“Trying to reason with hurricane season" is pretty futile, as Jimmy Buffet sang in one of his songs. As we were standing on a sixth floor balcony overseeing the Caribbean Sea in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic last week, these words came home to us. Roiling above us in a 300 kilometer (almost 200 mile) span, the largest, deepest, thickest, most ominous lowering black mass of storm clouds descended inevitably toward us.
A fireworks display like every Fourth of July celebration put together since we were born intermittently lit up the entire sky. And we realized at that moment that every bit of technology we humans had put together across the world was pitifully incapable of veering it off its course. We counted the distance between one lightening flash and the rumble (1001, 1002, 1003,…) till we reached 90 seconds or about 90 miles away as the storm Isaac lumbered through the ocean past us, missing us by God’s grace and the prayers of many.
Even though the hurricane itself skirted by, it’s accompanying storms, like lower level thugs that tag along with a bully, buffeted us with high winds and torrential downpours of rain. The winds were reaching a gale of 85 kilometers per hour. Is this much? Imagine being hit by an auto running at 52 miles per hour! This constant wind persisted for two days, with never a pause, whipping through palm trees, bending them back, some being uprooted, most losing branches. Beaches were closed, ships restricted to port, people ordered to stay indoors, residents were evacuated from river areas, crops were blown away, some bridges collapsed. Normally tranquil Caribbean waves shot up 30 feet in the air as they hit rocky promontories. Tarpaulins shredded and metal fixtures snapped off from whipping in the winds. Vases blew off tables and shattered on the floor. Little sparrows, blown by the winds, had to redirect their wings to places of safety. Two of those birds took refuge in our balcony.
At such moments we confront the fact that, as humans, we are not able to be in control of all. If the earth is the handiwork of God and shows forth God’s nature, the lesson we learned is that winds as messengers of God communicate a glimpse of God’s vast power (Psalm 104:3-4). We make our plans, but, the Bible tells, the Lord directs our steps (Proverb 16:9). No human power can alter the greater forces of nature, but no force of nature is equal to the power of God.
The hurricane is not the supreme God (as the Tainos who preceded us in these islands all knew well), nor is God a hurricane. But nature can teach us about God through God’s creations. We humans need to be humble and dependent upon God for our well-being. To God we are like the sparrows. Even in the greatest storms, God can provide shelter. God’s winds can envelop and sweep us safely through the sky until we find refuge, if we recognize God as sovereign in our lives.
Bill & Aida