As the night darkened, the wind blew. Leaves swirled, flooding the street. A giant sycamore leaf hurtled toward the windshield causing me to duck. We got home and battened down the hatches as best we could. I checked our emergency supplies. This was the kind of wind that knocked things out. This was the kind of wind that could spring fire.
As my household went soundly to sleep, I listened from my bed. Hearing a bump, I went to the hallway and flipped on the outdoor lights to investigate. A tumbleweed as big as a refrigerator lay in front of the patio door. Now wide awake, I ran out to tie down furniture covers and move objects to safety as the wind blew them up and around. Amazingly, it wasn’t cold. It was balmy. But that wind. That wind was bringing something. With ripe expectation, I turned on all the patio lights, moved my chair to the large picture window and sat down, mesmerized, as my garden bells waved and rang in the dark.
My little valley doesn’t get much wind. The mountains serve to shield the gales that dash a few miles down at the gap. As sleep called, I pushed it away. Like a child waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve, I didn’t want to miss it. My dog gave up and left for his cushion. A little plane appeared crossing the sky, lights blinking. I couldn’t imagine how that felt. Maybe they were above the fray.
Then, like Elijah said, the stillness came. What? I strained to hear, as for many minutes, the stillness reigned.
The rain did not start with a pitter-pat. The only warning was one leaf twirling slowly in a circle. Then the sky broke open. As an orchestra moving to crescendo, suddenly the cymbals thumped and the drummers drummed and the whole brass section went to war with the strings.
I sat inside. Protected. Covered. A witness.
At the hospital earlier that evening, I had seen large golden letters marking the Serenity Lounge. Grateful such a place existed, I was disappointed when I approached the door and saw it had a keypad that said “Staff Only.” Why even announce it then? Unlike my safe spot in my home, the lounge was not an inside. It was a you stay outside. A false positive. A red herring. A mistranslation. I remarked to my friend, “That’s what it’s like to be LGBTQ in the church.”
Distracted from my thoughts by another gust, I thought, “The wind and the waves shall obey thy will, peace, be still.” I remembered a talk given long ago about the obedience of waves and wind and their immediacy in responding to God’s command compared to the overthinking of the average disciple – I’ll obey–after I bury my father, after I settle my accounts, after I say goodbye to my family.
Quickly my mind moved on to more menial fare. I wondered if the week old patch in our roof would hold. I wondered how the holiday trimmings in the neighborhood yards would fare. I began to wonder how long I could last, sitting witness to the storm, before like Peter, James, and John, sleep would overtake me.
The rain, though heavy, did not reawaken the wind. Rather, the wind dove down, under the waves, like the divers who sailed out of the harbor early in the morning to start their scuba adventure, only to surface that afternoon to see Phuket had been destroyed by a tsunami wave that had gone right over them. I could see the rain in the lamplight. I could hear it on the rooftop.
The once twirling leaf flattened with the beating. I would stay at least a little longer.
Rain is my sleep sound — the sound that plays on my Calm app each night to soothe and accompany me to sleep. I thought of the sleepiness of Lahaina, the unawareness of what could happen, what would happen, when that wind whipped through. Or for that matter, music festival goers in Israel, or hospital workers and residents in Gaza, or grocery shoppers in Buffalo, or, or, or . . . .
As this storm strengthened, I felt I had to see it through. This is the penance I now require of myself after walking out of the theater at the end of Schindler’s List when the horror was too much. Which was the right reaction? Fleeing or watching? Like bells on Christmas Day, there was no peace on earth. Would I turn my head, pretending I just didn’t see? The answer was blowing in the wind, my friend.
My mind skipped from phrase to worn-out phrase, now in the wee hours of the day and lacking sleep. What would morning bring? What mourning would be brought?
I scolded myself: I’ve got to stop thinking, wondering. Go to bed. Morning will come, and I’ll need to respond to my to-do list.
Paralyzed by inadequacy and weighed down by difficulty, I grappled with survivor’s guilt while praising God for my warm, safe bed; for my strong, electrified house; for my shawl around my shoulders. Like the apostles, I failed to abide the night, falling into bed and sleep even though thunder rolled, widening my eyes one more time.
When overwhelmed, I use my Psych 101 phrase: “I wish I could . . . but since I can’t, I will . . .” Earlier in the evening, mine sounded like, “I wish I could cure my friend’s cancer, but since I can’t, I will go visit him in the hospital.” God’s sounds like, “I wish there was peace on earth, but since there isn’t, I’ll provide a Savior, who is Christ the King.”
Perhaps sleep came to me because, like Peter, James, and John, I bear the same witness as they, to the storm, to the hospital, to the church. The anointed one, bowing in Gethsemane that night, was making everything okay. Not mortally okay, or even morally okay. Heavens no, but immortally okay. Big picture okay.
Like Amy Wright shared in October General Conference, after learning she had cancer, the answer to both her questions – will I die? will I live? was “everything will be okay.” She heard, like myself and so many others, the most common answer to prayer, “I have graven thee on the palm of my hands. Everything will be okay.”