On Easter Sunday night, our son Kyle, age 20, had been in his apartment with his roommates. While playing one of his guitars and watching a network television program of social, intellectual impact (The Simpsons), he heard a loud, rushing wind.
It was not early Pentecost. Rather, it was a tornado about to pay an unannounced visit. Windows shattered and water began pouring in from the ceiling.
In a moment, my son and many of his friends found they had their lives (the most important blessing) and few of their material possessions. In a moment, they found themselves forced on a path of discovery of what is most important in their lives and in life.
If you’ve been through any kind of trauma, you know they’ll be on that path for a while. And you also know if you take advantage of the experience, it can help you listen to your life with unexpected clarity.
Kyle has remarked that during the weeks since the storm he has found his greatest help and support in his families of faith, one local in Shreveport and one geographically remote in Wilton. He’s also taken this “pause” of recovery to consider what might be the next step God would have him take into the larger world of school and work.
In a sense, God has given him a chance to start over, a chance to begin again. He can evaluate what of his “stuff” is worth keeping, what is worth repairing and reusing, and what really belongs in the trash.
It’s what the characters in another culturally-relevant piece of theater (City Slickers) called “a do-over.” Life goes bad because of your choices or just because sometimes crummy things happen to wonderful people. So you do what you did as a kid playing baseball in the front yard. When you hit a foul ball, you shout, “do-over!”
You step back, pause and try again. And sometimes I’m just hard-headed enough that it takes the occasional, metaphorical “tornado” to get my attention. A figurative tornado can get me to listen to God in my life again, to seek anew God’s voice.
It shouldn’t be that way, but sometimes it is. I get so busy that my ability to reflect on what’s best is impaired. Living that way is almost like asking for God to get your attention.
I don’t believe God is in the business of sending tornadoes toward us. I do believe God can work in every circumstance to deepen us, to stretch and make us whole. In other words, he’s the Lord of the “do-over.”
Robert Guffey Jr. is pastor of Wilton Baptist Church, Wilton, Connecticut.
Pastor of Freemason Street Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia.