When I see the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I think of Isaiah saying God opens “a way through the waters” and makes “a dry path through the sea” (Isaiah 43:16 NLT). Isaiah teaches us to “[f]orget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” He says “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV).
A way in the wilderness teaches us not to judge by appearances.
If we hang on to the past, we never see the promise of the future. A way in the wilderness pushes us beyond the status quo. Sometimes nature forces us to let go of the old, so that we can create the new. We cannot see a way in the wilderness if we believe the cup is half-empty instead of half-full. We cannot dwell on the people who died in the storm without uplifting the millions who survived it. We cannot mourn the loss of trees, buildings and cars to the storm without praising the glory of every tree, building and car that survived it.
We cannot curse the storm, rains and floods without praising the computers, scientists and forecasts predicting the hurricane’s time, distance and impact. The truth is we are blessed. We may not have all heeded the warnings, nor could we predict Hurricane Sandy’s actual damage. But we were able to prepare, to stock up, to board up, and – for many of us – to get out of harm’s way. For example, New York City, where I live, evacuated Zone A. I live right on the end of Zone A – in Zone B in Brooklyn near Red Hook. I am a living witness that the water rose right up to the end of my block, the edge of Zone A, and stopped.
The science behind the prediction of the storm and its trajectory, the widespread media coverage that warned us, and the communal efforts to minimize the danger of the storm’s downfall days before it arrived was our way through the wilderness, our dry path through the sea. Spirit is doing new things through us – directing us and guiding us and educating us beyond the boundaries of former knowledge so we can redirect our course, enhance our environment, and shield ourselves from the storm. We are blessed.
Every storm teaches us something new: how to anticipate, how to evacuate, how to conserve, how to protect, how to build, how to create better safeguards. Every storm allows us to demonstrate our compassion, our love, our devotion, our relationship, our concern about each other. We are our way through the wilderness, our stream in the wasteland, our peace in the storm.
The storms in our lives may be devastating but they are also the challenges that teach us how to be our best – not just for ourselves but for others. Storms may be messy and painful but they are also openings that allow us to grow into a new awareness that the temple of God is who we are. God is the Spirit in which we live. But God’s peace also lives in us.
Storms teach us that even when the world seems troubling, peace is here. Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). He said “I am in the Father and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20 NIV). Peace dwells in us.
Yes, we have clean up to do. We have healing to do. We have building to do. But these are the things that provide our peace in the storm. We must pay attention to the spaces that are now empty, and bless them because they provide new avenues for success. We must watch the signs that lead to unforeseen directions because they give us the freedom to chart new courses. We must reach out to those in need because they are bridges to building even stronger community. We cannot worry about what is ripped and torn because even the unsalvageable will open unexpected doors with unlimited opportunities. So what if tides have risen and oceans have blended with rivers, they chart an untapped path to walk the waters of our convictions. Who cares if we cannot walk the water yet, every sinking step only results in an even stronger foundation for the renewal of our faith.
Wishing you peace, so that you may see absolute good — even in this wilderness.