My understanding of storms was shaped by the time I nearly drown.
When I was 7 my folks took our family on a beach weekend (typically our only vacation). My dad gave both my brother and me $5, an extraordinary occurrence by itself. The money was ours to spend as we wanted. My brother blew his pretty quickly that Friday afternoon, but I held onto mine. I’d already seen what I wanted to rent: a very large, over-inflated, raft. On Sunday afternoon, we had 3 hours left and I still had my $5. I rented the raft and went directly out in the water to surf. Quickly, it was time to go. My dad called for me to come in and so I went back out for one last time. Since it was the last time I went way out, way out. When I turned around to look, I was a bit startled at quite how far: people had become really small dots on the beach. But I wasn’t worried. I stood up on my raft to surf back in just as the undertow grabbed me and slung me a lot further out. Then the raft was pulled from underneath me. Then I started to panic. I started to drown.
I knew I was doing everything wrong: panicking, trying to swim in, screaming. But I did do one other thing I’d been taught to do: I prayed. I know that sounds astounding for a 7 year old, but I did.
I wish I was thrown on shore, but I wasn’t. Still something equally marvelous happened. I got instantly calm. And in my calm remembered what I’d been told to do: swim parallel to shore, wait patiently, be calm.
A Coast Guard swimmer and rescue boat later, I was on shore. Later that week someone told my mother that I’d been “blessed” because I lived. But I always have wondered about folks in that spot who die; are they cursed?
A very wise Sunday School teacher told me the story of Elijah [I Kings 19] who discovers that the Lord isn’t in wind, storm, or earthquake. But Elijah discovers that God is an Abiding Presence.
I trust you knew that Abiding Presence in past few days. And I trust our connection as United Methodists gives a sense of Abiding Presence to others who need it in Matthew’s aftermath.
One last oddity: the lectionary’s appointed psalm for Sunday, October 9, the day after Matthew blew through NC, includes the verse, “. . . we went through fire and through water; yet you, Lord, have brought us to a spacious place.” [Psalm 66:12] May we stand in that spacious place to show God’s Presence to all who are hurt by this most recent storm, and to thank God who graciously delivers us in Jesus Christ.
If you would like to print or share this message from our DS, you are encouraged to do so with this pdf: Hello from Harvey!
If you would like to read previous messages from Gray, you are encouraged to follow this link: Hello from Harvey! – Archives