You may think this post will be about Saul of Tarsus who met Christ on the road as he was hunting down the followers of Christ. The Christians were fleeing Jerusalem for Damascus Syria from the “face of death” and the confiscation of their belongings because they loved Christ.
I posted the previous blog about worshipping in the face of fear. What do you do with fear and anxiety as a Christian? The kind of anxiety that causes your chest to squeeze and you lay awake staring at the ceiling thinking of all the possible scenarios that the media is telling you.
We went to bed Saturday night (10th) with the news telling us that we were a bullseye for unprecedented destruction. My friends who were staying to ride out Irma were now fleeing due to mandatory evacuations! The potential catastrophic scenarios were played out over and over on T.V. We chose to worship. We did not pray an agenda that the hurricane would go away. We prayed that we would know what to do afterward to rebuild our lives and how we could help others while we may need help. Should we stay or go from Florida, our home? We prayed for our friends. We prayed for those who had suffered already and those about to be hit. We were terrified. That word carries no feelings. The best way to describe terrified is a racing heartbeat, and our appetites fled like those running from the hurricane! Our joints ached from holding in the stress. We had to take long breaths and let them out slowly as we answered texts and Facebook posts from well-wishers. Sometimes we shook, and our hearts felt like rubber and that they would stop at any moment. And we worshipped by reading psalms back to the Lord.
Rewind a week to September 2. As Mary and I left Florida for Madison WI to spend time with our family, and friends until the end of September, we got word of Irma forming in the eastern Atlantic. It was winding up fast and headed toward the Caribbean. Lord, what should we do? Do we turn back around and make the house more “bullet” proof than what we had already prepared? Or should we let our family back in St. Petersburg finish up? We decided on the latter.
I sensed from the Lord that “you are not to worry about this hurricane.” Did I just really think that? Had I just said this to myself to feel better? So, I shared with Mary, and she had the same sense and an unusual calm about Irma. But the media was telling us we SHOULD WORRY. This storm was of monstrous proportions and ferocity. So was Saul of Tarsus. He had a small army chasing innocent people. Can I catch a glimpse of their fears with Irma? They had no control over Saul, and we had no control over Irma.
Fast forward “all Irma news week” to last Sunday (11th) morning at church. The night before I was beside myself with fear while watching the news coverage. I suffer from worry and anxiety caused by “what ifs” and “I should not have or should have done something different,” and “I wouldn’t be in this mess if I would have_____________”(fill in the blank).
Did I hear you correctly Lord, not to worry? I doubted myself. Why was He strangely silent all week because I pleaded with Him to give further confirmation that I heard correctly or not so what could be the reason He isn’t answering me? Now I worried that I sinned somehow and was letting the Lord down by not believing correctly? You can see my head was spinning. Storm, monster, fear, the news is predicting catastrophe, etc. I am writing honestly.
We went to a church in Madison WI. The worship team began singing uplifting worship songs. I was pulling my emotions along and trying to leave my fear aside, which wasn’t working well. I then saw the worship leader decide to change songs. The song she chose was going through the storms of life with the Lord! I was stunned by this song selection. I was appreciative of the lyrics and the quality of the worship team. As I sang, I had tears. Then a sense of love and care from God came pouring over me like cold fresh water. I thanked Him for being so supportive to our family and worshipped again for our safety. Our physical possessions a concern but our Florida family was safe.
After the worship concluded I asked to share that we were from Florida visiting and were in a state fear due to hurricane Irma. We brought Florida and H. Irma to this little church in Madison WI. The face of destruction was staring us down. The early Christians were running too from destruction. I held back tears as I tried to share. Someone came over to pray for us. The pastor shared a message about the name of God being a mighty Creator and that He is in control.
I had wanted to hear from the Lord, and it finally came through the worship and message of the pastor. But then I remember the disciples in the storm-tossed boat and Peter asked to leave the boat and go out to the Lord who was walking on water in the midst of the storm. And the thought came to me: “If you are going to step out of the boat in faith - don’t look at the storm, but instead keep your eyes focused on the Creator who controls the storm….”. The “storm” in this case was watching the media. So, the lesson was clear. I had heard from the Lord about not worrying about this storm a week earlier. I did take a step of faith but chose to focus on the storm. But through my mistake of not keeping my eye on Him, He taught me a great deal about my worry and fear that plagues my life. I have a new brick in my foundation and a deep heart healing over fear. But in a relationship with God, aren’t the purpose of trials and circumstances to change us? Don’t they show us what is “in” us so we can work with Him to receive healing? And secondly, He was loving and caring to help heal my fears by giving me a great life lesson.
Back to the story. The rest of Sunday I had not watched any news of the storm and had a growing peace. It was more like joy. A quiet knowing joy that all would be well as I had originally heard a week earlier, but this time my mind focused on Him, and my fears were abating. As the storm unfolded towards midnight, what the news was reporting and what was happening on the ground were remarkably different, so different that I will not use the news media for information on storms. I will use radar and graphing models to watch the track.
My brother texted me that he was going outside as the eyewall had just passed near St. Petersburg and I looked on the radar, and it was true! Another friend texted and said that light wind and rain was happening. The news was not reporting this! Before the eyewall was passing, they had moderate rain, which is nothing unusual for a summer storm in Florida but which included 60 miles an hour winds which caused lots of damage. But not the damage that was T.V. predicted. Why Tampa/St. Pete was spared I will never know?
The two lessons are: We worship regardless of the outcome, and the second lesson is if you are going to step out of the boat in faith - keep an eye on Jesus our Creator - not the storm.
And this blog post is about the Damascus Road experience that was a major event in Paul’s life and the life of Christians. Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus. And we met Christ through the good people of Damascus Road Church in Madison WI.