The Chicago pundits called it Snowmageddon or the Snowpocalypse or even SnOMG, but I kept thinking of it as the perfect storm.
That term was first used by writer Sebastian Junger when he researched the 1991 Halloween Nor’Easter that we experienced on Cape Cod. Junger learned that when you have warm air from a low-pressure system coming from one direction and cool, dry air from another plus the moisture generated by a hurricane, you have the perfect condition for a storm of monstrous proportions.
When you haven’t been buried with snow all winter like our friends on the east coast have, the novelty of preparing for a big old midwestern blizzard is kinda fun. The meteorologists were right on target for one thing; no one could claim we weren’t warned. We had several days’ notice, and a full 24 hours in advance we knew “the big one” was imminent. The HR department where I work told us at 9 am Tuesday that we’d be closed the following day. CNN predicted that blizzard conditions would begin at 3 pm in our zip code, which is exactly when the snow began to fall
“This couldn’t have come at a better time,” I said to Mike.
That was true for most people at least. Schools and workplaces had plenty of notice to close, and few people schedule weddings or other special events for midweek. People scurried around completing errands, laying in firewood, and picking up staples to wait out the storm.
Once we were safely inside on Tuesday evening, Mike, Jordan, our grad student Liz and I enjoyed a leisurely meal and then I baked cookies while the guys challenged each other to a match of Wii golf. As it neared 10 PM I was dozing on the coach with our cat, Genevieve, snuggled into the curve of my arm. A flash of brilliant light startled me awake, and the boom that followed confirmed that we had just witnessed the thunder snow that was also predicted.
A warm home that still had power, an unexpected free evening, a dramatic sound and light display – “This is the perfect storm,” I thought.
One can be deeply content and thankful to be safely indoors when a blizzard is raging. At the same time, though, you become more acutely aware of others who presently have no safe harbor from the storms in their own life.
When I returned to work today after yesterday’s snow day, I read the messages in my inbox in dismay.
A co-worker’s father had failed to wake up from a nap after shoveling his family’s driveway.
Another colleague had arrived in Ukraine with her husband to pick up their long-awaited adoptive son only to find that he was no longer eligible for adoption.
A longtime friend is struggling to find employment while needing to dispense tough love to children who are dealing with the consequences of destructive behavior.
So what do you do when you are caught in a “perfect storm” not of your own making?
I don’t have the answer. I wish I did.
But I know what it’s like to lose a parent.
Mike and I remember arriving at places in our lives only to experience devastating disappointment.
And I vividly recall the desperation of turning to the authorities for help when a child we were privileged to raise for a time began experimenting with drugs.
Perfect storms,all. But in the midst of them, my heart still knew how to turn towards the harbor. And when I did, I remembered that the One who created the waves had the power to still them.
As my fingers pause over the keys tonight trying to make sense of my friends’ pain, words memorized decades ago return to me:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
So tucked inside my home surrounded by drifts of snow, I release my anxiety for my friends and instead draft a petition on their behalf. The One who will receive it knows their situations far better than I do.
As I dress for bed, I sign the petition with the only name that has the power to bring peace into my friends’ lives: JESUS.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
A harbor awaits all those still out in the storm, and until then we have hope as an anchor for our souls.
Sleep well, beloved of God.