“It was a dark and stormy night,” as the opening line goes in the 1830s novel, Paul Clifford. On September 12, 2008, it was both dark and stormy for millions, as Hurricane Ike slammed into the Gulf Coast.
My husband and I watched television continually that evening, witnessing the havoc Ike was already dispensing seventy miles south of us. In the night, as the storm’s fingers reached north across Houston, we lost power. I lay in bed listening to banging, cracking, and crashing sounds amid the torrential rains that slashed the windowpanes. Any effort to peer outside to search for the source of the noises was futile. There was no glow emitting from streetlights to assist my view. I alternated between lying down and walking anxiously around the house with a flashlight, checking windows and doors, jumping at each moan and creak inside and every loud blast outside.
For several hours I wondered what ruin the Category 2 winds were delivering. Earlier, at sundown a mere breeze fluttered the tree branches when we stepped outside to survey the sky. Now, in the blackness I identified with the disciples’ fears in Luke 8:22-25, as their boat rocked on the stormy water while Jesus slept, and I prayed that He would calm the storm and keep many safe.
Then, as suddenly as the storm raged, it quit. The dead calm of the eye passing over us was more eerie than the preceding gale. I inhaled deeply and released the air slowly. It felt as though I had been holding my breath for hours. Later I learned that one neighbor walked her dog during the storm’s stillness. My husband slept soundly in the quiet, but I only dozed, bracing for the eye wall’s second strike. I heard that the back side of a hurricane was usually worse than the front side, and I wondered how the second time could be any more frightening.
The answer came soon. After a bit less than two hours, the rain and wind resumed. This time I did not look out the windows. The noise outside was too alarming, and I avoided the glass panes. I never knew which specific sounds were the fence posts snapping, laying the side fence flat. I could not identify which crash was the backyard neighbor’s tree landing mercifully at an angle across our shared fence rather than straight into our yard and onto our house. I just thanked God then that the naturally leaning tree at the front corner of our house was not across our roof yet, which would have opened our home to the hammering rains, causing miserable interior damage.
The next afternoon, as the storm moved further north, neighbors congregated outside to survey the damage and learn how others fared. There was work to do, and we helped each other as we shook off the effect of our less-than-twenty-four-hour hurricane experience. Water was off for a day, phones were intermittently on before our service returned permanently a few days later, and our electricity remained out for several days. Even when electricity returned, the television cable did not, and we waited for almost a week to view scenes of utter destruction along the coast. By then the media had almost forgotten us. A welcome connection through our emergency radio was a local station broadcasting continuous information about open gas stations, grocery stores, and ice for food.
My exhaustion and emotional fatigue surprised me, but more surprising was that the leaning tree still stood! I thanked God that we were among the more fortunate in the wake of this storm, but I hoped I would never have to endure a repeat experience.
Hurricanes and Home Schooling
During recovery, I saw parallels in our hurricane upheaval, in home schooling, and in the story of Jesus and the disciples tossed about on stormy waters in Luke 8:22-25.
Most of us begin homeschooling with high hopes and expectations. We know we could encounter problems, but we do not really expect them, just as I am aware that I live in a hurricane-prone area, but I do not go about my day-to-day affairs expecting a hurricane. I imagine the disciples boarded their boat anticipating a pleasant ride across the lake to the other side. Christ Himself invited them onboard with Him, and the water was calm when they launched.
Just as I prepared for the hurricane, we prepare to home educate, using research, planning, curriculum choices, conference attendance, support group membership, and legal knowledge. We begin with a sense of importance and conviction for the task, and we envision a smooth ride without choppy waters.
Are You Perishing?
Then the windstorm blows—persistent problems with a child, unexpected health issues, financial challenges, resistance from family members, struggles to balance home and school, or any life issue that whips up the gale. We may or may not anticipate the approaching storm.
If we take our eyes off the Lord and off our long-term mission, we see only the storm surge crashing. It is dark, and we feel alone and frightened by the unknown around us. Our thoughts imagine disasters that never happen, much like that leaning tree in my yard that never fell. Even in viewing reality, we see the waves slapping over our tiny boat, filling it with water and threatening to sink us.
Possibly the eye of the storm passes over, and we experience moments of calm. Nevertheless, the back eye wall soon hits and seems to exacerbate the problems. We bail as fast as we can, but it seems ineffective. Where is the Lord? Asleep? The disciples’ reaction in Mark 4:38b is ours as well. “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (NASB)
Is the Lord Asleep?
When we cannot clearly see our destination on the opposite shore, we forget we are in the boat by the Lord’s bidding. He may appear to be sleeping, but He is in control. Psalm 107 is a psalm of thanksgiving for the Lord’s great deliverance. In verses 23-32, we see the Lord’s hand in the stormy waves:
Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on great waters,
They see the works of the LORD,
And His wonders in the deep.
For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
Which lifts up the waves of the sea.
They mount up to the heavens,
They go down again to the depths;
Their soul melts because of trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
And are at their wits’ end.
Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.
He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.
Then they are glad because they are quiet;
So He guides them to their desired haven.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people,
And praise Him in the company of the elders. (NASB)
Where is Your Faith?
When the disciples cried out to the Lord, He responded with action and a lesson. He calmed the sea, but He pointed out their weak faith. They had witnessed Jesus heal a leper, enable a paralytic to walk, heal the centurion’s servant from afar, and raise a widow’s son from the dead. Yet they were amazed when Jesus rescued them.
Aren’t we like that? We know the Lord is capable of calming the storm and guiding us to our destination. But during the storm, we depend on our bailing buckets and our ability to row. He simply asks us to cry out to Him to accomplish what only He can do. The distant shoreline is still our destination, we still head there although the sea is rough at times, and we are still to give thanks and give Him the praise and glory during the storm and when we touch land.
Whatever storms rage in your life, cry out to the Lord to do what you cannot accomplish. The storm may not be pleasant, and you may not desire a repeat experience, but He is able to carry you across and prevent the leaning trees in your life from falling.