Due to inexperience and a lack of good planning, I was on a motorcycle a few years ago heading north on an interstate highway during a terrible storm that spawned tornadoes. Not the best place in the world to be and not the road trip experience that I had envisioned. At some point, I thought to myself, “If I survive this, this will make a good story to tell.”
I was thinking about that trip just the other day. No one, with the exception of the foolhardy, wants to be in a thunderstorm on a motorcycle when tornadoes are touching down just a few miles away.
I kept looking for places to get off and wait out the storm, but they simply weren’t there. I could have, I suppose, just pulled off the road but the visibility was so bad I was afraid I’d get hit by a car or truck that didn’t see me in the storm. So, I just continued to ride. I survived the storm and, sure enough, I had a story to tell.
Like most people, I have encountered many fierce storms in my life. I’m not talking about the thunder and lightning type of storm — but the storms of life. No one plans for these types of experiences.
We start out assuming that life will go fairly smoothly and, while we may anticipate that the road we choose may have twists and turns, and maybe a few potholes, we don’t expect life us to hand us the kinds of turbulence that could wreck our entire lives. What do we do when that happens?
The logical answer is, of course, don’t put yourself in a spot where you will encounter those types of storms. But that answer is not sufficient. We cannot anticipate a terrible accident, a bitter divorce, the death of someone close to us, a frightening diagnosis … we cannot prevent being a victim of a crime or losing a job or any of the countless situations that come as a terrible storm. Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, and often through no fault of our own, we are swept up in the fury.
When I was in that storm on the bike, I knew that my life was at risk. A mishap on the bike, a careless driver, a passing trucker who didn’t see me in the rain — all could have taken my health or my life.
So, during the storm, I prayed. I prayed for wisdom, for protection, and for a safe place to shelter. I prayed that other drivers would see me and avoid me. I prayed that the tornados that did eventually touch down would avoid me as well.
I did not think much about where I was going, where I would sleep that night, or what I would do the next day. The present moment consumed all my thoughts and efforts.
So, until and unless I found a place to shelter, I decided to keep going forward as best I could. Stopping was useless. Going back to where I started was not an option. So I kept moving.
I think this is a key to weathering the storms of life. Keep doing the next right thing. Concentrate on the situation of the moment, but keep going forward. And that is what I did. I slowed down to increase safety and control and I stayed the course.
Eventually, in about an hour and a half, I spied an exit ramp with restaurants available. I carefully made my way down the slick ramp (hydroplaning along the way) and parked in the lot of a hamburger joint. I was soaked to the bone, cold, exhausted, and a bit shaken — but I was safe. Eventually the storm passed and I continued on my journey.
The storm does pass. It always passes. Sometimes there is some lasting damage and we may have to rebuild that which was shattered. But the storm will pass.
If we can’t anticipate it or avoid it, we have to weather it. We keep moving forward, praying all the while, and, eventually, the storm passes. We will survive it, with God’s help, and then we will have a story to tell.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]