On Friday, September 8th, you decide to run from the hurricane.
You pack your car with the essential valuables and cover everything else inside with tarps, just in case one of the windows without plywood shatters when the brutal winds come.
Then you flee, the hurricane barreling toward you.
On the front side of a hurricane, everyone is in a hurry.
Everyone is also aware that you are in a hurry, too. From Orlando to Lake City, Florida, you witness kindness and patience beyond the usual.
On the front side of a hurricane, you find yourself teeming with similar patience and kindness, despite your everyday demeanor. Everyone wants safety for their families, and an invisible energy seems to invest everyone with these virtues, despite the cars lining up outside gas stations, long lines for bathrooms, and overflowing rest stops where exhausted families try to sleep in their overheating automobiles.
On the front side of a hurricane, questions abound, questions to which there are no safe answers. To stay is to embrace hubris and face the storm head-on. Will it be a lowly, tolerable Cat 1? Or a vicious, slate-cleaning Cat 5? Will your home flood? Will your home still exist after the winds pick it up like Dorothy’s farmhouse and hurl it into Munchkinland?
To evacuate is fraught with risk, too. Roads clog and resources evaporate. Gasoline, water, ice, bread, and all the things you don’t want too badly most of the time are suddenly scarce, precious elixirs of life.
On the front side of a hurricane, you marvel that the technology exists to warn you about this. In the past, humanity had to pay close attention to strange bird behavior and react accordingly.
On the front side of a hurricane, every mile passes slowly because it is dragged down by great emotional weight. You aren’t traveling. You aren’t vacationing. You’re fleeing. And fleeing leaves you drained like few other things.
On the front side of a hurricane, you worry about your loved ones like you never have before. They worry about you. Because no one can make a perfectly safe decision on the front side of a hurricane.
In the midst of the hurricane, there is silence.
The house is quiet with tension. The only sounds are sudden whistles of furious wind and the churning muscles of your nervous belly.
Then comes the unholy roaring and nerve-shattering crack of trees.
In the midst of a hurricane, the power surely flickers and dies.
Everything stops when the power goes out. There is a defined “before” and “after” with a power outage unlike anything else, because every facet of our lives is shaped by our dependence on it. We eat differently. We read books and play board games, while movies and Netflix and video games lie quiet and eerily dead. When the power goes out, we even sleep differently, tossing aside the covers so we don’t marinate in our own sweat.
In the midst of a hurricane, there is prayer. Meditation. Pleading. There is need that doesn’t penetrate our normal, daily experience. We build our lives around avoiding neediness and helplessness. A hurricane obliterates all of that.
It’s no mistake that when we lose “power,” we lose just that: Power. With our mastery of the electron, Mankind has assumed Power over Nature.
In the midst of a hurricane, Nature takes its revenge. There is little-to-no Power for man to grasp when his gadgets instantly stop their squawking, cut off without anticipation or build-up.
In that moment, when the lights abandon him and the machines go silent, Man knows that he has lost all Power, and he must wait, hunker down, and pray, with nothing else to busy his mind but a bleeding smartphone, darkness, and the thickening sound and fury.
On the back side of the hurricane, at least for an evacuee, the goodwill and patience of your fellow man is gone.
The same resources you were desperate for before are still in high demand, but now that everyone has survived, there is little tolerance for the presence of others. You are exhausted and annoyed and frustrated to be so inconvenienced, and magically forget that to others, you are simply another greedy evacuee who should get out of the way.
On the back side of the hurricane, you navigate the stop-and-go interstates and exit onto backroads, thinking yourself clever, until you slam the brakes and creep along in bumper-to-bumper traffic filled with other drivers thinking themselves clever, too. Then it all comes to a halt because an electrical pole has been cracked in two like a matchstick and the power lines it once supported now dangle precariously over the roof of your vehicle. A single police offer from Podunk, GA waves you through, a blank frown on his weary face.
On the back side of the hurricane, impromptu signs inform you: “No resources, next 25 miles.” Sure enough, police cars sit and block the off-ramps, for power hasn’t been restored nor has fuel been delivered in several days.
When you do find an open sit-down restuarant, the menu is abbreviated beyond recognition. You settle on chicken tenders and mac and cheese, and promise to get back on the diet wagon when life returns to normal.
On the back side of the hurricane, you return to a home without power, or wake up in one, and wonder with growing fury why your electricity cannot be fixed as quickly as that of your Facebook friends. Surely the power company doesn’t care about you. You are too poor, too remote, too whatever-reason-you-come-up-with, for the power to be restored in your home.
So you sweat and stink and wear four different shirts before the day is done. You change one of those shirts after standing outside to throw every piece of frozen meat on the grill and pray that when you eat it, it won’t kill your family.
The back side of a hurricane exposes our complete lack of control and our utter dependence on modern conveniences. One wonders if Jesus’ disciples, after He calmed the storm, asked Him to turn the power back on, too, because living in Palestine without AC isn’t really living at all.
On the back side of the hurricane, you wonder why things like this happen. Why was your home spared total annihilation? Why wasn’t it?
Why are some people, like the citizens of the Caribbean islands, doomed to die in storms like this?
And why are you, having been spared death and loss, still so irritable despite your unbelievable luck, fortune, and blessing?
On the back side of the hurricane, life slowly rises to its feet and takes those first hesitant steps forward. Your first step is to get out of the hot, stinking condo, and head to Panera. You decide to write a blog post.
You try to be patient with the 100 other people trying to restart their lives by hogging all the tables at Panera with power outlets.
And when one such table opens up, you scurry to it and spread your stuff everywhere so no one makes the mistake of thinking you’d be willing to share.
Because after everything, you deserve this moment of respite.
Before the hurricane, there is fear, but there is also patience and graciousness that is rare in the human race.
Yet after the hurricane, your gratitude is muted by manifold inconvenience. Some would call it selfishness or entitlement.
It need not be a hurricane that exposes this, either. It may be a disease. A disagreement between lovers or friends. The loss of a home or job.
No matter the disaster, it will be wild, unthinking, and uncontrollable. You will lose Power. You will be exposed for all of your good, and all of your bad.
And you will face another hurricane, not long after this one has passed.
Life is, in a way, just a series of hurricanes. They come and go, always forming in the ocean of our future, slowly churning toward all that we value and treasure, threatening our Power.
What is the point of this Power, after all? Why do we prize it so highly? Does it empower us, or enslave us?
This is your story and it is mine. It is a human story.
The hurricane has come and it has gone. It has taken my power, and and left me Powerless.
What matters more than anything, dear reader, is what you and I learn for tomorrow’s hurricane, and how we prepare for when it takes that which we value most: Our Power.
Will we love our fellow Man when that Power has been taken? Will we do so patiently, and selflessly?
Will we clear space at our table, swallowing the shame of our selfishness and sharing what little Power the calamity has allowed us to keep for ourselves?
Because the next hurricane will come.
Will you be ready?