When It’s Storming – Look Up

Storm-8244Photo Courtesy © Myra Brizendine-Wilson

Tornadoes hardly ever strike Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. So that was the last thing we expected when we decided to spend the Fourth of July weekend there in 2001, along with nearly 400,000 other unsuspecting vacationers.

My 8-year-old son, Ben, was on the beach with neighbor friends who were vacationing with us. Feeling safe in the family-friendly atmosphere, we lost sight of the boys. By the time we saw the lightning, the boys were out of sight.

Afternoon thunderstorms are commonplace at the beach. No big deal, we thought.

Then the sky became eerily gray. The wind intensified. Dust and debris began to swirl all around us. Beach chairs spun in the air. Lifeguards quickly evacuated the beach.

Still no sign of Ben or his friends.

Meanwhile, this vicious funnel of destruction ravaged a two- mile path along the beach, with winds up to 157 miles an hour, knocking over buses and utility poles, damaging roofs, and blowing out windows in buildings and vehicles.

Just as the danger reached its pinnacle, lifeguards arrived in their pickup truck with Ben’s friends—but without Ben. When I learned the boys had been separated, I feared the worst.

I discovered later that Ben had found his way back to our room, completely unharmed. He had taken cover right before the tornado reached its destructive climax. His safety seemed a miracle, to say the least.

I had been on the fringe of powerful storms before, but this time my family was in the epicenter. The worst damage occurred at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion, right where we had been enjoying our peaceful vacation. About 400,000 homes were left without power. Our minivan was totaled by the high winds and debris.

None of that mattered once it was clear that everyone was safe and unharmed.

This event taught me some important lessons about the storms of life. First, storms can be scary, particularly when they come out of nowhere, when we least expect them. Without warning, blue skies and sunny days can be replaced by dark clouds and torrential rains. Second, storms have a way of showing us what’s really important.

As the Myrtle Beach tornado brought its swirling destruction my way, I realized our van and our belongings were of little value in comparison to the safety of my son.

And just as the water spouts in the Atlantic converged that holiday week in Myrtle Beach, the storms of life often come at us from all directions, making it almost impossible to protect ourselves.

Ask Lisa Beamer, who was pregnant with her third child when her husband Todd died aboard United Flight 93, which crashed a few months after our holiday weekend, on September 11, 2001. Amid her grief, she had the courage to look above her circumstances to the Source of her faith, which she relied on to restore her hope.

Elisabeth Elliot can tell you all about storms, too. After waiting five years to marry her missionary husband, Jim, she received the news that he’d been brutally murdered by the tribesmen he had been trying to help. After grieving and ultimately remarrying, her second husband died, too. How did she find the strength to go on? She, too, leaned on her faith for comfort and the reassurance that her experiences had a purpose greater than her individual life.

Lisa Beamer and Elisabeth Elliot are not superheroes. They faced human feelings and emotions just like us. Yet they learned to transcend their difficult circumstances—to live above them—by searching for and focusing on a higher purpose.

So when the storms of life converge on you from every side, look beyond yourself. Look up, to a higher purpose.

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