When I was little, I had a fear of thunder. Rain, wind, and lightning didn’t bother me. It was the thunder that caught me by surprise and startled me. I would go running into my parent’s room at night and crawl into their bed, feeling safe all snuggled between them. One time, in an effort to drive away my fear, my Dad lifted me up by my bedroom window so we could watch the storm. He taught me how I could see the lightning and know thunder was coming, and how I could count the seconds to know how far away the storm was. He had me snuggled in his arms as the lightning came, and then we counted until the thunder came. I could hear his heart beating and feel his breath on my cheek. I could hear his deep voice whispering softly into my ear one…two…three…I felt safe and loved.
Then life happened. Dad was overcome by alcoholism. Mom was overcome by grief and anxiety. My brothers were angry and withdrawn. I didn’t feel safe or loved anymore.
I met Jesus when I was 14, 2 years after my Dad died. I was overwhelmed that God would love me so much as to subject Jesus to such incredible suffering on my behalf. Ever since, I have growing in my comprehension of just how deep God’s love goes. I am realizing the overwhelming depth of my neediness, my craving for love and security. And that’s OK because as great as my need is, He is able to meet it. The love poured out for me will never run out no matter how deep the hole.
In my Sunday school class, we are reading a book by Liz Curtiss Higgs called Embrace Grace. It is the perfect book for the 12 year old girl inside me who is so incredibly needy. In the first chapter, she explains the difference between a hug and an embrace. She describes a hug as being casual, brief, like “after-dinner mints.” Nothing wrong with that. But an embrace is longer, deeper, more purposeful. Sometimes words of comfort are offered. Sometimes our love and care are expressed silently through the tenderness of the embrace. And then there is the embrace of Jesus.
Recently after a really hard week, I went home and came to the conclusion I needed a good cry. I needed to just sit in God’s presence while I released whatever it was that was all pent up. I was frustrated and discouraged. Weary from the long hard fight. As I sat on my couch, I realized I want God to swoop down and fix everything. Heal my body, pay my bills, restore my family. I want to be in that place when I was little when Dad could make everything better. I want Jesus to make the storms of my life to go away, like He did in Mark 4. But He didn’t. God felt really far away. The longer the storms raged, the further away God seemed. As I sat on my couch that night, I wrestled. I yelled a little. I told God how I felt and asked Him to come near to me, to give me relief, and to show me His perspective. I closed my eyes, and immediately I saw an image of Jesus holding my 12-year-old self in a warm, protecting, strong embrace. I was standing on His feet like a little girl stands on her Daddy’s feet when they dance. I wept. Then I yelled a little more. Then I cried some more. I said I was sorry. I listened as blips of Scripture spoke to my soul. God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble….(Psalm 46:1). Jesus still held me. After a while the storm in my head grew quiet and I sat in the stillness.
Then I got to thinking about the storm from my childhood. As my Dad and I looked out the window, Dad didn’t make the storm go away. He tried to explain the science of it so I wouldn’t feel so scared. And he held me close. He was present with me as the storm did its thing.
This is what the Lord Jesus offers us. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are wrapped in His tender embrace of love, compassion, forgiveness, and strength. 24/7. Sometimes Jesus does “fix” things, making our suffering go away, calming the storm. When the storms continue to rage however, Jesus is with us. He is speaking to us through the Word, through His loving voice that sometimes is really hard to hear over the clamor of our circumstances and our own thoughts. He is holding us close, making sure the violence of the storm doesn’t cast us over the edge of a cliff.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (Ps 46:2)
I don’t like storms, literal or metaphorical. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been gritting my teeth, waiting forever for the sunshine to return. If I have to get tossed about and rained on though, I am glad I am wrapped tightly in the arms of Jesus, who is getting rained on with me.