The question has long been part of the unpredictable weather patterns of life. It arrives unexpectedly like the wind, "How can we survive the storms?" The question impinges upon us like a pounding storm front.
When the sky is covered with dark clouds, we make last minute preparations, securing the windows and bringing everything inside. We get candles out of storage and flash lights out of the closet. We turn on the emergency radio, but such precautions are not enough when the sky tears open and lightening strikes.
During the fall, a thunderstorm descended upon our house, as I watched the trees blow from side to side for hours. The rain was hard and constant, while the wind was relentless. We listened throughout the night as limbs fell, and the rain pelted the window of our room.
The next morning I stood in the front yard looking at our tallest tree that now leaned to one side. The tree used to stand straight and tall, reaching towards the sky, but after the wind and the rain had beat against it for hours, it now bent over with withered strength. Every limb on the tree was pushed to one side and slouched over, but I assumed that when the sun came out and kissed the branches, they would pull themselves up and straighten out. I knew that the rain was strong, but I was convinced the tree was stronger.
As each day and then each week passed, my hope dwindled because the tree stayed bent over as a permanent memory of the passing storm. The storm was temporary; its effects were lasting. This is why the question, "How can we survive the storms?," always lingers.
Weathering temporary storms is challenging, but enduring their lasting effects is terrifying. If we are honest, we must admit that temporary storms have lasting effects. The tree that used to stand tall and straight will now always lean and bend. Partial recovery may be the only recovery. With such honesty, our eyes can begin to see clearly the new possibilities of a healed life. Honesty helps divert our eyes away from permanent resentment, eliciting faith in renewed possibilities.
Even though the tree in my front yard leans and bends, it stands on the strength of its deep roots. It is held up by its deepest strength, and even though its branches never straightened out, the sun still rises and kisses its branches. We find enduring strength in the community of faith and in the presence of God. We find mercy for the journey and hope for despair. We discover that what we lost yesterday does not completely limit what we may gain tomorrow. Even when partial recovery is the only recovery, it does not translate into partial joy. When enduring the lasting effects of temporary storms, we lean on the lasting grace of God.