by Joanie Butman
Who knew how prescient the God Strong article would prove to be when I posted it a couple of weeks ago? Hurricane Irma is a perfect illustration of the randomness of tragedy. My extended family and I have homes in Marco Island, which suffered a direct hit from Irma. Watching the forecasts with dread we feared the worst, thinking our slice of paradise where we created so many happy family memories would be decimated. My daughter called me distraught, “It’s my favorite place in the world!” I could only reply, “I know, and how blessed were we to have had it at all, and for so many years?” She couldn’t understand why I was taking it so nonchalantly. “Because none of us are in it,” I responded. Then my husband asked, “What are the odds that our house would be right in the path of the storm?” I chuckled, “The same as everyone else’s I suppose.”
Much to everyone’s surprise and delight, the damage was not nearly as bad as predicted. Nearby areas got it much worse. The expected 15’ storm surge (which would have swallowed our little abode) never arrived. As far as I’ve been able to surmise, the extent of the damage was a tipped over flower pot, a dangling light fixture, a cracked window and lots of fallen trees that amazingly did not hit the house AND that we wanted to remove anyway. We’re relieved and thankful, of course, but also feel guilty for being spared the fate that so many others suffered. What are the odds that our little home would come through unscathed? It’s a curious phenomenon. Many of us only ask the ‘why me’ question as victims not as victors.
As we watched the news coverage, one of the local officials described Marco as The Little Island That Did. Given the size and location of the island, it’s nothing short of a miracle it wasn’t washed away. I don’t know why it was spared any more than I could answer my husband’s initial query as to why Irma took the path through our small community in the first place. It certainly didn’t have anything to do with something the island did. Seeing the visuals from nearby areas I thought of the famous saying, “There but for the grace of God go I.” As with any storm in life, you can and should prepare as best you can (as those on Marco did), but once it hits, you just have to surrender and let it run its course. The same way trees that don’t bend get taken out, so do people.
During dinner with a woman from the Dominican Republic Friday night, she explained their hurricane strategy. They move all their belonging upstairs then open all the doors and windows to let the water rush through. Afterwards they hose everything down with fresh water and let it dry out. What a great analogy for approaching storms of all kinds. With God by our side we can adopt a bring-it-on attitude always ready to ‘go with the flow,’ confident that we will eventually be renewed and restored with a fresh outpouring of His Spirit.
The morning Irma was bearing down on Marco I received a timely reminder in one of my devotions, “No matter what you lose in this life, you can never lose your relationship with me.” That is a valuable lesson I learned years ago following my first diagnosis – hold onto the things of this world lovingly but loosely, because you never know when they might be taken from you. A house is the least of those things. Homes can be rebuilt, lives can’t. I will leave you with another of my favorite lines from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. It reads, “Be prepared to let go of anything I take from you, but never let go of my hand.”
How we weather any storm is our choice. Will you bend like the palm tree, willing to let go and let God? Or will you be like the mighty oak, determined to stand tall and strong on your own strength only to be uprooted or broken?