellect, this was one challenge I could not dominate with sheer force of will or wile.
For instance, Isaac had two tiny holes in his heart that required constant monitoring (but not surgery, thankfully) for years. His heart is now totally healed. For another, kids with Down syndrome's level of functionality and independence varies widely, so there was no way to predict if he'd ever walk, talk, or be autonomous. He's now doing great on all fronts. Finally, there was no absolutely predicting Isaac's condition's impact on our family or on him. His impact has been beyond positive in every respect. Who woulda thunk it?
But at the time, it all initially seemed so disastrous. After those first few agonizing months, seeking God for comfort and wisdom, I was compelled to simply surrender Isaac and our family to Him. Not only have none of my early fears materialized, but Isaac has proven to be a blessing of abundance in countless ways. And the added challenges of having him have also proven to be blessings themselves. I return to this lesson over and over when I face the unexpected, however ominous it seems in the moment.
What we fear often reveals what we hold most dear. The more we value something, the more afraid we'll be to lose it or the more desperate we'll be to get it. While our human attachments might seem good and even holy, holding the things of this world loosely frees us from fear. Conversely, God will sometimes wrest those things we idolize from our hands. Like God demanding biblical Abraham's Isaac as an offering, and as Abraham obediently complied, God providing an alternative gift instead.
Revering God above everything and everyone else can free us of fear. Jesus said,
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28 (ESV)
2. Storms help us get ready.
Ian was especially destructive further south because those regions weren't expecting to be the target so the folks just weren't ready. Few people had evacuated, secured their property, or otherwise prepared. On the other hand, up here in the Tampa area, citizens in danger zones were evacuated early and the rest of us had time to brace ourselves.
I'm grateful that by both nature and nurture, I'm a very resourceful woman, with many skills, and oodles of energy and courage. Tested by trials and time, I have the ability to make lemonade out of lemons, a tasty meal out of canned goods, and can scramble to find solutions to thorny problems on a dime.
Likewise, I am very grateful that I have an amicable, mutually supportive relationship with my boys' dad. He is a very well-prepared prepper and skilled marksman (should that ever become necessary...gulp).
In practical terms, we're pretty much ready for anything and thus, were ready for Ian. Or as ready as one can be with forces of nature. We had plenty of food, batteries, candles, water, TP, first aid and flotation gear, etc. The coming storm did enable us to fine-tune our prepping for the next crisis.
More important than anything, is we were all emotionally and spiritually ready, including ready for devastation and death.
Are you? Aside from practical prepping, are you right with God? Are you sure? If you haven't trusted Christ for your security, you're not really ready for any storm. And if you're a believer and aren't in a posture of repentant dependence, you're not ready either. Jesus said,
"Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." Matthew 24:44 (ESV)
He said it, not me. Take heed.
3. Storms clear away dead stuff.
Thursday morning, the sun rose with a stiff wind, but Ian had passed us by. The storm was crawling toward Orlando, wreckage in his wake. A blessed, if random, reprieve for us. I went for my usua