The morning this was written, by the light of the streetlight, one could see snow swirling through the air and the house was vibrating and creaking as it was buffeted by the wind. "Aha," I thought, "the first winter storm." I was wrong. Upon arriving at work in the Valley, my wife called to say that from Twin Lakes on it was clear, dry and only a little breezy. Apparently, we were experiencing that localized event known as a "Taku wind." During a Taku, the wind flows strongly off the ice field, picks up some snow off the mountain tops and valleys, and makes its effects felt mostly in Douglas and downtown Juneau.
Storms were now on my mind and I began to reflect upon storms and how they impact our lives. Not the ordinary, everyday sort of storms, but the really intense ones that lead to disaster.
There are, of course, the physical storms: Blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, rain or hail storms, lightning storms, even (in dry areas) dust storms. Then there are the political and economic storms that swirl about us: Recession, depression, terrorism, coups, revolutions and war. We may also face emotional and spiritual storms: Bereavement, illness, divorce, job loss, etc., with the accompanying feelings of grief, fear, betrayal, anxiety, anger and loneliness, among others.
With reflection, one may discover some things in common about the effect of all these kinds of storms upon our lives.
One thing is the feeling of helplessness or powerlessness as we are caught up in forces that are beyond our individual control. Another is the anxiety we feel as we recognize the possible threat the storm may pose to the life or well-being of our friends, neighbors, loved ones or ourselves. Finally, there is the uncertainty of the future. What will life be like when the storm is over?
The Boy Scouts have a marvelous motto: "Be Prepared." It works for the storms of life as well. We think it obvious to prepare our cars for winter by checking the antifreeze and putting on snow tires. Why not extend that a bit? An emergency kit for the home is a useful preparation to help cope with physical storms. Pre-event agreements and making sure your legal affairs are up to date and in order can mean a lot less anxiety for you and your family. And look at things realistically. You are probably wasting your time and energy to prepare for something that has a one in 100 million chance of happening.
One of the best preparations we can make is to have a solid spiritual foundation for our life. Persons with a deep and abiding faith in God have spiritual resources to help them cope, whether it means clinging to a branch in floodwater or waiting to be dug out of the rubble. That "extra power" can mean all the difference in the world.
How about you? Have you reaffirmed your relationship with God recently? You could attend worship services, or set aside a time for regular meditation, or hike to that "favorite spot" where you can take in the grand sweep of Creation and feel the presence of the Creator. A firm spiritual foundation is of incalculable value in helping us survive the storms of life. The lines of an old hymn express it well:
When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.
When he storms of life are raging, stand by me.
When the world is tossing me, like a ship upon the sea,
Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.
There will be storms this winter. There will be storms in life. With faith and preparation we can see through and watch for the new and stormless day that will dawn.
Ron Covey is pastor at Douglas Community United Methodist Church.