Growing up in southwestern Ontario, news of tornadoes nearby was not uncommon. I have never experienced a tornado, but my dad remembers one from his early years. As a result, any time the atmosphere would suddenly grow still – no breeze, no sounds, no birds in the sky – my mom would hurry us to the basement, just in case it was the “calm before the storm.”
Hunkered down, I would pray for safety in earnest. Oftentimes, we would endure a thunderstorm or perhaps the sky would simply darken temporarily and return to normal. Regardless, when the changes passed without major incident, I would return to my usual ways.
Memories of these real-life storms remind me of the story of Jesus in the boat with his disciples during a storm: “A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, ‘Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?’” (Mk 4:37-40)
How often in life I, too, have called out to Jesus only when facing literal or figurative storms! According to Bishop Robert Barron in his book The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path, “We have all been offered the divine power as the governing element of the soul, but we have allowed it to ‘fall asleep.’ As a result, we live, as the disciples in the boat, in constant terror, threatened on every side.”
Jesus will always calm our storms. He may not do so in the ways we expect or within our desired time frames, but he is always right beside us as we navigate life’s waters. The fact that Jesus was sleeping and seemingly undisturbed by the crashing waves reinforces the fact that nothing is too difficult for God; that no problem is too big for us to ask for his guidance; and that, ultimately, he controls life’s sailings.
June is always a time of the “storm before the calm” in the life of students and teachers. We are blessed with a summer hiatus from routines; however, the month before this holiday tends to be over-packed with emotion and activity. Children become anxious about impending changes. Some thrive on routine and worry about the open-endedness of vacations. Others find the stress of final tests, assignments, and field trips trying. Sleep deprivation caused by longer daylight hours, wrap-up parties, graduations, concerts, and sporting events can cause tempers to flare and conflicts to arise between individuals who have otherwise been friends.
The end of a school year may seem insignificant compared to some of life’s other stressful moments, such as tragedies, illnesses, unemployment, or depression to name a few; yet, for anyone feeling overwhelmed, no matter the situation, the struggle is real. As I have mentioned in this column before, a few Junes ago, under stress, I began waking earlier than necessary in order to spend time alone with God and have continued the practice ever since.
I have probably needed a few “storms” in life to nurture my trust in God. Regardless, talking to and listening to him during the calmest times in my life helps me weather storms of varying severity when they arise. From time to time, I still feel pressure, have trouble sleeping, and fall prey to tests of patience; however, my heart is at peace, knowing that God steers my ship.
Quoting St. Augustine, Bishop Barron also states, “if you want peace in your soul, ‘wake up the inner Christ!’” We cannot forget that Jesus is always right there with us. It may sometimes feel as though he is sleeping and not paying attention, but this is never true. We need to awaken the Spirit within us and draw on the strength that only faith can provide.
To all currently facing one of life’s storms (including those in the throes of a temporary “June storm”), trust that God is the life-preserver keeping us afloat and guarding against the crashing waves.
God is the calm before, after – and most importantly, during – any storm.
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