Andrew. Opal. Charlie. Ivan. Jeanne. Francis. Dennis. Wilma.
Just ordinary names…until you attach them to Hurricanes. I’ve lived through all 8 of these in my 30 years as a Floridian.
But 2004 was a banner year!
Charlie, Ivan and Jeanne all visited within six weeks of each other. It was like the family reunion from Hell!
There is a phenomenon in each of these storms that you cannot really appreciate or understand until you experience it.
The eye of the storm.
It is that time when at the peak of the violence and velocity of the hurricane–at its epicenter–there is an uncanny and inexplicable calm. You can walk outside, assess the damage, catch your breath and prepare for the next waves.
Some days in the raw reality of life the clamor of evil to capture and control my attention is incessant. The daily stories of brutal events and broken lives wreaking havoc in our world is just hard to bear.
- A good man falls prey to the attacks of a crooked one.
- A dear woman succumbs to the ravages of an unfair illness.
- An idealistic youth working to ease suffering becomes prisoner to much worse.
- An innocent child suffers under a broken man’s perverted fantasy.
- A lonely girl is caught in the trap of a trafficker–exchanging her best for his worst.
- A marginalized people group becomes the target of a genocidal maniac.
- A loving couple is suddenly robbed of their teen by a drunk behind the wheel.
- An abused toddler again goes to bed with the rumble of hunger deep in his gut.
This litany of agony unfolds constantly before our eyes. The seemingly senseless and random cloud of evil overshadows our path nearly every day.
The temptation to deal with the darkness by running away or covering my eyes is strong.
Facing up to the harsh fact that while life is beautiful it is also broken is not a pleasant option. But it is reality.
Often, I just want to:
- Bury my face in my blessings like an ostrich in sand and not come out to see the mess around me. Ignore.
- Become cynical about others and skeptical about God–let the dark cloud blur my vision and invade my mindset. Immerse.
- Bubble-wrap my life in a protective cloak of projection or blame with over-simplified generalizations that release me from the responsibility to care. Insulate.
- Disappear into the disorienting busyness of life or the distracting anesthetic of pleasure and just pretend it will all go away. Isolate.
The problem isn’t that there is evil in the world. It is that there is so much of it that clamors for my attention–like ogres of ugliness playing capture the flag in my mind.
Now I am not suggesting that we give into the fatalistic inklings of our hearts and become depressed or discouraged by the pain around us. Nor am I proposing that we live unfiltered or unprotected in the brutal environs of the ugly side of life.
What I want to find is a legitimate place of rest and renewal that prepares me to make a real and substantive difference in my place in the larger story God is writing. The story where there will really be a happily ever after.
I need a refuge where I can escape the unending onslaught of bad events and broken lives long enough to reset my perspective and renew my strength. An eye in the storm.
Not a place to hide. A place to heal.
“A circle of quiet in the clamor of evil.” (Psalm 94:13, MSG)
David understood that need and tells me the unexpected place where I can find it.
“Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,
the one you teach from your law;
you grant them relief from days of trouble,”
(Psalm 94:12-13a, NIV)
Discipline. Train. Instruct. Teach. Variously translated, it simply refers to how God trains you to see how it really is as opposed to how it seems to be.
Schooled in reality.
Seeing things as they really are–the eternal reality vs. the temporal smokescreen–takes the poison from pain, the torture from temptation and the sting from the suffering.
No one understood this better than the storm chaser himself, Paul of Tarsus.
- “In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own.”(Romans 8:18, JBP)
- “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)
- “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
This circle of quiet is the place where through His Word and work God brings into focus the truth beyond the storm. As I believe and absorb that instruction, my perspective is reset, my hope is refreshed, my strength is renewed, my love is rekindled and my passion is reignited.
Cleland McAfee wrote poignantly of this place of quiet after his two nieces died of diphtheria:
There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.
From that circle of quiet I am able to resist the clamor of evil–living life as it can be in the middle of life as it is.