I don’t know if I've got a good series of stories here or not. I've got two. There are probably more than two, but I haven’t kept up with this statistic. A week ago, I would have told you there’s only one story I tell that makes me cry. Once I told it to you, you would laugh. I’m saving that one for Part II. Stay tuned.
Last week, I was talking with a group of preschoolers. I consider it continuing ed. They share a little wisdom; I teach them how to pull their thumbs off.
We were talking about simple ways to demonstrate “love one another”. Of course, they already knew plenty of examples, the things grownups forget too quickly. I told them that one good thing they could do for other kids who might be afraid or sad was to simply tell them everything’s going to be all right. Without giving it one thought, I launched into “The Tornado Story”. The following might be the long version.
When I was seven years old, I was in a tornado. OK, I was in a building which happened to be near where a tornado was going.
I was in my dad’s grocery store, helping bag groceries. We were right in the middle of the 4:30 rush, and the sky outside grew dark. It got darker and darker. I started to pay more attention to this than to how many cans of beans I could neatly stack on top of a sewing room worker’s bread and eggs. I heard some ladies in the line talking about the weather report they’d heard on the radio. Somebody said, “Tornado watch.” I looked back out the window. It had gotten really dark. They must have meant “warning”.
There was a sales rack in front of the huge storefront window. I climbed up on the bottom shelf to look out over the top of the rack. There was a tall antenna behind the building across the street. I watched it begin to sway back and forth, and it didn't take long for all that steel to get really flexible. Before I could watch it snap away, my dad picked me up off the shelf. He set me down behind the counter and called for everyone to get down.
One second later, all the lights went out. Less than a second after that, the windows were sucked out of their frames with an incredible blast. The wind filled the whole building with a roar, and hell came with it (I was going to say “leaves and dirt” but please indulge me).
At that point, I did what any average, brave seven year old would, do. I cried. I screamed, I cried, and I left it to no one’s imagination to determine if I was scared to death.
Here’s the part where I start to get a little (a lot) weepy. In the middle of all that terror, I felt a hand patting me on my arm. I looked up and right in front of me was an African American boy. He wasn't much older than I was. I never got his name. I don’t know who his parents are. It certainly didn't matter that he was black and I was white. In that moment, he was to me exactly what I needed, a friend. He patted me and said, “Everything’s going to be all right.”
I stopped screaming and crying. Not long after that, the sky lightened and the wind went away.
“Everything’s going to be all right.” It’s a message from the angels. Sure the gospel writers jazz it up a little. “Fear not” sells more Bibles, I guess, but the message itself is one we shouldn't ignore. What happened to us while we were growing up to cause us to forget that? Or worse, what happened that caused us to not believe that?
Ever since that December afternoon way back in nineteen seventy something, I have had my fair share of things to worry about. Add to that 22 years of doing ministry, and no it hasn't been all sunshine and roses. Actually, my mantra at times has been, “ I've cleaned up the world’s worst clogged up toilet and gotten it running again and I’ll gladly take the literal task over the figurative any day.” Calling, however, cannot be ignored, and the Lord expects nothing less than for his followers to get out there and lay down their lives.
Several of my friends are currently going through some difficult times. Some are dealing with health issues in their families or their own lives. Some are dealing with some Grade A pain and disappointment (forgive me, trying to keep it a family show). To each of them, I have to say, “Everything’s going to be all right” is still true. In the middle of a storm, an angel told me so.