I can still picture it clearly, though I was probably about five-years-old at the time. Standing on the back porch between my parents, I clutched the flowered apron my mother wore over her Donna-Reid-era housedress. We’ll be okay, my child-thoughts reasoned. Daddy had never let harm come to us before. Still, I didn’t like the looks of worry on their faces.
As we watched with dread and fascination, a funnel dropped out of an ugly black cloud in the distance and headed our way. “Grab the girls!” my dad yelled as he dashed to yank open the door of our combination fruit cellar-storm shelter. “Hurry, girls!” my mother shouted. “Tornado!”
I was the youngest in our family and Mother took no chances as she scooped me up and ran toward safety. My heart pounded as we approached the familiar old corrugated-metal door lying almost flat against the mound of grass-covered earth. By that time, my dad had flung it open and was ready to help us down the steep steps into the dank, earthy darkness of the shelter. As he pulled the door down securely and latched it from the inside, we heard the muffled roar of swirling winds above. I could also hear my own heart beating and I clung to my mother, all my “big-girl wannabe” bravado gone.
Oddly, I was more afraid of being in that dark fruit cellar than the storm outside. The damp, musty air felt thick and hard to breathe. And the beam from the flashlight my dad held cast strange shapes as it darted about the rows of shelves lined with dust-covered glass jars of home-canned fruits and vegetables. The atmosphere seemed oppressive and I began to imagine poisonous spiders creeping closer. I trembled and pleaded to go back outside. Maybe the tornado wasn’t real. Or maybe it had turned in another direction.
But no amount of fearful begging on my part would move my dad to open the door until he knew it was safe. Finally, when all was quiet, we emerged, overjoyed to see our home still standing though debris was scattered everywhere.
Whenever I see news footage of the horrendous destruction tornadoes have caused, my heart goes out to those who’ve lost property and lives. It’s sad to think of danger coming with no place to hide.
The outbreak of tornadoes spawned by recent spring storms in parts of our country have set my own Midwest childhood memories swirling. And here’s the thing: the soul has its own kind of severe weather. Family conflicts, depression, addiction, unexpected illness, financial setbacks…these come sweeping in with gale force winds that havoc the heart. When the clouds turn dark, it’s important to know these things about refuge:
- There are storms you can’t just “ride out” and it’s important to know ahead of time where your shelters are. Proverbs 27:10 talks about maintaining close friendships that support you when disaster strikes. The last part says, “…better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.” I don’t know what I’d do without those “call anytime, day or night” friends.
- Sometimes you have to walk into dark places to find safety. Strangely enough, even good help can feel odd and uncomfortable. Just the thought of seeking a marriage counselor or therapist…talking with a pastor or trusted spiritual adviser about life’s cyclones can make our hearts beat faster. But it’s better to pursue scary, unfamiliar safety than to stay in the path of familiar yet inevitable destruction. Find a safe person and go deep.
- God is with us in the darkness. Psalm 139:8 says, “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” I especially love verse 12: “Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” God has night vision!
Gotta say…I’m glad tornadoes aren’t often a problem in the Pacific Northwest where I live—give me rain, any day! But for life’s other kinds of twisters, I know right where to find shelter. Psalm 91:1 says, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Sometimes His shadow may seem like a dark kind of shelter but it’s always the safest place you can be. And you never have to wait out the storm alone.
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