Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Shelter from the Storm?

“At least I’m going to die with people I love.” This was my anchoring thought as I watched my first Texas storm mount the horizon, its black clouds racing over the clear-sky blue.  
In retrospect, my reaction seems melodramatic, but as I felt the warm April air give way to a cold fury that day in 2007, I really thought my friends and I might be swept away.  We--mostly friends from my church lifegroup--had gathered to watch one couple’s son play in a Little League game.  No forecast had prepared us for the rapid storm, and I doubted aluminum bleachers would provide much shelter from a tornado. I don’t think we actually saw any funnel clouds, but I, true to form, jumped to the most interesting (and, in this case, terrible) conclusion: that we were all going to die in the storm. 
I quickly realized, however, that no one else seemed to share my resignation. Everyone else, including my friends, were rushing themselves and their families to the our nearby cars. I realized that I, too, would have to get into my car and try to drive back to the city.
Only then did I begin to panic. Grabbing hold of a friend’s hand and waiting for the storm didn’t terrify me, but the prospect of driving home by myself did.  This reaction certainly had something to do with my temperamental passivity, and also with the fact that, at the time of this storm, driving made me nervous even on halcyon days.  Even more, I was deeply troubled by the idea of enduring a storm alone. As a child I had waited out tornado warnings with my parents, and once or twice in college the residents of our dorm would be ordered into the basement when the weather raged.  Those storms had worried me, but they did not make me feel as wretched as having to outrun danger on my own.  
That first storm was on my mind last Thursday, when news of tornadoes compelled the residents of Waco to seek shelter in closets, halls, and bathrooms.  My roommate and I were both home when the sirens began to wail across the river, and our friend Steph joined us in our makeshift storm shelter.  We waited for nearly an hour, listening to the wind and hail. Fortunately, the storms passed with little damage, and the three of us were almost merry (or perhaps a little giddy) as we waited for news that it was safe to emerge. 

Steph snapped this photo from her couch-cushion fortress in our bathroom.
I am eating a fajita, while roommate Adrienne distracts us from our storm-worries. 

This time, I did not think we were going to die, but I was grateful to my core that we were together, and as we stepped into the bathroom, I had a strange peace about the possibility that maybe, just maybe, my worldly goods, or my car, or my walls and windows, might be gone when I came out again.  At the same time, I wondered how many in my apartment complex, neighborhood, and city felt alone as they listened to those sirens.
Home--we often say--is a place we find shelter from the storm. This saying is wise and good. But tornadoes remind us that those shelters can and will fail. Our walls can give way to winds, our churches can hurt us, and our friends can never give us all we need.  Thus, like the bewildered disciples, I am beginning to wonder if home must be something else: some love that stands unshaken as the storm makes black the sky. 

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