My 13-year-old has been obsessed with weather since the day she was wobbly legged, teetering from one foot to the other in a toddler rain dance. She could tell me about the towering cumulonimbus with its anvil head and tornado spawning downdrafts by the time she was 5. I remember the hours I spent with her in “exposure therapy,” walking her outside under the porch roof in the middle of a thunderstorm, asking her to rate her fear on a scale of 1-10, then making her stay in the middle of her terror until the 10 backed down to 9, then 8, then 7 before heading back inside. The face-your-fear style of therapy mitigated her storm-related anxieties, but the intrigue of a good storm has continued to captivate her as she’s grown.
I’ve been thinking about storms lately too, pondering the notion the preacher presents in Ecclesiastes that God has appointed the day of prosperity as well as the day of adversity. In the storms, we are to consider this. So says the preacher whom I trust to be wiser than I. I’ve also been thinking about another wise teacher, the Apostle Paul, who said many years later, “Give thanks always and for everything.” Give thanks for the day of prosperity. Give thanks for the storm of adversity. Easier said than done, it is somehow (I believe) the key to living in the storm with joy.
In this country we have enjoyed a run with prosperity. We are rich. But many of us are losing homes and jobs. While I’ve lost neither, I still feel the pinch of diminishing home values and a grey sky of job insecurity, like the grey sky of winter that begins to weigh on the spirit and make one long for sun. Our house is under contract, a contract that came in just 12 days after listing it for sale. It was easy to be thankful for such speedy sale. The grey clouds began forming when the appraisal came in under purchase price, and we were faced with the decision to write an addendum to the contract lowering the price. The rain began falling when the inspector noticed that the insulation wrapping the duct work in the attic seems to be asbestos, and same insulation has torn open. Then came the lightning, electrifying our already frayed nerves. The inspector crawled under the house yesterday and said he found fungus growing on the joists. The wood has suffered significantly, joists compromised under most of the living room floor, part of the dining room and the hall bath floor. And a bigger unknown is the condition of the subfloor whose damage assessment is obscured by insulation. Rip out that, treat the wood for fungus, and then we’ll know how much further the damage extends. It is the worst news possible, news about which I don’t easily feel thankful.
Storm clouds can paralyze. They can keep us from doing the daily work of living. Why do such and such if it’s going to rain and wash out all the work anyway? Why work so hard to pay off a house when in the end, you stand to lose almost all its value? We study the clouds, allow them to cast doubt and shadow over our spirits. We seek shelter to get out of the storm, toss out all we learned from exposure therapy. Instead of waking to the task of living, of giving thanks for our life and all the gifts that point to a gracious God, we huddle on the porch beneath a threatening sky, a “10” on the fear scale. Or at least I do. And the storm sucks the life right out of me if I’m not careful. That wise preacher knew it:
He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know what is
the way of the wind …
So you do not know the works
of God who makes all things.
In the morning sow your seed,
And in the evening do not withhold your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper,
Either this or that,
Or whether both alike will be good.
So says the preacher. And I can almost hear the whisper in the wind, “Get out in that storm, child. Face the fear. Stay there until you’re not afraid anymore. Do the tasks of today. Don’t worry about tomorrow. You do not know which will prosper … or whether both alike will be good.” Good. Good?
10, 9, 8, 7 —
So says the preacher. Words for me today.
Postscript. Good news came quickly on the heels of bad. There is no structural damage. The underside of our house could use some anti-fungal treatment but nothing as invasive as ripping up boards. Asbestos is common in old houses, they say. It’s better not to mess with it. This storm is passing.