By Jim Hart
Several years ago, I turned off the TV, not just for the evening or for the day, but for what I thought would be forever. People would ask me why? “Are you tired of all of the violence?” “Are you tired of all the negativity?” “Do you find that you now have time to read, fish, talk with your wife…?” As much as I would like to have given those folks some lofty, noble reason for turning off the TV, I could not. I was not trying to spend more quality time with Caroline. There were no books begging to be read. My garden did not have any less weeds in it. Much like Forrest Gump when he said, “I just felt like running.” I just felt like turning off the TV.
Twelve months, seven days and thirteen hours later (or there about), I decided to turn the TV back on. It was one of those old school console TVs with the dial. The kind that your mom or dad used to tell you to get up and change while your brother went outside and turned the antenna. The kind folks now turn into aquariums. I just walked up to it and turned it back on. It spit and sputtered and blinked back to life after a year of service as a collection area for keys, wallets and plants that needed more sun. And just like that, I sat down in my favorite chair and started watching TV again.
Today, I still sit in my favorite chair and watch TV. Gone is the old console model covered with spare change, keys and plants needing more light. In its place is a fancy swanky, super thin 60inch plasma TV. For all its attributes, it is not a good place for your wallet or plants that need more sun. They fall right off. However, there is still one holdover from my yearlong sabbatical from the tube. I still do not watch the news or the weather. Caroline always asks if I am worried if it’s going to be cold or if it’s going to rain. How about if something important happens in the world? You will miss out. If I walk outside and its cold, I put on a jacket. If it’s downright cold, I put on two. When I look out the window each morning, if I see rain, there is a 100% chance of rain for the day, so I wear a rain coat. If the wind is blowing, I know it’s a bad day for squirrel hunting or fly fishing. When Caroline informs me that something bad or important has happened in the world, I pray and reflect on how I can help. Simple, real simple!
That all changed in the month of September. I became fixated on the news and the weather. My morning routines and daily schedules were disrupted by the looming monster Hurricane Irma. Where would it make landfall? How could anybody in the Caribbean survive such a storm? Will it hit Southern Florida and make a beeline for the mountains of North Carolina or will it go east and destroy Wilson, where my mother lives. I was so consumed with this storm that I forgot to do the things that are such a part of my daily life, of who I am. I had failed to do what Paul urged the church in Thessalonica to do in his epistle, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thess. 5: 16-18, NIV). I let a storm far out in the Atlantic drive a wedge between me and God. I had let fear of the unknown pull me away from living a life that is itself a living testament of scripture reading, prayer, thanksgiving and discernment. I was afraid for the wellbeing of my loved ones. Something that was completely out of my control had taken control of my life, yet I was fixated on it, trying to find some control in the chaos.
Storms will come. There will be things that are completely out of our control that will deeply affect our lives. There will be hurricanes and crashing waves in our lives, storms that deeply affect our hearts, minds and souls — blowing winds that make us bend, drive wedges between us and God and ultimately cause us to break…if we let them, if we only focus on the storm.
Living with the diagnosis of ALS, Ed Dobson, pastor emeritus of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan wrote, Seeing Through The Fog. Facing only a few years left in his life, Ed shared his journey of finding joy and hope in the midst of the storm of a failing body. Searching for answers and healing, Ed asked a pastor friend to anoint him with oil and pray over him for healing. He was not just looking for someone to pray the words, “God, heal him if it is Your will.” He wanted someone to pray who deeply believed Ed could and would be healed. He wanted someone to pray the words, “God, heal him!” His Pentecostal friend and pastor did just that and then told Ed, “Don’t become obsessed with getting healed, Ed. If you get obsessed, you will lose your focus. Get lost in the wonder of God, and who knows what He will do for you.”
Today, as I sit here looking out the window of my office at Crossnore School and Children’s Home there is 100% chance for rain. I heard it pelting the roof this morning, so I wore a rain coat. Since Irma, I have turned off the news and the weather and picked back up where I left off in my morning routine — pray the Psalms, give thanks, breath…focus! I pray that when the next storm comes, and it will, that I do not become obsessed with the healing, with the diverting, with asking to spare me and my family. I pray that I get lost in the wonder of the storms and God’s amazing grace in the midst of the chaos.