Updated on March 24, 2017
The way through the storm
We never even saw it coming. Our car full of friends, mixed tapes and rumpled snack food bags was headed out of town for the weekend; bursting at the seams with laughter and luggage. It had begun to get dark when we left, but we were college kids; invincible and unworried. So we piled in and hit the road without so much as a glance at the sky. And that storm came at us out of nowhere.
One minute I could see whole lengths of the wide open landscape and the next? Nothing. Not a single thing. It was as if someone had pulled a dark curtain over the front windshield. Rain pounded and wind pitched us in every direction. And for a moment, I forgot what I was supposed to do. I forgot how to drive; how to breathe. I just froze. How did this happen? Where did this storm come from?
And everyone in the car realized my panic. They all began to scream directions at me. “Go left!” “Hold tight!” “Watch out!” “Turn on your lights!” “Look over there!” “Be careful!”
Ummm… yeah. Ok. I can do all of that, but the biggest problem here is this: I CANNOT SEE! It doesn’t matter how tightly I grip the steering wheel or try to hold the car on the road or if my lights are on. The thick blackness and the pounding rain are going to win because I have no idea where I am going.
Trucks and cars zoomed around us at lightening speed. How are they doing that? How can they navigate this storm while I am here paralyzed by the darkness?
Finally, I slowed my speed to a crawl, rolled down the window and stuck my head into the crashing weight of flying rain drops; hoping to gain a better perspective. Without the fogged up windshield in the way, I finally saw the precious sight of those yellow lines on the road. And keeping my eyes glued to them, I navigated the car like that for miles. There was no emergency lane. I was forced to just keep driving.
It’s been over 20 years since that incident, but one drive in the rain and the memory of that night can come crashing back in an instant. I have never been so terrified or so caught off guard. Of course, this was back in the day when you had to pay a quarter to make a phone call and watch the 6pm news to find out the weather. I guess we lived a lot of our life unaware of what was coming.
It seems foreign to us now. One tap of our smartphones and we can determine the weather, traffic, distance and anything else we might need to know about the road up ahead.
We rarely drive into surprise storms anymore. We are ready for them.
But in life? Not so much. Storms come out of nowhere all the time. You know how it goes. An unexpected challenge with your kids, an argument with your spouse, a huge decision staring you down and suddenly you freeze. You forget what it is you are supposed to do.
Ummm… Lord, I know that I am supposed to rely on you; to listen and do your will and follow your lead. I know these things. I can quote and recite them for days. So what’s going on? Why all the darkness and rain in my eyes? Why can’t I see which way to go?
I find myself praying over the latest storm because in these moments everything feels important and urgent. Where are the lines on the road? How am I supposed to keep driving this car? Where are you, Lord? What if I can’t do it? I question it all.
And I hear the voices of others shouting advice and sharing knowledge. “Go this way!” “Hold on — stay where you are!” “Turn on your lights for goodness sake!” But my own voice echoes into the darkness. What if I can’t do it?
Like the panic that overtook me on that long ago stormy night, I feel the weight of navigating through the storm as if it is all up to me.
“Peace. Be still!” These words of Jesus make their way into my brain during a sleepless attempt to solve all the problems. These are words that Jesus used to calm an actual storm. “Peace. Be still“. It had astounded the disciples, weary from fighting for their lives on a fishing boat trapped in violent wind and rain. But Jesus had looked right into the pitch of that storm and silenced it all.
Peace. Be still.
The words stick in my mind because I know the story and all the lessons. Jesus can calm any storm. Put your eyes on him and he will bring you peace. And I know with every fiber of my being that this is true. But still I struggle. What does this look like in real life?
Putting our eyes on Jesus can sound like a peaceful and quiet activity — and there are days when it is.
But sometimes? Sometimes, I think it looks a lot like driving through a storm with your head out of the window.
You see, I want the peace. I want the storm to stop; the problem solved. I don’t actually want God to ask me to keep going; to have the hard conversation or make that huge decision or walk into that uncomfortable situation. I don’t want to. I sorta want to hide while he fixes it all.
But here’s what I am learning. When I finally relent and do the hard thing. When I roll down the window and allow the storm to pound me in the face, that’s when I get the best view. Jesus, there in the dark and the rain becomes the only peace I need. Like those yellow lines that I was sure had been washed away by the storm, his presence with me realigns my heart and reminds that I do know what to do.
Yeah. There are times when Jesus stops life’s storms with just a word. But there are also times when calls us to keep driving with our face right into the blinding rain; learning to keep our eyes glued on him. Because the truth is this: there is never a time when we are asked to walk through a storm alone.
“I [Jesus] have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).