The East Coast is getting ready for a winter blast of weather from the South. A big front is rolling up the coast and the predicitons are for over a foot of snow, high winds and hazardous conditions. The answer? There are two, one a rational response and the other irrational.
The rational response is one I see people making as they reshuffle plans and arrange schedules in order to avoid travel and stay close to home. Is there enough food/water/supplies for us to just hang out around the house? Do we REALLY need to make that trip to x-place this weekend? Can we cancel/transfer our tickets for that event to another date? Simple, rational responses that not only take personal safety into account, but also the safety and comfort of the people who have to be out in the mess-the road workers and plow drivers and emergency responders-who won't be huddling up with cocoa and a good movie/book/board game for the next 24 hours.
Then, there is the irrational response. Preemptive delays of plans when it is only cloudy outside and the weather service is efficient enough to give us some accurate times of the onset of the event in our locality. The mad rush to the store to buy mass quantities of milk, white bread, toilet paper, bottled water and batteries. The impulse to get out there before we can't...thus clogging up the roads, stores and public places.
Both responses are both human, and humane. We are preparing, not just for what is promised us-foul weather. We are also getting as ready as we can be for the unexpected. And that is the challenge. Because we can't know what to expect from the unexpected, how can we prepare? There are of course, simple things to do...make sure you have first aid and medical supplies, food and water to get through the interval of anticipated disruption. But, in the end, we can't rush the weather, and we can't hurry the storm. It has to run its course. Learning, and living into, that reality is a lifelong challenge. And, I am sure, you can see that the metaphor of the storm is not just restricted to what is going on outside your window and the color of the morning sky. It is also about what happens to us in life, in our relationships and in the lives of the institutions and systems we co-exist in and with all out heart struggle to embrace as crises flow inevitably flow our way.
As a child in the "near-Midwest" I grew up with the threat of blizzards and tornadoes. What to do when you are out in the open, or at school, or in the car when the storm hits was vitally important and something I learned at a young age when my todder sister, mother and I spent the better part of a day in our small, grad-school apartment's bathroom (t was the only interior room without windows) as high winds and small tornadoes danced around outside. I knew real, life-shaking fear during a hail storm (softball-sized blocks of ice falling from the sky) while quite literally 100 miles from any human assistance while driving across South Dakota one summer in seminary. I experienced a small hurricane when I served as an assistant in a coastal New England town. I knew panic as my wife and I struggled to bail out our basement 10 days after buying our first home during a "150 year flood" in a small Bucks County community. And, countless times as priest, as partner, as friend/son/grandson I have walked with people who are experiencing storms in their lives-the loss of a loved one, their health, their job, their homes, etc.
Storms, and the memories of storms, remind me of how lacking we are in the ability to control anything in this life around us, and how able we are to choose to control our responses to the unexpected. We can act out of panic and fear, or we can respond with hope and faith. We can understand that storms can be prepared for, but not planned for.
And, ultimately, there is the gift of that sheer silence after the storm. Tornados, blizzards, hurricanes....they all leave a gift behind. The air is acrubbed clean of pollen, pollution and humidity. The sky is the deepest, richest blue you have ever hoped to see. People, even as thy emerge from the rubble, are able to give thanks for something they took for granted just moments before the winds started to kick up: survival.
As we weather this storm....and as you perhaps remember the storms of your life...take some time to give thanks that God has seen you through thus far; and will bring us all home to peace when the great storm of life ends and the new life in Jesus Christ begins for us all in earnest.
Let is snow, let it snow.....let it snow....and may those who are facing the storm without shelter find a place to be warm, safe and at peace.....