In 1980 an EF1 tornado hit my small Oklahoma town and became the author of the hundreds of tornado nightmares I’ve had since.
In relation to the EF4s and EF5s we’ve seen in Greensburg, Joplin, Tuscaloosa and yesterday in Moore, my tornado was not too bad. EF1s typically result in what would be called mild damage. Mobile homes can be pushed off their foundations, moving cars pushed off the road, the surface may peel off of roofs.
I was 5 years old so I don’t remember a lot. But what I do remember I will probably never forget. The surface of the roof of our house did not peel off. Our entire roof blew away. I could feel our house swaying back and forth. The front door kept banging open in spite of our efforts to secure it closed. We had no basement. My grandma sat with me at the kitchen table and tried to distract me with a game of cards. My mom, who was a nurse, ran out into the wind to go help the injured. My step-dad yelled for her to put a coat on. She kept running with bare arms and wind whipping her hair into her face.
Obviously, the adults around me knew we were not going to die but I was terrified.
I had family in Greensburg. I have family in Joplin. I have a dear friend who is closely connected to Tuscaloosa. I have lived in the midwest almost my entire life. This is part of our reality and as we go through it again and again I can’t pretend to know the pain of those who have endured these monstrous tornados and the horrific devastation they bring with them.
But I know my pain…my little EF1 pain. I know that tornado sirens often bring me to tears and can sometimes even lead to full blown panic attacks. I know that I’m always looking for a “safe place” wherever I am…even driving down the highway. I know that the majority of my life I’ve endured nightmares in which tornados become living breathing entities striving to devour me and my family.
We live in a fallen world. We are not in control. Bad things happen and we can not stop many of them. We are not safe. That is reality.
I’ve been memorizing a passage of the Bible that helps me in times like this.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I love the promise there. If we will pray instead of worry, if we present our requests to God with thanksgiving, the peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds. The Bible never promises that bad things will not happen. But it does promise the protection of our hearts and minds…IF we will lean into God in every situation. IF will lay down our worry and pray instead. I’m not great at this but I’m learning.
So let’s lean today…for ourselves, for the families in Moore and in Joplin and elsewhere. On behalf of those who’ve met the crisis that will become the author of their nightmares, let’s lean into God today and pray.