"Stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong."
- I Corinthians 16:13
The temptation for Jesus to cast himself down from the Temple (Matthew 4:6) or perform other spectacular events for a breathless crowd didn't end in the wilderness, nor was Satan His only tempter.
For years I alternated between trying to live my faith by "the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 12:1) and the thrill of recounting the latest spectacular (to me) event God had worked in my life. Faith without drama would suffice for a while, until a situation arose that seemed perfect to demonstrate heavenly power and, like a backstage prompter, I whispered to God his cue. I think of one time in particular.
While living in Germany and representing the Protestant Women of the Chapel in Europe, I embarked on a two-week journey to visit other chapel women in Turkey, Greece, Sicily and Crete. Although I would be traveling on military aircraft, there were tensions between the countries involved and I was warned not to vary from the itinerary set by the U.S. Air Force.
The Saturday following my visits in Turkey I boarded another aircraft for a flight to Athens, where I was scheduled to take part in the worship service the next morning. But after five trouble-free days, my sacred itinerary was about to change. High winds over Athens forced us to land somewhere else: Ramstein, Germany, three flying hours away. With no scheduled flights back to Greece until Monday - or Sicily and Crete until later in the week - it appeared my itinerary could hardly be more varied. My confident prayers in the air - that God would repeat his Sea-of-Galilee miracle and still the wind for me, too (Mark 4:37-40) - turned to panic on the ground.
Somberly I followed the other passengers into the terminal and searched for a phone. Maybe someone from "itinerary control" would be manning the after-hours phone on a Saturday night. I was so self-absorbed I almost missed the announcement.
"To repeat: All those who would like to make a return flight to Athens tonight, please sit on the right side of the terminal."
Was God stilling my storm after all? Perhaps, but as I soon learned, the plane was also carrying some very important cargo, and it was needed in Athens a lot more than I was. After servicing the aircraft and assembling another crew, that important cargo and at least one humbled passenger returned to the now calmer skies, and made an uneventful landing at 5 o'clock Sunday morning. I had lost a night's sleep, but not one event on my itinerary was upset.
I've told this story often, and repeat it now for the connection I see between my storm and recent hurricanes Rita and Katrina. I have no doubt thousands, perhaps millions of people were praying for God to still those storms, too, but he didn't. I shudder at the destruction and loss of life, yet I see parallels between my storm and theirs in what such experiences teach us.
• To our benefit, no matter how urgent the plea, God seldom supersedes his natural laws - wind, rain, gravity, centrifugal force, etc. - to grant one or a few persons an "anti-lawful" reprieve. Answering our prayer could create havoc somewhere else. We need to know that season follows season, night follows day, gravity works consistently, and the elements take turns doing their assigned tasks: watering, nourishing, and warming the earth.
• Whatever the calamity or storm, it may not be the last or the worst one we'll ever experience. Each event is training ground for the next. Just as Katrina helped us weather Rita better, both hurricanes - plus our memories of 9-11 - have taught us how to be better prepared for whatever storm or attack we almost certainly will face again.
"I know not what the future holds," says the songwriter, "but I know who holds the future; and he holds the whole, wide world in this hands."
Perhaps God knows what he's doing after all when, instead of stilling every storm, he lets some of the wind blow.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.