The world was falling apart all around me. I was five, huddled into a hotel room in Sumter, South Carolina. We had traveled an hour and half inland to seek refuge from Hurricane Hugo. The bumper-to-bumper traffic on every road headed west was over-flowing with our fellow evacuees. Our home was on the very river forecasters were predicting the hurricane to make landfall over, we had no choice but to leave. Hugo was a strong category four hurricane and we rightfully feared the worst.
Sumter wasn’t far enough as tornadoes ripped the town to shreds during the night. I’ll never forget the sounds of that night, as if the wind turned to metal and proceeded to clash with the very gods. The carnage that we awoke to the next day proved greater than we could imagine. As we drove home around downed trees and power lines, witnessing others’ homes who had been destroyed, we hoped to find our coastal home still standing. Hope may be an overstatement.
Anyone who has lived trough a severe hurricane knows the power that they wield, power to destroy. They deserve their names because unlike any other weather phenomenon, they have a personality, a vengeance and sometimes a grace. We talk about them like we knew them, because we did.
One of the unique characteristic of hurricanes are their eyes. When you look a satellite image of one, it stares at you ominously. It is from this core the whole storm derives its sheer force but phenomenally, the eye is absolutely calm.
The eye of Hugo missed our home to the south but I had friends who braved (or fooled) out the storm and found themselves in the eye. They reported that it was like the storm had ended, they would walk out to a light breeze and rays of sun. But swirling all around them were 150 mile per hour winds ravaging everything in its path. But there was safety in the eye.
Jesus tells his followers that in this world we will have trouble and a quick look around affirms this teaching. When we read the headlines and listen to the stories around us, it can seem as if the world is falling apart. It is more scary than gods clashing because it seems as if the gods have left us and hope in safety is hopeless.
But just as Jesus promised us trouble, he promises us joy in its very presence. This is not a disembodied joy where everything is perfect and clean, but joy that finds itself knee-deep in the mud; a joy found in the very eye of the storm.
And what is the source of this joy? Jesus has overcome death.
As the world rages, we know the story does not end there but that even through that rage, joy will come. Because we do not hope in ourselves or the gods, but in the crucified and resurrected Jesus. The one who found himself in the eye of the storm on the cross, as all the pain of the world cam crashing down on him and death itself took him. But the power of love, the power of God gave him the last laugh.
Its a bit like Lieutenant Dan riding out the hurricane from the mast of Gump’s shrimp boat, we find our peace with God in the very face of death, in the eye of the storm.