Strength For Today

A journey of keeping my heart, mind, and body in TODAY

Raging Storms!

on June 30, 2014

Last night, around 2:00 AM, I was jolted out of bed by tornado sirens.  There was a tornado warning in my area, but I had no further information.  You might think that being awakened by the sound of a tornado siren would create a sense of panic within a person.  I, in fact, had a very opposite reaction.  I was incredibly calm and collected.  In fact, I look at the entire experience as confirmation of my continued growth and progress on this journey of recovery and spiritual growth.

How, you might ask, can I relate a tornado experience to recovery and spiritual growth?  In order to understand this, you must first understand my history with storms – specifically tornadoes.  I thought every storm would turn into a tornado and kill me and my family.  When I was younger, if I would see dark clouds forming, my stomach would instantly go into a knotted-up mess!  My heart started pounding, and I instantly felt the “fight or flight” instinct kick in.  I would immediately remove myself to a “safe place” – which was either my water bed (which I thought was safe because the mattress was made of rubber, and rubber was a non-conductor) or the basement (if we had one, which we usually didn’t as I was growing up).  I would close my eyes so I didn’t have to watch the storm, and try to “sleep it away”. I was under the false pretense that if I couldn’t see it,  then it couldn’t harm me.  Would you believe that I actually had myself convinced that tornadoes couldn’t form in the dark?  It was one of those things that I had to believe in order to achieve some sense of safety in the storm.  I was not calm again until I could see blue sky or puffy white clouds.

Looking back now, I think storms brought with them a feeling of being completely powerless, and that made me feel extremely unsafe.  

I am not sure where this intense fear of storms originated.  I do remember being out on a boat once with my parents and their friends, when a severe storm hit.  I recall hiding under a pile of towels so I didn’t have to see or hear the storm as well, and being very frightened.  I was very young when that happened, so it is possible that the trauma of that experience created this deep sense of fear within me.  A very real fear, which consumed me for many years, and appeared to be inescapable.  Until my dad got involved.

One day, there was a particularly bad storm coming in.  The clouds were not only dark, but they were also rotating.  I knew a thing or two about storms, and I knew that rotation in the clouds was never a good thing.  I was panicked, convinced yet again, that a tornado was on its way to get me.  For whatever reason, that was the day my dad had enough of my submitting to this fear.  He looked at me and said, “We are going outside to watch the storm,”.  There was not an option for me to back out, my dad was serious.  So I went.

We went outside, stood in the garage, and faced the storm head-on.  The wind whipped in every direction.  The thunder boomed. The lightning lit up the sky with its streaks of insanity.  The rain came down in sheets.  I was terrorized, convinced I was going to die.  My dad remained a strong rock, assuring me that I was safe.  He stood next to me, and remained very calm.  He showed me the clouds as they rolled by.  He even was getting excited at how spectacular they looked.  I started to feel a sense of safety as I realized that although the storm was raging and powerful, nothing bad was happening to me.  I was OK.  I was actually safe.  The panic that had consumed me at the beginning of the experience began to dissipate.  I no longer thought I was about to die.  In fact, I found myself in awe of the intensity of the storm, it was becoming strangely beautiful.

My dad did an amazing thing for me that day.  He showed me how to face my fear.  He showed me that I was giving the storms power over me  – that the fear was actually all in my own mind.  He explained that there was a difference between respecting the power of a storm, and fearing the power of a storm.  He taught me that we had respected the storm by staying out of direct danger – by going into the garage instead of standing out in the open field or under a tree.  Storms do present a very real danger, and we can take precautions for those dangers.  I learned, however, that facing the storm and watching it is actually a way of taking some control over the situation.  Knowing what the storm is doing, actually helps me to know what to do to protect myself.  The most powerful lesson I believe that I learned that day is this: Running from my fears does nothing to help me overcome them.  If I want to overcome a fear, I have to face it.

I wish I could tell you that every storm after that experience was easy to get through.  I wish I could say that the fear of being powerless went away completely after that experience as well.  I’d like to be able to say, with certainty, that storms never had power over me again.  Well, I could say those things.  But I’d be lying to you.  What I can say is that the power they had over my emotions lessened significantly.  I can also say that I stopped running from them, and started to pay more attention.  I can also say that I didn’t project every thunderstorm into a tornado.  That definitely stopped after that experience with my dad.  However, I still had much growing to do in light of dealing with my core fear of tornadoes.  That would take many more years of intentional work.  (You can read about my battle with recurring tornado dreams here)

Bringing this back to recovery and spiritual growth, last night’s experience with the tornado sirens going off in the middle of the night, proved to me that I have truly come a long way.  My children were not with me, and yet I did not panic.  I didn’t know where the tornado was spotted, yet I did not panic.  I was not sure if my family members were safe, yet I did not panic.  I remained calm.  I responded, rather than reacted.  I made a few phone calls, and sent a few texts to make sure loved ones were safe.  I went downstairs and calmly waited out the storm.  I prayed and trusted God to protect my children and other loved ones.

These are things I was unable to do prior to recovery.  Trusting God in the storm was not something I even considered doing prior to starting my personal walk with Him.  I have learned that He is in control, not me.  I have learned that the powerlessness I used to fear is actually a welcomed opportunity to place every circumstance in God’s hands.  It turns out that He is a far better manager of this life than I ever will be.  Because of my Faith in His ability, and His plan, I no longer have to fear the outcome.  Even if a tornado did come last night, even if I didn’t make it through – I have full confidence and assurance of where I’m going, so I was not afraid.  And that, my friends, is pretty powerful stuff for a girl who used to cower in fear over the slightest roll of thunder.

 

 

 

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