On Saturday morning a neighbor dropped off an extra 4×8’ plywood board which I then spent the next hour installing over our bedroom window. Hurricane Irma would be hitting on Sunday night. I am so grateful this gentleman gave it to us because it meant the difference between sleeping a little and no sleep at all.
The boys would sleep in the one windowless room in the house. Our bedroom is next to the windowless room and has two windows. We only boarded up three windows to protect from flying debris and left the rest of the windows to fend for themselves.
The hurricane models by Saturday were projecting the path of Hurricane Irma to skirt the west coast of Florida. I was relieved, since one day earlier they were projecting the eye to come straight up the middle of the state. Orlando would be in the northeast quadrant of the hurricane, which would heavy winds and possible tornados. My wife and I were both very anxious and uncertain. This was about to be our first Category 3 hurricane since moving here.
The winds started really picking up around 5 p.m. Sunday. At 6:45 a tornado alert came through on our phones and we hid in the one interior closet. We tried to get the boys to sleep around 8, but they were having a blast being in the same room and didn’t go to sleep until 10. By then the wind howled consistently outside. Howled!
Sometime in the evening hours Hurricane Irma shifted course from the coast and headed inland toward Orlando once again. Another wave of anxiety hit. The eye wall would be passing near us. We could worry, or we could rest in the truth that we had prepared our house and yard as best we could for the worst to hit us. I tried to cling to that truth.
From 10 until midnight we rested in our bed which sits two feet from that 4×8’ plywood panel covering the front window. We listened to the roaring winds and the periodic ker plunk of tree parts pelting the roof. At midnight our 2-year-old started whimpering and I brought him into our bed. Our 5-year-old was a little jealous that I only grabbed our youngest.
Over the next three hours I tried to sleep with our littlest wedged between my wife and me. There was so much to listen to. I listened for any damage to the roof or windows. I had the sweet sounds of our little guy next to us (and this was possibly only the second time he’d slept in our bed with us). But most unnerving was maelstrom occurring just two feet away with only half-inch plywood protecting us from it. Man was there a racket going on out there.
The worst and windiest of Hurricane Irma supposedly would hit between 2 and 4 a.m. You could hardly tell the difference in sound from “bad” to “worst” because it all clashed and reverberated out there. And you couldn’t see any of it. The power went out for good at 3 a.m. and it was around that time that I finally put the little lump back in his crib. Now we had the bed to ourselves and only one sound to listen to.
A deep thought came to me at 3:30 a.m. as I lay there wondering what it looked like outside. I couldn’t see anything out there, I could only hear what was going on. It sounded gruesome. What am I listening to?
What am I listening to? This thought all of a sudden consumed me. What I listen to affects my state of mind at any point in time. If I just pay heed to the turbulence outside then I will worry about the effect of the turbulence. It’s true the cacophony was inches away at this moment, but I had a choice as to what I was listening to.
The other option was to listen to a calming voice in the midst of the tempest. Jesus says these calming words in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” It’s not just that He gives peace to us but that He gives HIS peace. This amazes me because His peace is unshakeable. And He offers it to us…if we will listen and take in this truth.
I have noticed when I listen to screamo music that I go into rage mode in the car. When I listen to my frustration I start yelling at inanimate objects. (Then my son reminds me those things don’t have ears.) If I listen to the lies about myself I have believed for years—like I’m unlovable or what I feel doesn’t matter—then my confidence and attitude go down in the dumps. I have to be careful what I listen to because my responses will soon follow.
So at 3:30 a.m. in the midst of the worst of Hurricane Irma with the howling tempest swirling inches from my head I chose to listen to the calm. You know what happened next? I fell asleep—while the worst of it raged outside. Next thing I knew it was 7 a.m.
We can all experience this peace in the midst of storms…I’m no one special. All it requires is us taking Jesus at His word. He promises this gift. We just reach out and embrace it and believe it.
At times this is so hard to do. I don’t know why all of a sudden in the driving tumult outside I could rest in this truth. But I did. It meant the difference between sleeping a little and not sleeping at all. And it could have happened whether there was half-inch plyboard protecting me or not. Although I’m still glad my neighbor gave me the plywood.