When the first words for your daily devotional reading are “faith grows during storms,” you’d better count on having an interesting day.
I’ve been reading Streams in the Desert again for quite a while. It’s not the sort of devotional that features cheerful, breezy thoughts and happy perspectives all presented in ornate italic type and floral accents. Streams is more like a field guide for the spiritual equivalent of Marine Corps boot camp.
The reading for the day continued:
“These are just four little words, but what significance they have to someone who has endured life-threatening storms!
Faith is a God-given ability that, when exercised, brings the unseen into plain view. It deals with the supernatural and makes impossible things possible. And yes, it grows during storms — that is, it grows through disturbances in the spiritual atmosphere. …
The strongest trees are found not in the thick shelter of the forest but in the open, where winds from every direction bear down upon them. The fierce winds bend and twist them ….”
Last night these words took on a depth of meaning that would have been impossible to understand earlier that morning.
For a very long time I have lived by God’s direct provision funneled through his people across the country. What has been needed has come when it’s needed, never too much and never anything left over. It’s been like manna in the desert when the Israelites wandered around for 40 years.
During the past month since moving out of my home when the lease expired, I have never known for more than a few days at a time where I was going to stay. At times it’s been a day-by-day discovery. Yesterday when it was time to check out of the hotel, I didn’t know if I’d have a place at all when night came. In fact, my expectation was that my cat and I would sleep in the car. I had been without a place to stay the week before and thought it would be best to go back to that location, even though I couldn’t go in because with temperatures over 100. I couldn’t leave my cat in the car for any length of time and pets aren’t permitted in the building. At least we’d be in a place with round-the-clock security and a lot of other people.
It was a long day of driving around looking for a place with shade. Let me just say with absolute authority that Kansas City lacks parking places with adequate shade. I found one park and a relatively shady spot, only to be right by a couple smoking pot. I didn’t stay long. Mostly, it was a long day of driving just for the air conditioning to keep us cool in the scorching heat. But night was nearing and I needed to stop driving.
The western sky grew dark with forecasted storms. And it grew darker. Weather radar indicated severe thunderstorms with heavy rainfall. (Note: it is completely amusing to me that for the moment I don’t have a home and am poor as can be, but I have a BlackBerry.) A weather app provided a clue as to just how bad the weather was. Thunder was first, then lightening that expanded across the sky. Strong winds rocked the car. Then there were lightening strikes off in the distance. Then lightening strikes in the immediate area. Then a lightening strike at the facility where I was parked that blew all the lights, even the street lights went dark. Heavy rain came down, but I kept the window slightly opened in case tornado sirens were activated. An electrical fire smell grew stronger just as several police cars pulled up. Soon there was an ambulance on the scene because someone had been injured.
I have never felt so vulnerable or at risk before. There was no where to go and only the car for protection from the storm. I was in a small car with a cat, and after the death of a cat last week, I am especially protective of the one with me. It wasn’t solely a matter of being caught in a storm, it was about all the ways I felt cut off from every source of protection. Every prop or measure to keep life moving along well and comfortably is gone. All I have is God. Although the bigger set of circumstances are scary, the immediate storm was something of a showdown. Would I believe, or not? Would I cling to God and stand firm in the truth that he is who he says he is, even if the situation didn’t look good, even if it means physical harm or worse? What was it going to be?
The wind and rain and lightening continued. I grew more frightened, but that only made me pray more and repeat what I knew to be true: God is love and his love endures forever. God knows where I’m at and what’s going on. God is watching over me. God is faithful. On and on it went.
The faith journey I’ve been on and the inherent struggles and even battles all came to a dramatic moment during the storm. It was a personal Gethsemane. No matter what, I would follow God. Even though things looked bad, I would follow God. Even if that means homelessness and all that goes with it. “Thy will be done.”
Right in the midst of this, I received an email. It was a gift of hope: “He loves you like crazy, His plans are perfect, and that everything He is allowing in your life right now is out of love. He loves you way too much to leave you as is; He wants all of you. He is jealous and He is pursuing you as a lover pursues His bride, His beauty, His treasure.” These words offered strength, like a Marine sergeant going nose to nose with a new recruit, summoning a strength within the recruit to go beyond known limits of endurance.
When the rain was at its worst and the whole situation seemed more than I could bear, a room for the night was amazingly provided. It was literally the 11th hour.
“The path of faith is one of … hardships, dangers, beatings, persecutions, misunderstandings, trouble, and distress. … Yet, … even during storms, when the winds are the most intense … God is there to meet you in the center of each trial.”
The experience changed me. This morning when it was time to check out, my fear about a place to stay was gone. If we had to sleep in the car, so be it. It didn’t matter that my wallet was empty and that there was nothing to suggest help was on the way or that in the foreseeable future there would be any sort of change. Timothy back in his carrier, we headed to a park not too far away that actually has decent shade. It was the best place to spend the day.
Sitting under a canopy of leaves, I reread yesterday’s devotion and laughed. The words are perfect, as are the ones for today:
“We must be willing to live by faith, not hoping or desiring to live any other way. We must be willing to have every light around us extinguished, to have every star in the heavens blotted out, and to live with nothing encircling us but darkness and danger. Yes, we must be willing to do all this, if God will only leave within our soul an inner radiance from the pure, bright light that faith has kindled.”
Oh! A place for tonight and tomorrow was provided this afternoon from an out-of-the-blue angel, and a very good supper and delightful evening from another. I write from a comfortable chair in a pleasant room, happy and grateful.