I was speeding, driving about as fast as my dad’s Ford Aerostar minivan would go – about 64 mph. The cloud had moved across the horizon, through the northwest side of town. I was racing to get in front of it. The funnel had not quite reached the ground, but it was threatening to dip low and sweep across the rolling hills of north central Randolph county. The storm was moving so fast that by the time I made it north of town on US Highway 62 it had crossed the road and was moving through the Black River bottoms, making its way northeast toward the city of Piggott. I pulled over, got out of the vehicle, and began filming.
After capturing footage of the rain-wrapped west side of the storm, I hopped back in the ol’ Aerostar and set out once again. I felt confident that this Ford V6 could muscle its way out ahead of the storm. I just knew that I could beat it to its next point of crossing Highway 62. This time it would be just west of Piggott. My only concern was that I would have to drive through the heavy rain and hail which accompanied the northwest side of the “hook echo”. Darkness and torrential rains pounded the windshield. I knew I was getting close to intercepting the area of circulation. As I continued driving, I limped through the downpour of rain and hail and made my way into the calm.
It was at this moment, communicating with and listening to other storm chasers via handheld radio, that I knew the storm was not far away. We always hear and talk about the calm before the storm…well, me and the trusty Aerostar were in the midst of that calm. Now, the thing you need to understand is the terrain around Piggott. As you drive east out of Corning, AR, on Highway 62, you see a lot of farm land. The land is flat and dusty. During the daylight, a hill in the distance can be seen. This hill, or ridge, tracks southward. Crowley’s Ridge is really the only rise in elevation in that region, so it can be seen from many miles away. The city of Piggott is nestled atop the ridge. Large oak trees line the highway, making it difficult to see the horizon. This is where I encountered the calm.
On the curves of this main thoroughfare, I pulled to the side of the road, nervous at what may be lurking just to my right, on the other side of the trees. With a gust, I began to see leaves and small limbs fall from the sky. The wind continued to pick up, rocking the van as it was pelted with debris. Then, as if I had backed down the ridge, the rain slammed the vehicle once again. I stayed parked for what seemed like an hour. Turns out it was only 15 minutes. The torrent had subsided to a light sprinkle. I began to hear the reports coming over the radio. Piggott had damage reported. Some around the town square. Other trees and power lines were down. I proceeded on into town where I saw emergency personnel already on the scene directing traffic around the damage.
I don’t chase storms any more, though I am constantly fascinated by weather. I watch the forecast on a regular basis. A few times a year, the weatherman tells of impending storms which will be moving into the area. When storms are predicted to be severe, I find myself watching the sky, waiting for the storms to move in. I often think back to that evening just west of Piggott. I had raced the storm and made my way in front of its path. I remember working my way through the heavy rain and entering the calm. Those couple of minutes of calm were like an eternity for me. I knew I was on the storm and I was just left to wait for it to hit.
That’s how life is, isn’t it? We know that storms in life will hit. And many times, we are able to see them coming. We feel the winds pick up, the rain comes, and then the calm. But the calm often gives way to the powerful reality of nature. Damage is realized and the cleanup must begin. I am amazed by the stories of Jesus and the storms. In Mark 4, Jesus was with his disciples in a boat. The Bible says, “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’” (Mark 4:37-40). The disciples experienced this great windstorm. They were terrified. And Jesus brought great calm.
We often experience the storms of life and wonder where God is. Why is it that God would allow these storms to come. We struggle to understand what God is doing and why, if he loves us so much, he would let us experience these storms. Why doesn’t he simply keep the storms from coming in the first place. Sometimes, people struggle with storms and they sit around waiting for the next storm to come. Well, the truth is Jesus never said the storms would not come. And just because we are in the boat with Jesus doesn’t prevent the trials from coming. Jesus never said life with him will be free of worry and pain. But what he does promise is that he will be with us in the midst of the storms. He will never leave us nor forsake us. This truth is what should be in our minds while we are waiting for the storms.