This time last week, I woke to the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine. The storm – stalled for days in the warm Gulf waters – had finally made landfall just after midnight. Most of Hermine’s wind and rain passed over us through the night as we slept.
We lost power sometime in the dark small hours of morning, causing the smoke alarm to give a half-hearted warning periodically, but all our electricity was back on by the time the last of the kids got up on what would be a no-school day.
The hurricane didn’t do any damage, thankfully, although it left a swath of yard debris. Our front lawn was littered with heavy limbs, green leaves and twigs, and hundreds of rangy branches draped with Spanish moss.
Friends west of us did not fare as well. The storm came in right at Florida’s elbow – the crook where Florida’s panhandle and peninsula meet.
In the panhandle city where we lived for 11 years, more than 100,000 homes were left without power. The storm uprooted huge oaks and toppled tall pines, making a tangle of downed electrical lines and blocked roads.
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I’ve watched as friends have posted statuses all week: “Finally have power! Friends please come for a hot meal and hot shower” and “Day 6: still no power.”
Friends also posted lots of these pictures:
A new start. Cleaned out. New life.
It’s been 10 years since Florida has had a direct hit from a hurricane. Storms can certainly bring their share of damage, leaving a trail of brokenness, damage and debris.
But there’s also this paradox: storms are a catalyst for new life.
Look at what science tells us comes from storms:
- Lightening is crucial to plant growth because it dissolves nitrogen into a form plants are able to absorb.
- Hurricanes stir up nutrients that have settled deep in the ocean helping marine life to thrive all the way up the food chain.
- Tropical cyclones re-balance our global climate so that the tropics don’t become too hot and the polar regions too cold.
- Fires open a forest up to needed sunlight and create nutrient-rich soil to produce trees much stronger and healthier than trees not touched by fire. The soil becomes so fertile that new growth is sometimes seen just days after a raging fire.
- Volcanoes shower ash over vast areas, enriching soil for new plant growth and farmland.
- Even earthquakes can uncover mineral deposits vital to the health of people and animals.
New life. Fertile soil. Abundant growth.
What’s true in the natural world is also true in the spiritual world. Storms in our life can certainly create destruction and damage.
Some storms howl and rage as they move over our life, but leave behind no real, lasting destruction.
But those other storms. They batter with full force, striking at our very roots, toppling us and leaving the life we knew in tangles. Even the best preparation falls insufficient.
Like nature, there’s this paradox: storms can be a catalyst for new life.
Storms can clean out the dead wood of our soul better than a thousand sunny days. When what we thought mattered so much is cleared away as so much worthless debris, we are opened anew to needed Sonlight.
Life’s storms can do their damage. Yes, they can. But if we will cling to God, even the most devastating storms can create in us fertile soil and make a place for abundant growth. New life that never would have come in the breezy ordinary.
Not new life despite the storm but new life because of the storm.
The hard work is not just in navigating through a storm; it also comes after the storm. Wreckage must be cleared; rebuilding must begin.
It will look different. New life always does. Not Plan B, but Chapter 2.
We have this hope from our good God: the new life that springs from the fertile soil of our suffering can thrive – strong, vigorous and abundant.