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Thunder in April

It feels as though anything can happen when it thunders. When the sky gets angry, turns so black to you don’t know whether it’s day or night, the natural order of things seems to have gone awry. The air is tense, anticipating the storm. It holds its breath until drip, drop, drizzle - the clouds cannot wait any longer. Then the rumbling comes, at first so low that it could be confused with a plane overhead or an oncoming train. Afterward, brilliance. Electrocution of the heavens. White blaze in a purple sky. All the world is sensual.

One evening in April a couple years ago, when the snow still resided in stubborn patches and the dull grass was drowning in mud, a storm came over the gray and unsuspecting earth of Arundel. I was home alone; Ethan had gone up to the County for work. It took me entirely by surprise; I was humming to myself in the kitchen when I heard a whining, a tapping, a movement whistling against the window. Rain began to splatter magnificently on the porch - splat, splash, splash. The sky was suddenly black - when had that happened? That’s when the first roll of thunder grumbled. My dog Pablo looked up from the couch, his eyes asking, “Should I be concerned?”

Before I could say, “Don’t worry,” a roar hit the house with such force that it trembled; we all trembled. And then the world was aglow. In a moment I saw the banks and the grass and the gnarled trees and the entire living room, pulsing in electric light. The splatters became torrents. The world had suddenly been overcome by madness, and all of nature thrown into chaos.

How confusing to the senses - the feeling that one moment everything in the world is in order, knowing what the routine is and what comes next, and then the next you know you have lost control and are indeed at the mercy of a wild and unpredictable beast.

Isn't that how it feels now? One moment, everything seemed fine, and the next, the world was aglow, everyone in every nation in this pandemic together. I never anticipated things looking like this.

Fear is my first response to being out of control. I become desperate, frantic, forceful. I begin to believe that if I only think about it hard enough, I will somehow be able to take back the reins. But no amount of ingenuity or hoping on my part can make the thunder quieter or the lightning less vibrant.

The night of that storm in April, I felt alone and scared and powerless to stop the storm. So I chose the only other option, the only way to not feel completely frustrated or afraid. I walked to the couch, pulled Pablo onto my lap, and watched in wonderment as the storm shook the house, making my ribs vibrate and my heart palpitate. The only alternative to fearing the loss of control is delighting in it.

“Do not fear the sudden terror,” Solomon writes in Proverbs 3:25-26, “or the storm of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being caught.”

Solomon does not say if the storm comes. He says when. We will surely be caught in the midst of storms, and they might even take us by surprise - say, while we are chopping carrots or humming softly to ourselves in the kitchen. Oh, how scary I used to find that, the notion that a storm - the terror - could strike at any moment. I hoped I could somehow be exempt if I was really very good, or at least if I was really very clever.

As it turns out, storms have taken me by surprise anyway, even despite my best efforts to anticipate and prevent them. But Solomon says we don’t have to be afraid, even when that happens. The Lord is our confidence. Confidence means bravery, assuredness, and faith. It means our knees aren’t shaking and our feet aren’t tripping. It means our minds aren’t racing, desperate and doubting. Solomon says the Lord will keep our feet from being caught. We won’t be stuck like animals, waiting in a trap for the worst possible outcome. Fear traps us. Wanting to be in control traps us. But the

Lord - he frees our feet. And if we admit to the fact that we cannot control the situation, and actually delight in the relief of handing it over to Him, he frees our minds, as well. He turns chaos into perfect peace.

That night, the storm outside continued magnificently for quite some time. I did not know what damage it would cause. I did not know when it would end. I just stayed wrapped in my blanket, watching the show. Finally, the thunder rumbled on, moved past Arundel and perhaps over onto another town. It sounded like the cargo train, trundling along to its next stop. The lightning flashed with less frequency, less luster. The wind fell from a howl to a snore. And then the storm was over.

Storms are inevitable. But every storm ends. We can choose to wring our hands and fight with the wind and knock ourselves out, or we can be confident in the Lord and find strange unearthly delight, right through the shaking and the damage and the uncertainty. We can choose to glue our feet to the floor by insisting on control, or we can choose to give it to the Lord, so we can have feet that are free to walk through the storm with our Confidence.

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