Tornadoes. The word alone sends chills up my spine. I am truly terrified of these massive spinning beasts that can lift a house off its foundation in a matter of seconds uprooting every precious possession you have tossing it aside like garbage. There is no way to avoid a tornado and they aren't picky ransacking any object in its path holding no regard for what or whom you hold dear. The destruction they leave behind varies from minimum to monumental and they always come, despite your fervent prayers that this element of nature would simply just disappear and never return anywhere again!
The forecast for this weekend, Saturday specifically, is calling for tornadoes. Severe weather at best, but cautions are being issued to find your "safe place", preferably underground, to avoid the unthinkable loss of life when weather strikes. You can not hide from a tornado, you can not outsmart it, manipulate it, or derail it. There is no preparing for it other than small efforts to shield yourself from it's massive force, and no escape from it should you be directly in its path. I am always in awe of storm chasers. Part of me believes them to be absolutely out of their minds; who willing chases down a whirling sputtering mammoth of wind and debris? Then again, I am thankful for them because it is the work of these brave people that has allowed us to have a moment of preparation before the disaster strikes, to live out the idea of better safe than sorry, should we be in the path of Dorothy's demise.
Knowing this is heading my way, I too, will prepare the best I can for the weather to strike. Tonight, I will empty my closet under the stairs (I do not have a basement) and fill it with pillows and sturdy blankets. I will check the batteries in my flashlight and radio to be sure they are in working order and plug the power strip in so we can watch movies on my computer and check the weather as needed. The Weather Channel's meteorologist Jim Cantore will call my house automatically with updates, a service I pay for each year. He calls so often during tornado season that I can recite the opening lines, "Hello. I'm meteorologist Jim Cantore and this is a severe weather alert from Notify! To continue, please press 1."
And all of this is to help me become more aware of a potentially dangerous threat so that I can avoid it. Is this rational thought? I have to wonder sometimes. A good friend of mine laughed at me once, saying "it's going to come whether you're ready or not, chill out!" I was livid at the time, how dare you mock my preparation to save my life, my son, my home....until I realized, she was right. I can not stop a tornado anymore than I can stop a car accident, a stray bullet, or a freak accident fall. These events can occur regardless of my frantic attempts to dodge them. This doesn't mean I shouldn't make efforts to keep my family safe, my home safe, but it does mean I must accept that this is absolutely out of my control.
I think this is a good lesson to learn about many other areas of life. While we can do our very best to keep things running smoothly, sometimes things are out of our control and we must learn to recognize these situations and adapt as necessary when they come our way.
I'm reminded of the Prayer of Serenity in moments such as this:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
This short prayer is often uttered in moments of distress as a way of throwing our hands up to God and giving him control. Serenity is the idea of being tranquil and calm, free from stress and emotion. If we are praying this prayer, really seeking serenity, should the fear we feel from imminent danger still pervade our thoughts?
Some would argue that it should not and part of my logical brain says this is true. When you truly give it to God, you give it all to God. I know that my life is in the control of my God, but I also know that he gave me a mind to think with in times of trouble and that I must exercise good judgment when difficult circumstances arise.
For me, this judgment includes preparing for bad weather, driving safely, knowing an emergency plan and not always adopting a devil-may-care attitude ignoring the foreshadowing of situations. God often gives us signs and directions on what we should do, but the real question is "are we listening?" In John 10:24-26, the Jews circle Jesus and ask him, "If you're the messiah, tell us straight out." Jesus replies, "I told you, but you don't believe. Everything I have done has been by my Father's actions. You don't believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep recognize my voice. I know them and they follow me."
While the threat of weather or even everyday distractions pales in comparrison to the coming of Christ, I believe the principle is the same - are we listening to what is being said? Are we watching for the signs that allow to truly seek serenity in our lives. To literally find the calm before the storm. I know, often, I am not but I'm trying to find a path that helps me open my eyes.
Therefore, when the weather man says the tornado is on its way, I believe him and for tonight, will continue to make room in my closet under the stairs just in case he is right. I would hate believe I missed this kind of sign and suffer consequences of my own poor choices. I will continued to be mocked by some that believe I'm over zealous in my cause to steer clear of bad weather, but then again when you look into the eye of the tornado and hear the train coming, it seems serenity at that point might be difficult to hear over the roar of hurling wind and rain.