Memories of Hurricane Hugo

I woke up this morning feeling the slight chill of Fall in the air. It felt good, but my spirit was unsettled as if remembering a shadow of a almost forgotten tragedy. My first thought was about the recent airplane crash at Columbia Metro, but I knew there was something else looming in my unconsciousness. It was Hurricane Hugo.

Hugo hit South Carolina over the night of September 21-22, 1989 packing 140 mph winds, a Catgeory 4 storm. Cindy, Narcie, Josh, Caleb and I huddled in the safest part of the house while the storm howled outside. We didn’t sleep as we listened to segments of roof and siding tearing off. The constant banging of the crawl-space door stopped during the night as it was finally blown 100 yards or more out into a field. The only contact we had with the outside world was our battery-operated radio that picked up a Jacksonville, Florida station. It was a rough night. The days to come were worse as we sought to help one another and witnessed the grief of people who lost their homes and their belongings, the vestiges of family history and hope. We clung to each other and to our faith as we helped one another recapture hope and saw the truth of resurrection overcome the storm’s fury. That is what I need to remember today, not how horrible it was, but that we overcame by the grace of God.

A very important lesson was gleaned from the hurricane, a lesson that has helped me when people have proffered that all-too-familiar question of “Why?” in the midst of their storms. God gave me a sermon the Sunday after Hugo about Jesus with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was asleep below deck. The disciples, who were seasoned fishermen, were staring down a storm and we’re afraid of drowning. They woke up Jesus who looked out into the storm and rebuked it saying, “Peace, be still!” The actual text says that he “rebuked” the wind and waves.

That struck me as interesting. The only other time Jesus used the word “rebuke” was in relation to evil. If one claims that Jesus is God and that God controls nature then why would Jesus have to rebuke something already under his control? This says to me that nature has a mind of its own, and that God’s freedom has a broad reach across the cosmos. Out of love God allows freedom and chaos to prevade the creation. God hates the storm as much as we do, and is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). God is with us in the storm.

When we face our storms of economic woes, health dilemmas, death, and worries about our children or aging parents, it does me good to know that Jesus can still the storms. Sometimes he doesn’t and I can’t answer why not. I can only answer that he goes with us through the storms. My nagging memory from 1989 this morning comes at a good time. We survived!

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