Things began to unravel around eleven a.m. that day. I glanced at social media and noticed a post by a high school classmate who lives in a border state to our west. She had shared a video of a nasty storm that had rolled just through.
Minutes later, I received a text message from our oldest daughter Liz whose family had just set out that same morning traveling home following a visit. Liz said they had to drive one hundred miles per hour to avoid an encounter with a dangerous storm, which was now bearing down on our youngest daughter Maggie’s city in the center of our state. Immediately, I called Maggie, who had this to say when she answered, “Mom, I have never seen a storm like this, the sky was black, it was like a hurricane hit us. The streets are flooded, trees and powerlines are down everywhere.“
I disconnected and turned on the local news, only to discover that same wicked storm had us in its crosshairs.The newscaster reported sustained winds of over one hundred miles per hour. It was a hot and humid August morning in Iowa, nothing out of the ordinary had been forecasted; only a slight chance for pop up storms. It sounded like a doozy had certainly popped up and it was only a matter of time before this intense storm racing across our state at mach speed would be upon us.
We had about an hour and a half to prepare before zero hour. I have lived through many storms, I knew what to do. I ran across the farm to alert the guys. We battened down the hatches. I posted a warning on social media to give others a heads up. I didn’t know how long we’d be without power, but I knew it would likely be days. I texted others to please pray, ate lunch, made a thermos of hot coffee and took a quick bath. I was to find out later most had little or no advance warning whatsoever.
And just like that it was here. The dog and I went to the basement.
That weird voice came over the emergency broadcast system, I couldn’t understand what it was saying. The sirens blew, we lost power, it seemed like dusk at midday. And that was only just the beginning, for nearly forty five minutes the sirens and the wind blew and blew and blew. I prayed. The dog slept.
When the worst seemed to have passed I came up out of the basement to assess the damage. Tree limbs down, horse, cat and farm buildings all intact. But the tree debris in the road was incredible. I later learned the DOT sent out snowplows to clear roads. I drove to our son’s house to check on his family as we had limited cell phone access and along the way I saw trees snapped off, buildings and grain bins destroyed and displaced, tossed in fields like giant discarded pop cans. Crops were flattened. By the grace of God there were few storm deaths. Some were without power days and others for weeks. The storm added insult to injury for so many already hurting from the chaos of 2020. Not to mention the looting and thefts that followed. And yet, there was so much good that came out of the storm, neighbor helping neighbor. And the response one chose to the devastation, fear and chaos brought about by the storm seemed to depend on where you had your feet planted.
The floods came. the rain descended, and the winds blew and beat upon the house…
These words were spoken by Jesus at the end of his Sermon on the Mount given in the Gospel of Matthew. Even though he and his disciples do experience a nasty storm in a boat on the sea, and Jesus, like my dog, slept through the worst of it. I don’t think that is what he is referring to here. Jesus lays out two responses to the storms of life in this beautiful metaphor about who and what we build our life upon.
1)The first house is built by a wise man upon a rock.
And it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.
And to fully understand what he means in this statement, we must take a look at what was said and done before he makes this declaration. He has recently been declared to be the Son of God by both his cousin John the Baptist and God himself. Those declarations were followed up by Jesus with fasting, prayer, alone time with God and a successful standoff with temptation by the devil. He gathers some folks to train up for the mission and shares with not them but thousands of others what the Kingdom of God looks like. AKA the Sermon on the Mount which spans Matthew Chapters five through seven. In these few chapters he lays out to us what building your house on the rock looks like, which is revolutionary both then and now. Following Jesus and God’s way of doing things are quite contrary to the way the world says we should live.
Jesus lays out attitudes and behaviors such as living a humble life, avoiding temptation, being connected to God through private prayer, being peacemakers and loving your enemies and praying for them is what Kingdom of God living is about. And makes clear that he isn’t abolishing the law or prophets but fulfilling them. (Because he is God with skin on!). And when we believe his words, place our trust in him and do these things, when, not if, the storms come and we are beat on by the inevitable troubles in life, we will stand, because Christ’s infinite, eternal Kingdom is the solid rock we chose to build our life on.
2) The second house is built by a foolish man upon the sand.
And it fell, and great was the fall of it.
Jesus warns us in these few chapters, and really the Bible is full of these same warnings from start to finish, if our faith and trust is built upon our finite selves, our things, our success or the shifting sand of the culture around us we are only fooling ourselves. Hating your enemies only increases hatred in the world, that’s what everybody does, don’t get mad, get even, you know the gig. The world teaches us to ask, “What’s in it for me?” And to make sure everyone knows how great I am, or at least I think I am and worrying about what to eat or wear, or the future. But these are the very things he so radically said we, if we choose to follow him, must not do. These very things are the sand the house that had a great fall was built upon.
There have been times in life when I could see the approaching storm and paid absolutely no attention to the looming dark clouds I had seen all before. We Iowans are famous for watching the storm roll in from our front porch because most of the time they aren’t as destructive and they are, in my midwestern state, a fact of life. And there have been storms brought on by my own choices and pride or that of others, that I seemed to slip through with only minor damage.
And then there are the game changers. Like the storm of August 10, 2020.
Where will you choose to weather the storm? Where will you have built your house when the inescapable storm of life rolls in and has you in its crosshairs? With or without warning, the floods will come and the rain will beat upon you. Will you stand or will great be your fall?
Be joy filled always,