The bottom of one of the clouds began to spin, and a point formed. The point dropped down, and then it was a narrow tube. A tornado. We could see it from the mountainside, and my family and the other campers near us gathered to watch Mother Nature do her thing. Twisting and turning wildly through the valley floor, tearing up pastures and brush as it moved along.
I was so scared when I saw the tornado. I am not sure how to describe it except that maybe like a dog that senses a thunderstorm and is filled with anxiety and fear. I remember asking my mom what we would do if it came up to where we were. How would we be protected?
My first encounter with a mega-storm was just a few years earlier when Hurricane Carla came across the coast of Texas near Galveston. I was just 3 years old, but I remember playing on the front porch of our home in Houston during the eye of the storm. Roofing shingles, dead birds and branches littered the front yard as I rolled my metal Tonka truck back and forth under the covered porch. Then little-known newsman Dan Rather reported live from the Galveston Seawall during the storm, an act that would be imitated by later reporters. This marked the first live TV broadcast of a hurricane. I don’t remember being scared at all.
Growing up each year on his birthday, my oldest son got to go fishing. We would skip school and head to the lake and spend the day doing what we loved to do. One day as we floated along talking, he looked at me and started laughing and pointing.
“Your hair is standing straight up,” he said with an innocent laugh.
At that very moment I realized we were in trouble. I told him to set his rod down and sit down. I quickly hopped into the driver seat and motored us to the closest dock. We had been watching a thunderstorm roll in but were enjoying the breeze and the increased action with the fish. I never thought about the potential we might get hit by lightning. It is rare but possible, which scared me.
Fear is something that can wreak havoc in our minds and our lives if we don’t understand it. Unreasonable fear can cause phobias like driving on a freeway or riding in an elevator. There are times I am walking in the dark and in my mind I know it is safe, but I still fight being scared of something. I don’t quite know why that is, but I do.
I truly think that Satan uses fear in our lives to take us out of the game, too. He uses fear to keep us from asking for help. He uses it to keep us from making friendships or taking off time from work to be with our family. He uses it to convince us we can’t do things and are unworthy. He uses it to keep us from opening up and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to our spouses or friends when we are hurting or have needs. It can keep us from being who God wants us to be, who He has trained us to be. Fear manifests itself in so many ways, and for me I have to check in with God regularly and ask what is it I am afraid of that is keeping me from Him. I have to be willing to ask, and I have to be unafraid to hear the answer.
When we were on the mountainside that day and I asked my mom what we would do to keep safe if that tornado came up the mountain she said, “Well, we could lay in the ditch right there, and it will go right over us.”
I ran to the ditch and checked out where my spot was going to be – I wanted to know where I was going when it hit. The whole thing only lasted a few minutes before the tornado dissipated. I learned later that it would not have come up the mountainside anyway. I didn’t know that then and I was scared but knowing my mom had a plan, that she knew what to do, made me feel better.
I know today that God has a plan for me and that everything is part of that plan. I know He has a safe place for me when things are dangerous. Even still, in my humanity, I forget and feed into the fear of everyday life. Fear of death and sickness, money and accidents. But all in all I learned that tornados don’t go up the mountainside and hurricanes come and go. I know that those times I run and jump into the ditch He is with me, protecting me and I am safe. Fear, be damned.