It was October 12, 1964, and we had just moved from Long Island to Jupiter, Florida. I was a fourth grader at Palm Beach Day School, some 45 minutes from our home, struggling to make friends among the self-assured girls with their beachy blond hair (mine being brown and with bangs cut by my mother more often than I thought necessary.)
Our class was called to the auditorium for an unscheduled assembly. The principal took the microphone and told us that we would all be going home, though it was only lunchtime. His voice was drowned out by the pounding of hammers outside, and the boarding of windows. Our teacher hurried us to our cubbies and told us where to wait. My brother and I were the last to be picked up, and when we walked outside, the sky was taking on an ominous look and the palm trees were swaying at the mercy of a boisterous wind.
Once in our station wagon, I noticed two large suitcases in the back seat, flanking Shep, our border collie. Our parents told us that Hurricane Isbell was coming toward us and we needed to drive north and inland.
I have two distinct memories of what came next. First, when we stopped at an intersection, I saw the traffic light lurching violently in the sideways rain. Second, I recall a distinct awareness that was new to me – my mother and father, ever composed and in full control, were afraid. Even my father, a seasoned pilot, was silent as we made our escape to who knows where. My own world seemed suddenly vulnerable.
We ended up in a roadside motel as Isbell passed over. And thankfully, the motel structure as well as our house made it through with minimal damage.
Isbell cannot begin to rival Hurricane Ian in terms of the ravaging of land and communities. And seeing the images of destruction and damage, I can still feel that primal fear, first experienced at age 10 – realizing that we are all powerless in the face of storms. We are all at the mercy of wind and rain – of unexpected phone calls and scary diagnoses.
When this fear threatens to overwhelm me, I remind myself not to cling to what is temporary – homes, belongings, bank accounts, but rather, to what is eternal. Traffic lights are prone to sway; and even pilots are not immune to panic. But our God won’t ever leave us, fail us, or forsake us. He just won’t.
There is a song whose refrain are those two words – He won’t.
May this truth override panic. God does not sway or succumb. He remains the only foundation that is secure; the only rock which can carry our weight and some day usher us into his presence.
Matthew 7:24 says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell”