Storms cannot always be avoided, and they often come with little warning. Even with today’s much more sophisticated weather computers, they can still “pop up.” April 3, 1974, was a calm and rainy day. Late in the afternoon, I sat in the library at Southern Seminary. Donna was working in the administration building as Dr. Morgan Patterson’s secretary. It was about 4:30 p.m. when I noticed the rain had stopped. I decided it was a good time to head to the car. I figured I could read there until Donna got off at 5:00 p.m. Half way across the quadrangle, I heard, and then saw, the storm. I never made it to the car. A few minutes later, Donna and I found each other in the darkened basement of the main classroom wing of Norton Hall.When storm clouds form, I watch. When tornado warnings are issued or blizzard-like conditions are forecast, I pay attention. On all occasions, I seek to do what is necessary either to avoid the storm or to alleviate the risk of injury and/or damage.
The story of Jesus stilling wind and the waves has always been one of my favorites. To be honest, it became my favorite before I understood storms. What I liked was the image of that strong Jesus calmly sleeping through what others feared. When their fears awoke him, I liked the image of that strong Jesus standing up, pointing his finger at the wind and the sea, and shouting, “Peace! Be still!” Thinking back, I’ve wondered if perhaps I had an image of my being that kind of strong man.There certainly are those who expect their pastors to be such men and women. In the throes of crisis, they long for us to rush in and make all things well. I’ve tried to be that pastor. After decades of facing crises, mine and others, I have learned a couple of things. I cannot still storms. There are times when, through God’s grace, I am able to bring some calm in the midst of a crisis. I have also learned that not even Jesus can still all the storms. Some storms, once begun, must run their course.
Oh, I’ve learned something else: Peace does not require the absence of storms/crises. Often the peace that passes understanding comes in the midst of the storm—comes because Jesus is there, holding fast to the sides of the boat, reminding us that together we will ride this out.I long for others to know this Jesus who can still storms and who can still us in the midst of storms. Alas, I cannot by words or even actions convince them that he is the stiller of storms; but were they to come alongside him, they might discover as I have that he is.