My grandmother lived in an old, plantation-type home with large rooms, tall ceilings, and a ten-foot wide, covered, front porch. The porch had white metal furniture and a bench swing that was attached to the high ceiling by chains. For years the swing was my favorite spot on earth.
We lived with my grandmother during my early years before air-conditioning. Southern heat on humid July days was sweaty and fatiguing. A spot on the swing in the shade was a cherished place. The swing offered a breeze to the swinger. Back and forth I’d go, languid and uninterested in anything but getting cool. Sometimes someone would join me. That was especially pleasant on fall or winter days, but not on hot summer ones.
I loved to sit in the swing during thunderstorms. I was fearless there beneath the cover of the porch. Storms blew in, making the large magnolia and oak trees in the front yard shake and rattle. Limbs might crash to the ground, thunder might rumble or blast, or lightening might streak across the sky. Still, I felt cocooned in the swing. I stayed there until someone caught me and made me come in or until the cool gusts from the storm chilled my long, skinny body.
I especially loved it when my grandmother joined me on the swing. Sometimes we’d snap beans or shell peas. But mostly I remember her presence. It was like a soft blanket that swaddled me. We talked; she’d listen to my mindless rambling, and I’d try to understand her comments—usually deep, wise, and faith-related. We’d swing gently, sometimes laughing, until it was time for her to do some bit of work, and she’d leave—her presence lingering in the air beside me.
To this day I love thunderstorms and the sheltered place beneath porches while they fume. The windy downpour blows mist in my face, but I am safe. Sometimes I wrap myself in a blanket and let the storm rage while I listen to its raw power and mock it from my sanctuary with Christ in his tenderness beside me. We enjoy his display together. I am in awe. He offers his presence.
The mature people of faith that I know grew most during life’s crises. By grace they pursued God as a refuge, wrapped themselves in His faithfulness through His word, rested in a place of deep abiding through prayer, and waited for the storm to ebb. The wind might have misted their faces with tears, they may have felt the bitter chill of the storm or experienced fear, but they discovered they could remain sheltered in God.
When you ask them about their experiences, most say they didn’t enjoy the storm, but they also wouldn’t trade what they learned about God, themselves, and others. They came to know a God who was MUCH MORE than they imagined, and they treasured the newfound faith, trust, and intimacy.
Most of my deep growth has taken place during the tempests of life, too. Storms drive me to seek God as my hiding place—my shelter. I need Him as the wise counselor and my compass when emotional waves are colliding with my heart. I need Him as my courage to walk through the uproar of a long-lasting storm.
The deepest desire of most Christians is to know God in Christ well. Storms teach us new aspects of Him because we seek Him desperately while they rage. Storms will come; it’s inevitable. When they come—run. Run to your spot beside Him on the porch swing and let Him teach you about His greatness and faithfulness.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust.’ Psalm 91:1-2 (NASB)