By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published September 20, 2018
In my childhood days in Miami, hurricanes seemed like no big deal. My father taped the windows, my mother baked cookies, and my sister and I delighted in staying home from school.
We weren’t afraid because we felt our parents had everything in control, including the storm. Although we’d been taught God ruled the universe, in our everyday lives it seemed our parents were at the helm of the family ship.
In graduate school, I had my own apartment and suddenly the story changed because my father wasn’t around to secure the windows and my mom wasn’t there to stock the shelves with goodies.
Since I didn’t believe in God anymore, it seemed the ship could veer off in any direction at any moment—and it was up to me to keep a firm grip on the wheel.
And so I nervously watched scenes of devastation on the nightly news and braced myself as the eye of the storm inched its way toward me. After it passed, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and thanked “my lucky stars.”
When I came back to my faith in my 40s, I must confess I thought my change of heart would give me a “get out of jail free” card when it came to suffering. You see, I figured God would protect me from storms, diseases, injuries and emotional suffering.
This notion was soon proved wrong when I came down with cancer, pneumonia and chicken pox in the span of three years—and eventually lost my husband to a heart attack.
It was then I realized the truth of Flannery O’Connor’s words: “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”
I also discovered spiritual storms can be worse than hurricanes and tornadoes because they’re ongoing, as we struggle against doubts, fears, pride, anger and selfishness.
Even though we say “thy will be done” when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, often we’re whispering inside, “as long as it agrees with my game plan.”
The New Testament warns us about readying ourselves for whatever God wills for us. In the parable of the 10 virgins, for example, five ladies made sure they had oil to light their lamps, while the others weren’t prepared.
When the bridegroom showed up unexpectedly, the wise ladies accompanied him to the wedding banquet, but the others languished in the dark.
And when they knocked on heaven’s door, the Lord denied knowing them and uttered a stern warning: “Watch, therefore, for you know not the day nor the hour.”
A friend who is a priest once visited a hospital patient who was in his 90s. Asked if he’d like to confess his sins, the old fellow pondered the prospect and then answered, “I think I’ll wait.”
It’s tempting to say we’ll give our lives to Christ down the road. When we’re old, let’s say, and death is near. But it can be a wake-up call to stroll around a cemetery, where many headstones record birth and death dates with a short time span between.
Despite all our attempts to steer the ship, in truth we have little control, whether we’re talking about storms, disease, grief—or death.
There’s a Carrie Underwood song, “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” about a woman who nearly crashes on a highway and has an epiphany when she realizes her life is in bigger hands than her own.
“Jesus, take the wheel, take it from my hands ‘cause I can’t do this on my own. I’m letting go, so give me one more chance and save me from this road I’m on.”
Weathermen spend hours calculating predictions about storm size, direction, wind speed and duration. When it comes to our spiritual storms, though, there’s no one around to give us hints about the outcomes.
Let’s pray our hearts can withstand the wind and rain that come out of nowhere and threaten to overtake us. Let’s pray we’ll be ready when the eye of the storm finds us.
And when we say, “Thy will be done,” let’s pray to truly mean, “Whatever comes, Lord, I know you’ll be there to guide me through it.”
Artwork (“Pilot” by Jef Murray, oil painting). Please contact Lorraine if you’re interested in purchasing this painting. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.