The day before the Moore, Okla., tornado, we sat huddled in the basement, rain and hail beating on the house we had just moved into 24 hours before. Tornado sirens screamed their terrifying warning into the thick, wet afternoon air while my husband read the Psalms aloud.
Normally a person who loves a good storm, I found myself more scared than usual with this one. Part of it was that it caught us off guard, in the middle of a move—we couldn’t find our shoes or a single flashlight before diving for shelter.
But I thought as I sat praying quietly holding onto the dog with one hand and various sweaty children with the other, this time was different. Instead of standing on the driveway scouting for funnels, I was sporting my own set of sweaty hands.
Because this was “home,” you see. Not the rental we’d lived in the last five years. Not a transitory residence on the way to something bigger or better. The home we had just purchased was the answer to years of praying for roots and community and belonging. For us, it signified all of these things, but most of all it signified permanence. No longer would this particular nomadic tribe wander. We would still ourselves, settle down, and commit to staying put.
As I write, we are braced for another set of storms due to hit in just a few hours. Again, “home” is threatened, and again I am scared. In just one week of living here, I have grown to love this house, and the children have bubbled over with plans for it—friends to fill its corners with laughter, lemonade stands to put out front, hymn-sings to have, food to share.
Tucked into Tornado Alley as we are, torrential weather and twisters are inevitable. No matter where you live, it seems we are all in one path of destruction or another. But we are also in the path of mercy, and I would be remiss to forget that.
This time the storm shelter is stocked: batteries, Peanut M&M’s, jugs of water, and, yes, our shoes and flashlights. This time, I will also bring with me a slim volume by John Chrysostom in which he seems to write directly to those of us facing severe spring weather:
“Some people see the houses in which they live as their kingdom; and although in their minds, they know that death will one day force them to leave, in their hearts they feel they will stay forever. They imagine that they can find peace and security by owning a house whose walls and roof will last for many generations. … We, by contrast, know that we are only temporary guests on earth. We recognize that the houses in which we live serve only as hostels on the road to eternal life. We do not seek peace or security from the material walls around us or the roof above our heads. Rather, we want to surround ourselves with a wall of divine grace; and we look upward to heaven as our roof.”