Hurricane Irma, downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time she reached us in Georgia, was my first experience with this type of disastrous weather. Growing up in Southern California, I have experienced earthquakes. My first duty station when I served in the US Army was at Fort Riley, Kansas, so of course I experienced a couple tornadoes. There are similarities and differences with all three of these and I learned something from each, as well.
During my first earthquake, I remember my dad was taking a shower and thought my sister and I were running up and down the stairs. As the light hanging from the high ceiling of the staircase swung, my sister and I just looked at each other with mouths agape. Nothing broke in our house, but it left my nerves on edge. Strong earthquakes leave you feeling shaken the entire day.
When I was first married and our daughter was six months old, my husband was working the night shift and I experienced my first tornado. Unlike Dorothy, we didn’t end up in the land of Oz, instead I ended up with a new destiny as I cried out to God in the midst of the din and gave my life to the Lord. Tornadoes, like hurricanes and tropical storms, are loud and also test your nerves.
When Irma arrived in Georgia, she had already dissipated and her gusts topped out under 70 miles an hour. Regardless, I learned what mattered when it came to the destruction and mess she left was what surrounded your house.
The house of the left is ours – surrounded by tall trees on every side. The one of the right is the neighbor’s across the street you see in the first picture. He has two lone trees, both have been cut back recently, and neither are very close to his home.
During the storm, he said it was quiet other than the wind. He and his wife went about their day and just kept safely inside. On the other hand, my house sounded like a concert that should have been canceled with tree limbs and nuts falling on the roof in a terrible beat. We hadn’t really done anything other than mow our lawn and sweep the walk since we moved in a couple of months ago. As you can see from our curbside-pick-up pile versus our neighbor’s – the clean up requires more labor when you’re surrounded by trees, as well.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
As I walked around our neighborhood this morning, grateful that we only experienced the little mess we did in the house we are renting, I noted how many other houses, like ours – surrounded with trees for shade in the summer – had a larger clean up than those whose trees were recently pruned or fewer in number. And the Lord spoke to me and said, “That’s the difference with some of My children. They surround themselves with the shade of this world, to avoid the heat of my refining fire, only to put themselves in the position of destruction when the storm comes.
The storm is coming, too. Whether it comes as an earthquake – where an event shakes you to your core and all that’s left standing is your faith, however small or large that may be; or as a tornado – sweeping in and blowing the facade off your blessed and highly favored life that you purport, covering up the sin and shame of a weak relationship with your Creator; or as a hurricane or tropical storm – beating vehemently at the life you’ve built, surrounded by shade trees of this world or landscaped by the Designer of the Garden. The storm is coming.
I would recommend you allow the Great Gardner to come in and prune back those trees – of idols you’ve placed before Him (anything that you give more attention to than God is an idol); of watered-down Scripture (it is the whole truth that sets you free, not the pieced-together-because-it-supports-my-sins version you choose to meditate on); of reluctant obedience to what God is telling you to do (delayed obedience is disobedience and without following God, you’re wasting your energy and time in this world.)
Your clean up from the storms in your life is dependent on the landscaping of your heart. Allow God to come in and cut back the branches (you might have to lose some friends), pull the weeds (the devil is scattering seeds daily, that’s why you need to always put on the armor of God), and water your yard (as you draw the water of wisdom from His Word and time with Him – it is in those moments you grow, new life begins, and your foundation is strengthened. Otherwise, you’ll line the curb of your life with the debris of your storms for all who drive by to see – and that’s not a good witness to His Presence in your life.
~Blessings and shalom,