Last September my world was rocked by one of the most massive hurricanes in history. As Irma came barreling down, The Weather Channel delivered a bleak report. No Floridian would escape its force. Too terrified to sit down and write in the moment, I took time in the aftermath to pen a letter.
Dear God September 16, 2017
Leaving Georgia tomorrow…thanking You as I go that Hurricane Irma is over, and that no one I know had any significant damage. I pray for those who were injured or impacted in any way, and ask that they be strengthened by Your divine mercy and grace.
Living with Tampa Bay in my backyard, I had planned to stay with friends who were further inland, but last Saturday morning a nudge from You jolted me into action. Suddenly, I knew I had to evacuate. As I rushed to pack, my mind took me through rapid-fire scenarios. There they were, faith and fear, battling it out in my mind. At times it felt like I was running for my life—breathless with adrenalin.
Then, there would be faithful certainty that You could do anything—even turn the tide of a killer storm. Jesus had done it in the Bible, and years earlier, as another great tempest appeared to have Florida’s Gulf Coast in its crosshairs, a slight shift from You at the last possible moment sent Tropical Charlie hurtling inland.
This time, with Irma’s force imminent, the news was horrifying. Anticipating winds of up to 150 miles per hour, I had no idea if I would even have a home when I returned. You find out what’s truly important when you have to gather what could be your only remaining possessions. And yet pockets of peace began to settle in.
I asked myself, What is truly important? My faith in You topped the list. I knew that You had given me life and the ability to live in such a way that others could see Jesus in and through me. Second only to You were my family and friends. I hoped they knew how very grateful I was for their love and support.
Oddly enough, I was grateful for strangers. Whenever we would pull in for food or gas while inching our way up 1-75, I gave away smiles to the many You put in my path. I wanted them to know that in spite of the fact that we did not know each other personally, we were held together by a mighty bond—our humanity.
We were all alive in that moment, breathing in and out, no matter where we were, what we were doing or what surrounded us. No matter what we thought, said or did, we were alive, right then and there. I thought, Wouldn’t it be grand if we could set aside our differences to embrace the truth: we humans are all imperfect and ever so fragile. Whether we know it or not, we all long to be connected.
You have my heart,
* * *
Dear God, September 17, 2017
I’m home again. The storm is gone. As Florida’s famous sunshine floods the scene, I am blessed by Your great mercy—blessed to be alive in Your abundant love and grace. Please don’t ever let me take that for granted.
God stilled the storm, calmed the waves,
and He hushed the hurricane winds to only a whisper.
Psalm 107:29 (The Passion Translation)
* * *
A crisis often brings out the best in us. Hurricane Irma was no exception. Time and again I witnessed the kindness and caring of family, friends and yes, even strangers. My heart breaks for the innocent victims of this mighty storm. Thankfully, most of us lived through the days of roaring wind, torrential rain and the eerie silence in between.
Although the memory of Irma may fade with time, I pray the lesson from it will live on. Lord, Sometimes it takes the sky falling (literally) to teach us how to take hold of each other, and to know, without question, the gift and goodness of life with You.
Thank you for your great love and mercy,